October 17, 1966. It was probably a cold day in Wisconsin on that date, a date when a '67 Corvette Sting Ray rolled onto the lot of Dale Chevrolet in Waukesha and was signed into "Dealer Demonstration Service" by William R. Dale, VP of the dealership. A little under a year later, Dale Chevrolet sold the '67 to one James Holtyn of Milwaukee. Quite a distance away, another '67 Vette was on its way home for the first time. When it arrived, a young James Alvarez rode his bike over to his neighbors' garage to see the new purchase. In a word, his words, "...the car was amazing." And with that, Jim started his life-long obsession with Corvette.
It was just a couple years later when Jim was beginning another obsession-motorcycles. "I started riding when I was 10," James tells us. "My parents recognized my interest in mechanical things, so they bought me a mini bike for my 10th birthday. A few weeks after riding it, I started to get curious about the bike and how it worked. So as a normal kid would do, I borrowed my fathers tools and started removing parts." And just like any young up-and-coming gearhead, Jim was hooked. From there he graduated to a dirt bike, and by age 16, he was on his fourth motor-driven cycle.
In the late 70s, Jim sold his bike to buy his first Corvette, a '76. Later on in the '80s, he would again sell off his vehicle of choice to move to California. While out in the Golden State, he began hanging out with his cousin Bill. Bill owned more than a few Harley-Davidsons, and Jim fell in love quickly with the Hogs: enough that after earning a little bit of extra cash, he ran down to a local dealership to get a Harley of his own. "It was just too expensive for me," he remembers, "but the dealer convinced me to buy a Honda, which I did." Even though it was a far cry from the teeth-rattling ride you get from an American icon, James had his first new bike.
"The following weekend," says James, "I drove my new bike over to my cousin's house so we could go for a ride. When I got there, I was so proud of my new ride that I asked Bill if he wanted to take it for a drive. He looked around as if to make sure no one was looking and then said, 'No. I'd rather ride my Harleys.'" It was at this point in time that Jim didn't quite understand the passion one feels for a Harley versus a Honda, but Jim was about to get an education. "After a number of rides and endless times where I was left to eat his dust, I decided to buy a Harley. And then I understood why he didn't want to ride my Honda."
Jim started out with a Sportster. He then moved up to a Softail, and in 1999, he bought a Road King Classic, Model FLHRCI, decked out with an EVO V-Twin. Jim bought a Road King because it's a cruiser, "I could ride a couple hundred miles in a day and still feel like new." And with all things mechanical, Jim felt the need to tinker. "I hate to have exactly what everyone else has, so I started to customize my bike." Going after the retro look, the Hog owner removed the stock bags in favor of a hard set.
Then he started adding chrome-a lot of chrome-as much chrome as he could find. Next, he rolled out a pair of Metzler oversized blackwalls and traded them for the whitewalls that had been on the bike. "It improved the ride and gave it a great retro look," Jim told us. And with the installation of a vintage-'50s logo in place of the typical Harley badge, the bike was ready to make some noise.
By now Jim had understood why his cousin didn't want to ride his Honda, "The Harley has a distinctive drive that just puts you in another place. There's no way to describe the feeling of a Harley or the sound and acceleration of a '67 427 Corvette Sting Ray. They are both very unique!" Yeah, that's right, a 427. See there were other things going on during this time than just an education about real motorcycles.
Back in 1982, the decision to buy a vintage Shark was made. With expenses being what they were, Jim couldn't afford the decked out '67 he was looking for so he settled for a base-model '66. As so often happens, children, finances, and priorities forced his hand, and the Vette went to another owner. It was then that a vow was made-a vow to make the next plastic fantastic that graced his garage something special. With 20 years in the automotive industry, James explains his tastes in automobiles as somewhat unusual. His desire was to purchase an authentic, one-owner, Corvette Sting Ray-one with all the paperwork. Jim wanted the brass ring, a '67 427 Tri-power.
With the search on-for about five years actually-Jim saw many a car and heard many a story and claim. But most of all, what Jim saw was a number of very expensive, completely restored cars that were too pricey for him. And price or not, Jim wanted an opportunity to see a Vette go through the restoration process. When he finally located an acceptable car, Jim was on an airplane that same night to beat out the prospective buyers. That morning at dawn's light, a sight greeted him he hadn't expected: A '67 Vette with everything still original, down to the GM Safety Kit, floor mats, and even shocks. Best of all, the paperwork was all there and so was the tank sticker. Two weeks later the Vette was in its new home, and one James Holtyn of Milwaukee could rest easy knowing his car had gone to an owner that would take care of his one-time pride and joy.
The next step was to find to find the right expert to help with the restoration process. Soon, during a weekend show at Pomona, California, Jim was floored by a "perfect" '68 L88. Upon approaching the owner about the process, Jim met Steve LuVisi, owner of Automotive Expertise Unlimited and the L88. A week later Steve had the Vette, and it validated what Jim had hoped for-everything was intact and indeed original. All that was left was the decision on how perfect this car was to be, "I told Steve that I wanted my '67 to be as nice as his '68 L88-a Top Flight Corvette," Jim said, "I also told Steve that I wished the car to appear as if it had just rolled off the showroom floor...and he made that wish a reality."
With the restoration soon completed, Steve sent the car for paint. Suggesting the same body man who had made the '68 look so wonderful, Gary Svecko of Performance Paint in Torrance, California, received the Vette next and completed everything needed to take this Sting Ray back in time to delivery day: October 17, 1966. So, now Jim has a choice; he can ride down the street in the present with his '99 Harley-Davidson or he can take a stroll down memory lane when he was 10 with a showroom-fresh '67 Corvette. Whichever he decides, Hog or Sting Ray, Jim is the King of the Road.