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The Classic 1969 Chevrolet Corvette - Medium Rare

A Neglected '69 'Vert Proves An Options-List Oddity

Wayne Ellwood May 1, 2009
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With so many ways to build and personalize your own Corvette, the question of what constitutes a genuinely rare car can be difficult to answer. But for each year of the car's production, there have been a number of Corvettes built according to an entirely different perspective on the option list. So whether a car is absolutely rare, as in the case of the two ZL1 Corvettes, or rare by some other option combination, some Vettes will always be more interesting than others.

Roger Abshire and his wife, Judy, have been collecting rare and interesting cars for many years. Their collection, known locally as the Parkway Collection, is an eclectic selection of bone-stock originals, tuner cars, and race machines. If there's a theme, it's that each of the cars has a story and that the research needed to uncover that story has often exceeded the work required to restore the vehicle itself. And, of course, each car is valued for its unique place in the greater Corvette story.

Abshire had been looking for a black convertible for several years when, in 1990, a friend decided to sell the blue-over-gray '69 he had owned since the mid-'70s. Although he wasn't a real Corvette fan (it was the only Vette he'd ever owned), the friend had driven the car for several years before parking it outside his father's barn in favor of a more traditional muscle car. Abshire thought he might turn a quick profit on the Vette, so he bought it. The engine had its original serial number, but the origins of the paint were less clear. The car certainly seemed original, and it was in pretty rough shape after having sat outside for several years.

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It wasn't until the car was sent for painting that owner Roger Abshire's curiosity really started to pique. (Photo by Roger Abshire)

A few days later, after purchasing the car, the odd mix of blue and gray began to gnaw at Abshire. This wasn't a common combination, so he checked the trim tag. It read 900A. He lifted the door-sill plate and found that, sure enough, the Corvette had originally been black.

Abshire next researched some of the other options. The Gunmetal interior was also rarely used in combination with the black exterior. He found one such car in a '90 magazine article by a Bloomington Gold judge, who indicated that there were as few as three cars built this way. Since the article was about big-blocks, Abshire called the author and asked if he had been referring to big-block cars specifically. The answer was no--he had meant all cars from 1969. He had one, and he knew where another one was located. Abshire's car made three.

Another curious fact was that the car was ordered with a delete for the convertible top; it came with the removable hardtop only. The engine was a 350/350 hydraulic-cam unit with an M21 close-ratio transmission, a 3.70 Posi-traction differential, and an F-41 suspension. With the exception of the hydraulic cam, the equipment list was decidedly race-oriented rather than something one might order on a street-driven car.

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The car also came with tinted glass all around, power windows, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Some of these options were also fairly rare in 1969. Suddenly, Abshire's whole outlook on the car had changed. Not only was it the black convertible he had wanted, but it was also looking to be quite a rare car. He decided to keep it.

Mechanically, the car didn't need anything. It was original, it started and ran well, and it didn't leak. But having been stored outdoors for so long, some of its less durable components were showing their age. Correct Gunmetal carpets and door panels were easy to find, but locating matching seat covers proved more difficult. Abshire bugged interior-resto guru Al Knoch for over a year until Knoch finally came up with enough original material to make one set of covers.

Abshire treats each of his Corvettes as an old friend, one with whom he can spend his days gradually performing all the work the car might require. For this rare black convertible, that means some jobs are still in process. New seatbelts are on order, and some of the other trim pieces will be receiving attention in the near future. For the time being, however, Abshire is happy to finally have his black convertible, and to add one more Corvette milestone to his impressive collection.



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