Master Works is not your typical Corvette restoration shop. Why? Because this is Werner Meier's place. Within the Corvette biz, Meier, if you haven't been formally introduced, is the man with the GM styling cars, those highly prized concept machines designed to promote Corvettes of the future. And he's got a bunch of them. Recently retired, Meier was, for years, the General Motors Engineering Group manager at the GM Proving Grounds. Today, he has a new Corvette restoration business called Master Works in Madison Heights, Michigan.
As you might expect, the Master Works shop is filled with great, historically significant Corvettes. As we entered the facility we were greeted by a bad and black '63 Z06 and a pristine silver split-window coupe. At first glance, the former big-tank Corvette didn't look unique until Werner filled us in. "Behind the fuel-injected 327 is a five-speed and it's original. It shouldn't have ever gotten out of the Proving Grounds," Meier said. "It's got a prototype Borg-Warner four-speed OD transmission still in it. This car is one of one."
But escaping the Proving Grounds isn't unique to this lone Z06, Meier having done so himself. Today he serves as the leading custodian of several engineering and styling Corvettes. That's why, when Mike Yager of Mid America Direct bought the '64 World's Fair Corvette, he sent the coupe to Meier, the leading expert in such cars.
Along the way, Meier got sidetracked by the security of a GM corporate job working in a variety of capacities over the past 30-plus years. Corvettes, however, have always been his passion. Meier bought his first Corvette, a brand new '69, on his 18th birthday. Over the years, he says he's owned 75 to 80 Corvettes and, of those, one turned out to be a rare GM styling car.
"It happened by accident," says Meier. "A friend told me about a car that was for sale. I went to look, only because it had a set of knock-off wheels I wanted for another car."
Meier figured the car was a repaint due to the unusual color; however, the owner proclaimed it had never been repainted. Upon checking the trim tag, he noticed it was stamped "special." He purchased the car, which turned out to be a very rare Bill Mitchell GM styling car. Only recently did he sell this Corvette, which is currently on display in the National Corvette Museum.
But before we shed a tear about his sale of such a rare Corvette, we entered a second room behind the Master Works showroom, which revealed three more GM styling cars of the mid-year era. Appropriately enough, "Bill Mitchell" was printed in big, bold, white letters across the windshield header of a '64 convertible that was partially disassembled. All three of these cars were Bill Mitchell styling exercises and are extremely rare machines. With flashy side-pipe configurations and unique interior modifications, these cars are the missing links in Corvette styling development. One '64 included a hole cut through the hood predating the famous Shaker hoodscoops of the musclecar era. Inside another, the door panels included sequential flashing systems. The blue '64 once belonged to Ozzie Olson, who sponsored cars at Indianapolis 500 races. He was a good friend of Bill Mitchell; thus, he got one of the Mitchell styling cars.
Now you know why we made a special trip to Master Works. It's a one-of-a-kind Corvette restoration shop. If this were an archeological dig for Corvette history, Master Works would be like finding the Lost Ark. Now if we can just get Werner to put on that Indiana Jones hat