We meet ideologues in virtually every walk of life. You know the type: They adopt a belief and stick to it with an almost religious zeal. But every once in a while, one of these doctrinarians changes. A case in point is Stan Freese, an NCRS purist who transitioned over to the "dark side" and bought a custom Vette.
We met Freese while trudging though the rows of the famous Pomona (California) Swap Meet. For those of you who have never been to the Pomona event, it boasts over 4,000 cars appearing alongside 3,000 vendors with parts for sale. Completing the trek through every single row is a feat that would tax even the most diehard car fanatic.
Of all the painstakingly restored and skillfully customized hardware arrayed in the So-Cal sun, one entry stood out from the crowd. After taking one look at Freese's '69-with its mystic flames and gleaming motor compartment-we knew the car had to grace the pages of Vette.
According to Freese, the car represents a bit of a departure from his established buying habits. "All the Corvettes I owned previously were NCRS-correct cars," he says. "At first everyone thought I was nuts, but now all my friends love it."
It seems the '69 has proved to be something of a guilty pleasure for Freese and his pals, not unlike a certain television show from the '70s. "I used to be in a show called Hee Haw. I never really told anyone, since it would tape a few dayshere and there," he explains. "But later people would approach me in secluded areas and explain that they saw me on Hee Haw. No one wanted to admit that they actually watched the show. It's the same with this car and my purist friends. Since buying this car, I have had twoNCRS judges say under their breath, 'Man, we like this car'."
As we mentioned, Stan Freese isn't your everyday custom-Vette collector. He has owned many Bloomington- and NCRS-recognized cars, including four that earned Top Flight certification and three '61-'63 Fuelies. Since 1964, Freese has owned a total of 14 Vettes, all of them stock and completely original.
Our research shows that the '69 was purchased new by a teacher and later sold to Corvette collector Greg Heinrich, who owns Fairway Chevrolet in Las Vegas. After keeping the car in his collection for several years, Heinrich offered it to the YMCA for use in a charity raffle. At this point, the Vette was still completely stock.
The trail goes cold there, but it is known that at some point Lou Somers ended up with the car. Somers confirms that the '69 was completely original when he bought it, right down to the factory smog pump.
The Custom Touches
Somers wanted the Vette to be flashier. "I poured money into it, and it won a trophy every time I showed it," he tells us. So what did all Somers' dollars get him? First, he ended up with one awesome paint job. Viewed from a distance, the car appears to be finished in stock LeMans Blue. But upon closer inspection, all of its brilliant colors come to the fore.
The flames licking at the car's hood and flanks are a cross between mystic and ghost. They usually appear a shade darker than the car, but depending on the light, they can span the rainbow in a wide variety of colors-or even disappear altogether. Current owner Freese comments that the '69 is often the mostphotographed Corvette at the shows he enters. Credit for this colorful masterpiece goes to Russ Gerner, of Paint Master Art Studio in Las Vegas.
In addition to the paint, countless hours and dollars were spent making the '69's motor look top-notch. Polished-aluminum valve covers, a polished intake manifold, a billet air cleaner, and countless other shiny bits all add up to a look that's helped snare the car a veritable mountain of show trophies. Surprisingly, the engine underneath all that chrome is an original 350 with an authentic 58,000 miles on it.
If one flashy C3 can change the outlook of an avid NCRS collector, just about anything seems possible. Perhaps in time there will even be a Bloomington class for judging custom Vettes such as this one. As Stan Freese and his '69 show, stranger things have happened.