It's no secret that life is less complicated when we're young. Children see things with a "this moment only" clarity that adults are seldom able to accomplish. Given their druthers, youngsters do what brings them happiness without the second thoughts and real-world concerns that plague adults. Occasionally, though, things happen to grown-ups that bring everything into focus, and for Virga Wallace of Sierra Madre, California, that "perspective check" caused her to re-embrace the fun of Corvette ownership.
Virga encountered her first Corvette during those simpler times, when she was 10 years old. She thought a neighbor's '58 was "gorgeous," and as soon as she was old enough to drive she bought a Corvette of her own-a '56 from a used car lot for the now incredible price of $500. "It was just a mode of transportation then," she recalls. "This was before collectors."
We're pretty sure that owning a Corvette meant more than just a way of getting around to Virga, though, as her next two cars were also Vettes: a '64 and a '66, both of which got driven frequently.
As happens all too frequently, there was then a period of time where other concerns took precedence over enjoying Corvettes. It took some rough times-in the form of a serious illness-to bring Virga back to the cars she'd enjoyed years ago. After recovering, she realized, in her own words, "Life's too short," and decided to do what would make her happy, and that happiness took fiberglass form.
Like many in the Corvette hobby, Virga thought that restoring a vintage Vette would be fun. She knew she wanted a solid-axle, which hearkened back to her first car and also had a trunk (someplace to put her golf clubs was a must). Virga found her car in the Lake Tahoe area, owned by a gentleman in Maine. A deal was struck, sight-unseen, and she went to get her car. Her trip to pick up the car coincided with Reno, Nevada's Hot August Nights, so she drove the car for that, and then home to Southern California. The car made it back without a problem, despite shot kingpins and an engine that burned oil.
Once home, she started restoring her new ride, doing something every year, finally reaching the point where everything has been refreshed.
Larry Rather of South Pasadena, California, rebuilt the original 327/300 powerplant, utilizing the original Rochester carb. The four-speed tranny and rearend remain in good, original shape. Corvette Specialties of Glendora, California, detailed the engine, replaced the interior, and replaced the chrome after a new coat of red paint was laid on by L&G, also of Glendora. Larry Rather also rebuilt the front end, while a mysterious "handling problem" was solved at El Monte, California's Gunderson Chevrolet during a "tech night" for Virga's club, Corvettes Limited. A broken leaf spring was the culprit, and the dealer replaced it.
Although one of the goals during this process was to maintain the integrity of the original '62, Virga also believes that her car "is meant to be driven," and made a couple of concessions to modern concerns. One was the seatbelts. The '62 didn't come with any-as Virga recalls, not only were they optional in 1962, but when a car came with them, "people always used to cut them out...they weren't cool." A set of repro lap belts now provides a modicum of safety. Virga also installed a Sony stereo, which plays her favorite tunes through repop speakers mounted in the original location. The '62 also rides on radial tires, which provide a better ride, mounted on rally wheels, which look good on the older car.
Virga enjoyed the lengthy restoration process, despite the fact that it's, as she puts it, "an ongoing process." Driving a '62 is certainly a unique experience, at least compared to more modern cars. "I'm more careful with it than with my '96," Virga tells us. "You don't go whipping around into parking spaces with this car. And you learn to leave a little bit of room when stopping. Going fast isn't a problem, but stopping is." She drives the '62 often, making frequent trips to Hot August Nights and driving to Central California's wine country with her club. "It's a joy to drive," Virga says. "Everybody notices...I don't go anywhere in it quietly." Sounds like a lot of fun-which is, of course, the whole point.