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1971 Corvette Stingray Convertible - Lucky Break

For The Vette, The Owners, Or Both?

Dakota Wentz Feb 1, 2004
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In the world of cars, there are all different sorts of vehicles. There are big cars, little cars, fast cars, and slow cars; well, I think you get the picture. However, what it all boils down to is what kind of car it is. Now I'm not talking about comparing a Corvette to a Yugo, I'm talkin' about whether a car is a driver or a trailer queen: Something for a Sunday cruise, to rip up the pavement, or an eye-popping piece of garage furniture.

To be completely honest with you, my pet peeve in the auto hobby is with trailer queens. Now don't get me wrong, I understand that someone may have spent a heap of money or hours upon hours researching parts to get their cherished car just perfect. I even understand that someone could spend dozens of man-hours to make a one-off part, and I certainly do respect that. But after all, what are cars for except . . . TO DRIVE. There's nothing worse than seeing a prized piece tucked away in a garage somewhere-gradually rotting away-and apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way. When Billie and Dave Satchell of Hulmeville, Pennsylvania, heard out about a chrome-bumper Stingray rotting away, they were heartbroken.

A rumor was going around that someone had a '71 Corvette Stingray convertible, complete with a numbers-matching LS5 (365 hp) 454-inch big-block and four-speed tranny that was wasting away-untouched-in a garage. Better yet, the car was supposedly 100-percent restored. Only problem was, how do you find something that to your knowledge is just a myth? To be honest with you, I have no idea how they did it, but all that really matters is that the Satchells did indeed find it. Okay, wait a minute, this has got me wondering; did they take a McGyver approach, the Sherlock Holmes approach, or maybe even an Inspector Clouseau approach? I don't know. Maybe I'll have to do a little investigating myself. Anyway, back to business; they did find it, but it wasn't easy. Because once they tracked down the car's whereabouts, they then had to track down the owner.

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Trying to get hold of the owner was like trying to get Britney Spears' manager to patch you through to her (not that I've tried or anything...). For 12 months, the Satchell's tried to strike a deal with the owner about buying the car. In fact they tried every method possible: From phone calls to answering machines, letters, telegraphs, and messages in a bottle-everything short of rocks through the window. I'm telling you, that Britney Spears...I mean the previous owner, was a hard one to reach. Then, finally, after months of trying every possible means to contact the owner, they succeeded. A deal was struck, and the car was theirs-as is!

The previous owner had done more than just take excellent care of the Vette. In fact, he may have been one of the more obsessive/retentive humans in recent times about his pride and joy-and yet he let a big-block Stingray convertible sit for years. Ten years before Billie and Dave bought the car, the previous owner had given the '71 a complete frame-off restoration. Then, once the project was finished, the car sat in the garage unnoticed and unable to be appreciated by Corvette lovers. The Satchells couldn't believe it. Here was a beautiful car that hadn't been shared with the public. Talk about your heart dropping to the bottom of your stomach.

Now for the good news-the '71 was beyond being worth the wait. To put it bluntly, they made out like bandits! The Steel Cities Gray with black leather "custom trim" interior Corvette has more options and goodies than a Sears catalog! For starters, every modern (for 30-plus years ago) convenience-things you'll find on almost every brand-new car-such as power steering and brakes, air conditioning, power windows, and an AM-FM radio was on the Shark. But here's the kicker, it's one of only 7,121 convertibles produced for model-year '71 and one of just 832 that came with the vinyl-covered auxiliary hardtop (RPOs C07 and C08). What's that you say, you ordered your steak still bleeding? Try this on for size. In 1971, custom shoulder belts were standard equipment on the Corvette coupe. However, only 677 convertibles came with RPO A85 Custom Shoulder Belts, and guess who now owns a convertible with 'em? That's right, our friends Billie and Dave Satchell.

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Once the car was home in Hulmesville and in their care, Billie and Dave knew things were going to change. For the first two months or so, they spent all the free time they could manage returning the drop-top to an absolutely spotless condition. Once that was all said and done, they drove their Corvette to its first car show in over a decade, and they had a blast with it. And the sparkling clean convertible didn't disappoint in its show debut, taking First Place in its class-starting a tradition that continues to this day. Since then, they've displayed it at the 2001 Philadelphia International Auto Show and were selected as the 1971 Corvette for the National Corvette Museum's Historic Motorama. The Satchells told me that being part of the Motorama was, "The high point of owning this car-an experience that probably will never be topped." They added, "However, the friendships we made during the Historic Motorama can never be topped."

Sounds to me like a lot of hard work turned into a lucky break for everyone involved: Two people and one now highly prized Corvette.



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