There was plenty there to be enamored of. The Vette, which showed 59,000 miles on the clock, was still all-original, sporting white coves to go along with the Jewel Blue body. It had the 245hp dual-quad engine with a Powerglide, a radio, and electric windows. The car was also a Harry Mann Chevrolet "California Vette," sporting six taillights in the new "ducktail" rear instead of four and featuring unique "windwings" attached to the door post. A '62-style rocker panel had also been added, but looked right at home on the '61.
Darold bought the car on the spot for the now incredible sum of $600. He concedes that the Vette took awhile to clean up, but, ironically, the layers of dirt and leaves protected the car from the elements. The sun couldn't reach the paint through all that dirt, and the part of the yard it sat in didn't get watered. What you see here is what Darold saw in 1971, with the exception of the dashpad.
As for the running gear, Darold did what he calls the usual: installed a new battery and spark plugs, and squirted oil into the cylinders. The 283 fired up immediately, and has been "getting better" ever since. The only major mechanical malfunction has been the water pump, which let go in Utah at a NCRS regional meet. (Darold and a friend found a rebuilt pump at a local parts store, installed it in a hotel parking lot, drove to the meet, and then re-installed the original pump for the judging.)
Darold has certainly enjoyed the car, but this isn't one of those stories in which our hero drives off into the sunset-at least not right away. In fact, he suffered an eight-year-long separation from the '61 when he and his wife divorced. A family law judge detained the car, and would only release it if Darold agreed to inscribe the car's serial number on every removeable part. He refused, of course, but finally reclaimed the Vette when the court proceedings were over. Adding insult to injury, however, the '61's wheels suffered water damage, freezing all four brake drums solid. It took a couple of weeks to set things right, but it turned out to be worth the wait. Even after an eight-year wait, Darold says that the enjoyment he gets from driving the '61 made it worth the wait. "Until I got back on the road," he declares, "I didn't realize how fun it was to drive.
He now puts 50-100 miles-or more-on the car each month, and sees incidents like being stuck behind a gravel truck or tackling a rainstorm in a car with a 38-year-old wiper system as part of the adventure. The '61 has held up so well that it's taken NCRS Top Flight awards at both the regional and the national level; plans call for tackling the last requirement for a Duntov Award, the performance verification, at the 2001 Western Regional in Scottsdale, Arizona. Given this Jewel Blue beauty's history of making it through tough times, our car sense tells us it'll be a walk in the park.