Just about everyone who dreams of owning a Corvette (and that is just about everyone, isn't it?) can remember when the seeds of desire were planted. Some saw the year's new models in a dealer's showroom, some watched a neighbor drive past in theirs, and others got to ride in dad or mom's. For Bowling Green, Kentucky, firefighter Charlie Tomes, the Corvette incident that left its mark wasn't a memorable ride in a Vette; rather, it involved a crushed C4 and lots of cutting tools.
Tomes grew up driving pickup trucks, and of course those vehicles got hopped-up and modified. Charlie still has an affinity for pickups, but always wanted a Vette and believed that one day he would have one. His memorable encounter came later, though, when Tomes was going through the training necessary to become a Bowling Green firefighter. "My heart was broken one time during a vehicle rescue class," he remembers of the incident almost 10 years ago. "The instructors turned a tanker truck over onto a donated Corvette. I even tried to trade my vehicle for the Vette to take its place, but didn't have any luck. I was sad when I had to chop the door with a crash axe to make entry into the car."
If the memory of that ruthlessly sacrificed C4 wasn't enough incentive, Charlie was also being urged to get into a Corvette from another, more persuasive source. "My six-year-old daughter, Ariel, told me on several occasions she wanted a red Corvette with "tank" tops, meaning T-tops," he laughs. Well, who could resist that? Charlie certainly couldn't, so he was ready when "it" happened. He saw a Corvette on a local car lot, and it turned out that the owner was a friend. The two negotiated, and Charlie had his Vette, a red '84 to be specific, and, most importantly, one that's not been pummeled into oblivion by a tanker truck.
It's entirely fitting that a Bowling Green fireman drive a Corvette. And in the first-Corvette spirit, this bone-stock '84 has a few things that need fixing. Charlie's got a mechanic friend who's willing to help out, but still isn't sure if the Vette will stay stock or end up "enhanced." Given his hot rod truck past, and his experience driving in fast, bright red vehicles, we're betting on "enhanced."
For now, however, the mere fact that he has a Corvette is enough for Charlie Tomes-and it's perfect for that already Corvette-crazy six year old. "When I picked Ariel up for the weekend," he relates, "She was so excited. I had to take the top off and buy her a pair of sunglasses. All she could say was 'Dad, this is so cool, let's go cruising.'" Knowing that Ariel was convinced, we asked Charlie how he feels about his Vette, to which he replied, "I like it-I surely do." Nothing else need be said.