It seems like very close siblings usually want to do everything they can to differentiate themselves from the other. Sometimes that means being absolute opposites. After all, everyone, to varying degrees, wants to be seen as a unique individual. Yet Jeff and Adam Childers don't seem to mind being somewhat similar.
Jeff and Adam are about as close as two brothers can be, especially since they and their families live only a few houses apart on the same quiet street in Independence, Kentucky. In fact, they actually seem to boast how alike they are-right down to the taste they both share in cars. Adam and Jeff each own a Daytona Yellow '70 Corvette convertible!
Although there is never any shortage of good-natured ribbing back and forth between the brothers about whose Vette is better, faster, prettier, et cetera, it's plain to anyone who meets the pair that they thoroughly enjoy showing off their toys together.
Their father, Ken, would proudly take the blame for getting both of his sons hooked on Corvettes at an early age. "I'm sure that when our dad drove home his brand-new '73 Corvette convertible, he didn't realize he was starting a family tradition," Adam tells us.
Nonetheless, that's exactly what happened. He and Jeff grew up loving Corvettes, and each of them would eventually have their own.
In fact, Jeff and Adam have both had a couple of Vettes-Jeff a '69 convertible and Adam a red '71 convertible, in addition to their nearly identical '70s. We somewhat doubt it's coincidence that all the Childers clan's Corvettes have been metal-bumper Shark convertibles, and Ken's white '73 Shark convertible-with metal bumpers on one end-started it all.
Jeff, the older brother by four years, became the third owner of his '70 convertible in July 1977-right after he graduated high school. Mechanically, Jeff's Shark was sound, but it showed very heavy use. Just about every piece has had to be replaced at one time or another. "There were times that I thought the car would never be completed," Jeff recalls. "It was frustrating when I had to keep working on it just to keep it running. At one point, the rear axle broke while I was driving on an interstate highway, and it caused a small fire on the rear wheel. I considered selling it at that point! But I'm glad I kept it and was persistent in restoring it!" he says.
Over the years, Jeff has driven his Vette daily, and gives many thanks to his mechanic and good friend Boz Collins of Independence, Kentucky, for helping. Gradually, Jeff worked on the interior and engine compartment himself, cleaning and replacing parts as necessary. "Finally, in the summer of 1994, I was in a good position financially to restore the body and paint. That work was done by Rod Stryker of Quality Automotive in Cincinnati, Ohio." Then, at long last, Jeff considered his '70 to be nearly perfect.
Jeff and Ken actually found Adam's matching '70 in 1997 while attending the Corvette Homecoming at the National Corvette Museum. "A guy approached my brother Jeff and said he had a car exactly like Jeff's-and it was for sale," says Adam.
Ken then joined in the conversation and made arrangements to meet and view the car. "My dad drove to Cave City, Kentucky, in July 1997, purchased the car, and trailered it home. Then he called me, knowing that I would want the Vette. He was right. It was perfect!" The Childers "boys," Ken, Adam, and Jeff, spent the next several years restoring Adam's Shark and refining the others. Adam's '70 took considerably less time to complete than Jeff's (only six years!), and the finishing touch was to have the body completely stripped and painted by Quality Automotive, who had done Jeff's Vette in 1994.
In essence, the pair of '70 convertibles is nearly identical, but like Jeff and Adam, the cars also have their own personalities. Both are Daytona Yellow with black vinyl interiors, both have tilt-telescopic steering wheels, both have black soft tops with auxiliary hardtops, and both are cherished dearly. At a casual glance, the Vettes look absolutely identical and can only be distinguished from afar if they're wearing their hardtops; Adam's '70 has a painted, color-matched hardtop while Jeff's is dressed in black vinyl.
While Jeff's convertible is oriented a little more for bare-bones performance, Adam's is equipped with more options. As Ken phrased it in his original sales pitch to Adam, "It has all the gadgets." Jeff's Shark is powered by an L46 350hp Turbo-Fire 350, matched up to a close-ratio M21 four-speed gearbox.
The small-block is still equipped with the stock (though refurbished) four-barrel Quadrajet carb and stock "camel hump" iron heads. For extra seat-of-the-pants punch, it also came equipped with the stiffer 4.11:1 performance axle ratio. Its only other amenities from the factory were F70x15 white letter tires and an AM/FM stereo radio, which has since made way for a JVC sound system.
Rough as it was, Jeff fell in love with his '70 at first sight a quarter of a century ago. Twenty years later, Adam fell in love with his because, "It was a bumper car with all the options, and it was identical in year and color to my brother's." Adam describes his ride as, "Just like Jeff's, but with all the options." Nah, we don't sense any rivalry there! His original 350/300hp small-block breaths through the stock dual snorkel air cleaner, and puts its power through a three-speed M40 Turbo Hydra-Matic tranny.
Instead of stiff gears, Adam's Vette boasts power windows, power steering, power brakes, custom shoulder belts (while standard in coupes, only 475 drop-tops rolled out of St. Louis with shoulder straps), and original Harrison "Four Season" air conditioning. His sound system has been modernized using a Kenwood head unit.
The devotion to their Corvettes brought Adam, Jeff, and Ken very close indeed. The three of them were the only members of the very exclusive "Childers Mountain Corvette Club." Adam tells us that, "Until recently, on any given Sunday morning, Jeff, Dad, and I could be found waxing and polishing our Vettes. We've been fortunate to share a common bond-the passion for the Corvette." Sadly, Ken passed on in January 2003, leaving a vacancy in the Childers family Corvette "club" that will undoubtedly be filled someday by Jeff and Adam's children. "I have enjoyed driving my car to many shows in several different states with my wife and children," says Jeff. "It was especially fun to travel with my dad, when he was alive, with his white '73 convertible, and my brother with his '70 convertible Corvette," he reminisces. Jeff and Adam still frequent the National Corvette Homecoming in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the Mid America Funfest with their pair of '70s. And while Adam may be able to lay claim to fresher paint and a more recent restoration, the friendly debates will undoubtedly rage on about whose Vette is more yellow, or more open, or some such. But Jeff would like to add, "By the way, just for the record, I bought my '70 Corvette before my brother bought his!"