1969 Chevrolet Corvette - Me & My Vette

Chuck Gelsomino, Jr. / Rochester, New York 1969 427/390 Coupe

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One of my dreams was to someday own a brand-new Corvette. This was the American dream when I was growing up, and I wanted to be part of it. After being honorably discharged and putting my service days behind me, I went back to work (at a large optics firm in Rochester, New York, where I've been for 33 years), and began saving my money. In March of 1969, I went down to a local Chevrolet dealership and ordered a silver '69 350/four-speed Corvette. They told me it would take 12-16 weeks to come in. About three weeks later, I received a phone call from the dealership saying the Corvette plant in St. Louis was shut down and on strike. I was devastated. My dreams had been crushed. They also said that I should pick up my deposit and wait until 1970 to order a new Corvette. They felt the strike would not be settled in time and that the Corvette plant would probably gear up with '70 models.

So with my dreams shattered, I went down to the Chevrolet dealership to retrieve my deposit. As I was driving home, a truck, the kind that carries new cars, drove past me. One car had canvas over it. It looked like a Corvette, under the canvas, because of the little rear ducktail that stuck out like a sore thumb. So I followed the truck to another Chevrolet dealer in Rochester. As it pulled around the back of the dealership I watched the truck driver uncover this beautiful '69 427/390, Le Mans Blue Corvette. I was petrified. I fell in love with this car and wanted it. I didn't know how they got this car out of the Corvette plant with a strike going on, and I didn't care, either. I just wanted the car. I immediately went inside to talk to the new car manager. As we sat down and he heard how I wanted this new Vette that had just arrived, he quickly made it clear to me that it was not available. He showed me a list that had 14 names of guys ahead of me who were interested in this car and told me, in not so many words, to "get lost, kid you have about a snowball's chance in hell to ever buy this car." He didn't even want to put my name on his list. At this point I was very frustrated and angry. I took a piece of scrap paper and scribbled my name and phone number on it. He replied by laughing.

Never expecting to own a '69 Corvette, I decided to wait for the '70 models. About two weeks later the phone rang. Guess what? It was the Chevy dealership with the blue '69 Vette. The same guy who laughed and showed me a list with 14 guys ahead of me asked if I was still interested in the Vette. I played it cool and somehow started to feel that all of a sudden I was gaining the upper hand. I said yes, and drove down to the dealership. When I arrived I went to his office. He wasn't laughing anymore-he was serious. All of a sudden he said I was at the top of the list. I asked him what happened to the 14 guys ahead of me. With a red face he slowly went down the list of what happened to each prospective buyer. So since you're probably interested in what happened to those 14 other guys, I will tell you. It was 1969 and the Vietnam war was going on hot and heavy. Thousands of young men were being drafted at an alarming rate, like I was in 1965. Of the 14 guys on the list, seven were drafted, five got married to escape the draft, and two could not get insurance for a Corvette. So with my military obligation behind me, a good solid job, and a good driving record, I was able to purchase this car (with insurance, naturally) and become a proud owner of a '69 Corvette.


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