How do you get to be a Corvette family, with three running examples of America's Favorite Sports Car? According to Al and Janete Nieman of Olympia, Washington, it helps if you fall in love with the car at an early age, when you can't afford one. Al recalls growing up in a small Midwestern town and seeing the only rich kid in the area drive one to high school and on weekend cruises. That, he says, is the kind of carrot you need to have dangling in front of you, until you can finally buy a Corvette of your own.
For the Niemans, that moment came in 2000, when Al finally purchased his first brand-new Vette. While driving the '00, Janete fell in love with the car's handling, stopping, and steering. This led to its eventual replacement with an '05 "grocery getter," which today serves as Janete's primary transportation.
Besides the '05, the Niemans now have a pair of vintage Corvettes in their garage: a '58 and a '61. (They also own a beautiful '32 Ford full-fendered roadster; a '45 Chevy pickup; a flamed, red '68 Camaro; and a custom '72 4WD Chevy pickup with a GMPP Ram Jet 502.) The '58 has been restored to its stock condition, with all original components. Al says he really likes the later grille, with its quad headlights, and the older-style rear treatment from the earlier years.
"Driving around the lake in the late afternoon is the best therapy after work," he says. "I just imagine I'm driving into the high-school parking lot sometimes."
The Niemans located the '61 in Ohio, after years of neglect. At the time, the only usable parts were the body, the hood, the doors, and the trunk lid. Today, the car is a fully updated Vetterod with an '02 LS1, a 4L60E transmission out of a '96 Camaro, a 9-inch Ford four-link rearend, and disc brakes. The drivetrain was set up by Custom Cars of Omaha, Nebraska.
This C1 also features an Art Morrison chassis with a C4 independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, while coilover shocks at each corner provide superior handling. The 17-inch wheels are from Boyd Coddington.
Outside, Al widened the rear fenders by about 2 inches each. It's a subtle modification, one that's not easy to discern if you're not looking for it. Even though he owns a steel-fabricating business, Al just loves working with fiberglass, since it's so easy to customize and repair.
The front of the '61 has also been modified with a '59 grille insert, which provides a different look while using stock Corvette components. The classic red-and-white paint scheme was sprayed by Custom Cars of Omaha. According to Al, stance is everything--and this C1 has a low stance that just screams speed.
The interior is swathed in red leather by Dave's Auto Upholstery in Blair, Nebraska. The Corvette Central "stock appearing" steering wheel is of a smaller diameter to allow for a more comfortable driving position. Other interior features include a stock-appearing (non-tilt) ididit column with turn signals, a JVC iPod-ready sound system, Dakota Digital gauges, and a Vintage Air heater.
Al's patience has clearly paid off, as he and Janete now have a beautiful automotive family of their own, headlined by a trio of modern, custom, and classic Corvettes.