It was the summer of 1973 when I ordered my new '74 Corvette. I distinctly remember the Watergate Hearings being underway at that time. Now, five Presidents later and into the new millennium, I still own the car, with less than 34,000 miles on the odometer and many memorable experiences on the road behind me.
After being unsuccessful in obtaining a new '73 Hurst Olds from my Oldsmobile dealer (I was already driving a '70 Olds 442) my attention went to another GM specialty, the Corvette. I took delivery of my new Corvette on my 24th birthday, November 14, 1973. It was a Corvette Medium Blue coupe equipped with a L82, four-speed transmission, and 3.70:1 gears. I opted for the L82 option over A/C or the leather interior because of my limited budget. Also, I was concerned whether it could perform comparably to my big-block 442. My fears were abated immediately once I drove the car; the L82 and 3.70:1 gears confirmed that I had made the right choice.
No sooner had I taken the keys to the car than the dealer suggested strongly that I head out and get fueled up because the gas lines were already forming at the local service station. It was about then that the full force of the energy crisis and the OPEC oil embargo hit the country. Before you knew it we had a 55-mph national speed limit, and serious fuel problems. Things have come full circle now that we're back to a 65-mph speed limit 25 years later.
I resolved early on that any modifications to the car would be limited to bolt-ons...no butchering! I installed a Hurst Competition-Plus shifter first, since the stock shifter always caused a grind when I put it in reverse. Later, I installed a Holley Street Dominator intake manifold and a Holley spread-bore carburetor to match. The carb never really worked well on this engine, so I switched back to the Q-Jet a couple of years ago with very good results. Next, I replaced the stock air cleaner with an unrestricted Mr. Gasket version, added an ignition curve advance kit, and removed the smog gear. Finally, I put on a set of E-T aluminum alloy Turbine wheels; factory aluminum wheels were supposed to have been introduced in '74 models, but they were unavailable when I ordered the car. All of the original GM parts are still in my possession, so I can return the car to original specifications with few problems.
Late in 1972, I met my future wife, Connie, at a school where we were both teaching seventh and eighth grades. At the time I was alternating between my '70 Olds 442 and the '74 when we went out together. When we decided to get married in 1974, I insisted to my fiance that whatever happened in our future, "the Vette stays!" She agreed to this informal prenuptial agreement, and fortunately our marriage and the Corvette have endured to the present. The 442, however, was sold.
Connie and I have two grown sons, George and Gerald, who have, over the years, always enjoyed their Corvette rides. When both were little, George, the older and larger, would sit up front while the younger and smaller Gerald would squeeze into the rear compartment area with his head sticking out between the seats. Having a Corvette is a great motivator for kids. Entice them with a ride and homework will get done, lawns will get mowed...no request is too demanding. The only problem is that the older they get, the larger the requests become, like, "Can I take the Vette out?' or "Can I have the Vette for a graduation present?" These guys grew up with the '74, and I fully expect that Corvette ownership is in their futures.
The unusual circumstances I've endured over the years include the debacle of the original equipment Firestone 500 tires. Within a year of my taking delivery I was informed that these tires were being recalled since they were known to "throw tread" at high speeds. These were the first radial tires Corvette offered, a far cry from the Z-rated tires of today. Also, I had to endure the indignities of the seatbelt interlock system required on all '74 automobiles. This tidbit required that the driver buckle-up before the car would start. The law requiring this feature was quickly repealed when our senators and congressmen came to the stark reality that they too, as motorists, had to endure this clumsy, ill-conceived hassle. Or how about the "noise pollution" option my '74 Vette came equipped with? This single, not a dual, horn setup "peeped" rather than "beeped."
Being an original owner of a '74 Corvette with only 34,000 miles on it is great, but one tends to limit driving in order to qualify for low insurance rates, and to keep the car from wearing out. Sometimes my friends or relatives will urge, "Why don't you go out and drive that car? I would if I had one." My past response is that they don't have one, and probably never will...a two-seater is not for everyone. I take solace in the fact that I will have owned my Corvette in four different decades, a very good start since I bought the car with the intention of keeping it forever.