All of us have stories about barn finds (a term that includes, but not limited to, garages, lean-tos, chicken coupes, carports, and, yes even barns). This story is about one 1968 Corvette that was parked as it would have been on any other day some 30-plus years ago with the best of intentions but then life got in the way.
In the interim, under a dusty car cover the little, almost forgotten T-top coupe sat waiting in a garage for the day it would get that promised makeover. Well, it didn’t happen and time passed, and passed and passed. The owner is a good friend of mine who has copious knowledge on all things Chevy but has an intimate knowledge and love for Corvettes. Once, a long time ago he purchased this ’68 and stripped the body down to check what was underneath before he was to begin its restoration. Off came the paint, bumpers and door panels, but little else. Life’s pace picked up and the car cover was never peeled back. You know what happens next … stuff gets piled on, under, in and alongside. The Corvette became a glorified shelf.
Fast-forward some 30-plus years and I’m standing on this hallowed of ground when I point and ask. “What’s under the car cover?” I knew it was a Corvette but wasn’t sure of the year or condition. It turns out it is an “almost” numbers-matching car. The most obvious deviation is the engine block. The original left this earth in a hurry and another was dropped in but it looks like the intake, exhaust, alternator with external regulator, radiator and numerous other goodies are original. The speedo reads 45,000 miles plus and we believe those are the original miles. My mind began racing, far outpacing my wallet, abilities and time available…but what the heck. I pressed on.
He proceeded to tell me it was one of several projects he was going to tackle once he retired. Well, it was becoming increasingly obvious to him with everything else in life and other projects already in the wings there was every likelihood this one wasn’t going to “get off the ground” so to speak. So, I made an offer for his ’68 (and one other but that’s a story for another day).
Being friends, and knowing full well I have a champagne taste supported by nothing more than a beer belly wallet, he was kind to me and the ’68 is going home with a new owner and the rest of you will see the progress that I make … hopefully much quicker!
A little backstory. Why am I so interested in a 1968 Corvette? Arguably one of the worst model years ever made and a far cry from a highly desirable year. Of course, should you find yourself an L88 (427/430) car or an L79 (327/350) there’s some coin to be made but neither does my luck nor my wallet run in those circles. My little ’68 is a coupe with the base engine, automatic, A/C and was once painted in Corvette Bronze. A color I liken to something you would find on the inside of a baby’s diaper. Graphic, sure, but it seems to be a match. Oh, did I mention it was also outfitted with “Tobacco” colored interior. Can you imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ that would occur today if an interior was referred to as “Tobacco”?
The ’68, a model year plagued with more production problems than probably any other, is also a year of firsts, lasts and one-of-a-kind. One of the myriad changes involved the outside door mirrors. On early cars the mirror was close to the A-pillar and on later models the mirror was moved back. The ’68 was also the last year of a pushbutton on the door handle and the dashboard mounted ignition. (Later years would have the key on the steering column being part of the anti-theft system.) Say what you will, it’s a transitional car as it ushered in the era of modern styling, if not suspension as that was introduced back in September 1962. It was the first Corvette to be designed and built with curved door glass, not flat glass. It was the last of the 327 cars but it was a one-year-only block with its large main journals and one-of-a-kind crankshaft. It was the last year you could pour oil in through the filler neck located on the intake yet the road draft tube opening was filled. It was also the last year for the external regulator with alternator. The first year in a long time without windwings while it was the last year with separate backup lights. In a strange twist, the front side markers were amber lenses with clear bulbs while following years would be amber bulbs with clear lenses. First year of fiber optics and the last of the 15x7 size. While the Turbo-Hydramatic found its way into other Chevys in ’65 it didn’t show up in Corvettes until ’68.
The list goes on but you can see the 1968 could possibly be the ugly duckling of the family but it’s my ugly duckling. Stay tuned.