The Right Way to Preserve a Collector Car

By now, most old-car hobbyists — along with most people in America — have heard that the Plymouth buried in a time capsule in Tulsa, back in 1957, didn’t do well surviving the ravages of time in its concrete tomb. When the car was taken out of the supposedly sealed vault, it was found that moisture had leaked in and ruined the vehicle.

While the case of the ’57 Plymouth proves it is hard to preserve a car in like-new condition, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do so. In fact, on the very same weekend that the Plymouth was raised, a car show in Illinois was showcasing a vintage Corvette with four original miles that had been preserved in near-perfect condition for 35 years.

In 1972, C.L. Green of British Columbia contacted KATLA Chevrolet-Oldsmobile in Port Alberni, B.C. to order a new Corvette convertible with the highest horsepower engine and every factory option that could possibly be put on one car. Green’s order was placed on June 9, 1972 and the dealership sent a letter to GM of Canada explaining that Green was buying his Corvette to preserve it, rather than use it.

“Our customer for this vehicle intends to purchase this car with the idea of keeping it as a collector’s item and wishes to have ‘0’ miles on it,” the letter explained. “He intends to put it in a display room in his basement and keep it for at least 10 years. He has asked if this car could possibly be the last one off the line for the year.”

Green wasn’t able to get the last ’72 convertible. GM probably gets dozens of offers to buy the last ‘Vette of any given year. However, the automaker did manage get Mr. Green a loaded-up car with less than one mile on the odometer. This is probably quite a hard thing to do, as cars are driven off the assembly line, on and off transporters and from transporters to dealerships. Many also rack up a few miles during customer test drives. So, Green’s car came into the dealership with two-tenths of a mile showing on its odometer.

Green got his house ready for the car by removing the doors and windows from the outside wall. He then picked the vehicle up, drove it 3.6 miles to his home and steered it into the basement. He drained the fuel tank and removed the battery and buttoned the house up again. The car remained in the basement of Green’s home until 1983.

At that point, Green put the house up for sale. He had the Corvette taken out of the basement and transported to a warehouse in Seattle, where it was stored for 19 years. Green died in 1999 and hid daughter Donna took possession of the car. In September 2002, she sold the car to Ed and Cindy Foss of Roanoke, Ind. They had the Corvette transported there. Ed Foss put gas in the tank, checked the oil, installed a new battery and started the car on the first try! The last time it had started was 30 years earlier!

Today, the car is as close to new and as close to perfect as anyone could wish for. It has won a number of prestigious Corvette show honors including two Top Flight Awards, Gold Certification, Special Collection recognition and a Triple Crown. In June, on the same weekend the ’57 Plymouth was dug up in Tulsa, this Corvette was inducted into the Bloomington Gold Corvette Hall of Fame.

This car proves that a vehicle can be almost-perfectly-preserved for a long period of time. Of course, no one knows if the Tulsarama Plymouth survived for 35 year and deteriorated in the last 15. But we would guess that this Corvette is still going to be near perfect when Ed and Cindy Foss light the candles at its 50th birthday party.

John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.