The date was December 24, 1965. It was Christmas Eve, and there was aharsh snowstorm hitting the Rockies when Commerce City, Colorado's KenZiebarth accompanied his friend, Eric to the Chevy dealership in searchof a new truck.
The weather was bitter-cold and there was snoweverywhere, but Eric wanted to buy one of those brand-new 1966 Chevypick-ups with the big rear window. Ken, being the good friend that hewas, agreed to give Eric a ride.
They walked the entire new car lot ofBurt Chevrolet in Englewood, Colorado, through snow, but Eric neverspotted the right truck. As they were leaving, the young men walkedpassed the showroom, where a brand-new Mosport Green '66 Corvette 327coupe greeted them in all its grandeur. Not inclined to lose a potentialsale, a salesman by the name of Gene McClain tried to persuade Eric toforget the truck and try out the Vette instead. Eric told the salesman,in no uncertain terms, that plastic sports cars weren't exactly his cupof tea. They were more of his pal Ken's predilection.
Ken was indeedimpressed with the Corvette, but he didn't care for the "British RacingGreen" on it, to which the salesman suggested taking a look at anotherVette on the lot just like it. It was a brand new Nassau Blue '65 coupewith a 375-horsepower Rochester fuel-injected 327, four-speed, and awhite-with-blue interior. Its option package was an extremely uniquemixture of luxury and sheer performance. In addition to the mostpowerful 327 small-block available, it also had a special-order,close-ratio four-speed, a 4.56:1-geared Posi, a heavy-duty F40suspension, and power brakes. But with regular steel wheels and hubcaps, it was also equipped with genuine leather seats, a teakwoodsteering wheel, power windows, the Comfort and Convenience Group'sday/night mirror and backing lamps, and an AM/FM radio. The coupe hadapparently been ordered by another dealership who intended to go racing,but for one reason or another things fell through and it wound up on theBurt Chevrolet lot.
At first sight, Ken's heart began to flutter, but hedidn't have the money to indulge in a new sports car.
That's when thesalesman, Gene, swooped in for the kill. He said that it was Christmas,and suggested that Ken make him an offer anyway. "I told him I only hadabout $3,000 in the bank and the '60 Bonneville we drove there in," Kenrecalls. "He replied that since I'd made an offer, he'd take it in, andsee what happens. When he came back, he said that if I took it today, Icould have the Vette for $3,000 plus the Bonneville!" Ken was amazed bythe deal, but he wasn't about to buy a car he'd never driven. So, withGene riding shotgun and his buddy Eric wedged into the back of thetwo-seater, and with a blizzard raging around them, Ken took the '65Fuelie for a 30-mile testdrive.
It was indeed true love, so Ken ranstraight for the bank to drain his savings and bid farewell to hisPontiac in order to drive the Corvette home. "It all happened just thatfast. I never really had a chance to think about it, but that was thebest deal I've ever made in my life!"
Before the incredibly spontaneousevents at the dealership, Ken had planned a ski trip with some friendsfor Christmas Day. Now, however, he no longer had the car he was goingto drive up to the mountains. Ken wasn't about to let that detail standin the way, so the very same day he bought the Vette, he got snow tiresand attached a ski rack to its deck. The following day was the first ofmany ski trips that Ken and his '65 would make together.
It's beennearly 40 years since that fateful Christmas Eve, and Ken is still everybit as fond of that mid-year as ever. Ken, now 76-years-young, neversettled down enough to get married, and spent most of his career on theroad as a truck driver. That left relatively little time at home, whichin turn means that his Vette never had the opportunity to rack up toomany miles. "She doesn't have a lot of miles, but we've had a lot ofexperiences. The Corvette was my party tool. Whenever I was out for fun,that car was always there with me," says Ken.
Sit down with Ken over acouple beers, and he'll happily recount some of his seemingly endlessanecdotes of adventures with the Fuelie. There was the time that hekidded a couple of girls at a ski resort that their Porsche was just aVW until they finally challenged him to a race over Loveland Pass toanother resort. Their Porsche, with all the weight on the rear,out-handled Ken's ol' Vette through the curves, especially with patchesof snow here and there, but he drove away from them in the straights.Don't worry; he waited for them at the next ski resort for drinks tocelebrate the Corvette's superiority.
Then there was his buddy with aHemi-powered '70 Dodge Charger who had a healthy degree of respect forthe powerful little 327 Fuelie and its 4:56s. "We'd drive places in thesummer together, and I'd always sandbag and follow a distance behind theCharger because of its very loud exhaust. But I'd get good runs on himwhenever we'd need to get around cars on the old one-lane roads. I'd beright on his bumper as we'd pass them every time. He told me once thathe never wanted to race the Vette. That way we'd never know for surewhich one was faster. I think he probably would have beaten me, but hewas afraid to try." That means you already won, Ken!
Like the Fuelie'sski rack for winter use, Ken had long ago installed a trailer hitch onthe Vette so he could tow his 14-foot water ski boat during the summer.It was a small boat, but Ken had hot-rodded it with two hopped-upoutboard motors so it could haul butt, just like his Corvette.
Even badevents with the '65 have somehow turned out to have happy endings.Sometime around 1986-87, some teens stole the Vette out of his garagewhile he was away playing nine holes of golf with a friend. He alwaysleft the garaged closed and keys in her ignition so that someone couldrescue her in case of a fire or such, so these kids broke into hisgarage and drove away with the '65. "I was heartbroken when I found hergone. I was afraid I would never see it again. There's just no replacingsomething like that." And to make matters worse, he only had liabilityinsurance. Thankfully, the police found the Vette unharmed behind anearby grocery store at about 5 a.m. the following morning. Nothing wasmissing. In fact, the punks had loaded her up and were ready for a longtrip. "I got a brand new sleeping bag and pocket knife out of theordeal, as well as a bottle of cheap wine," Ken says with a chuckle. "Igave the sleeping bag away, but I still have the knife." Ken even gotback the set of keys they stole the Vette with--the first set of railroadtracks he crossed shook them from the visor!
After four decades, anduncountable adventures and misadventures, Ken's ol' gal is only nownudging towards 85,000 miles and is in nearly immaculate, all-originalcondition. Since Ken retired from truck driving, the '65 still onlycomes out when it's time to play or when he wants to impress someone,usually about once a month. When it hasn't been in use, the Fuelie isalways garaged and covered. Sure the leather seats are a little worn andthe still-lustrous paint has its share of chips and minor blemishes, buteach and every one of those imperfections after all these years hasbecome a well-earned badge of honor.
None of the OE parts have ever beenreplaced, including its original clutch, shocks, or mufflers. Many ofthe hoses are still original, and the heads still show crayon marks fromthe assembly plant. The front end has never been realigned, and Ken hashad to adjust the rear a turn or two only once in order to keep thetransverse spring from flattening out. Ken has done almost all of hisown servicing on the Vette for years, and knows every characteristic ofhis Vette intimately. "Mike at Dreamworks [Performance Engineering,Sheridan, Colorado] is the only guy, other than me, to ever work on thecar." Even the fuel-injection unit has only been off the car forcleaning twice in its entire life.
All in all, Ken emphasizes, "She'sbeen a great lady, that's for sure." According to the quirky '80sadventure flick, The Princess Bride, there is no nobler a purpose inlife than true love. Ken has found his.