50 years and five engines later, this much-abused Corvette is gorgeous
In 1962, Dennis Frey was a young clerk who couldn’t afford what he calls “a hemorrhoid-shrinking $2,000 for a 1957 Corvette.” But somehow he convinced his mother to co-sign the loan.
The one-owner car he found near his Iowa home was one of just 179 built in Aztec Copper, with a Shoreline Beige interior. Equipment included the 283-cid, 270-hp “Duntov” V-8 engine, both tops, a four-speed transmission and Wonder Bar radio.
Over the years, Frey admits that he “drove it, wrecked it, raced it” and did plenty of other things in the car that shouldn’t appear in print. His mother — the same sainted woman who co-signed the loan — also had to bail him out of jail several times because of what he did with that car.
For the first six years, Frey drove it daily in the spring, summer and fall. It even survived on the streets of Philadelphia for a year and racked up plenty of miles for business travel.
But business wasn’t what got Frey in trouble. Usually it was speed and street racing. “Back in those days,” he says, “a car would have a reputation and people would come looking for you. We’d hang out at a drive-in and pretty soon someone would come along. I don’t remember ever being beat, but I broke a driveshaft once.” He did race legally, too. “Once I was drag racing at a strip 100 miles from home and I put a rod through the block, and a friend flat-towed it home behind a ’58 Chevy.”
Years later, Frey admits that he “did everything you’re not supposed to do in that car. I went through five motors. Never wore one out; always blew them up.” Finally, in about 1970, Frey stored the car, because he was traveling extensively for business. Much of the time it languished in a dirt-floored chicken coop. He also moved several times, dragging it around “from one garage or storage place to another.” When he moved to Tennessee in 1993, he started the restoration, doing everything himself but paint and bodywork.
During the restoration, Frey moved three times. “I would store parts in little plastic bags,” he says, “and some of the bags must have been used before. The neighbor’s dog decided the bags smelled too good to pass up.” While lying on his back under the car, he watched as the dog carried several bags of parts out the garage door.
Frey finished the restoration in 1999, and since then his Aztec Bronze Corvette has had a somewhat easier life than it did in the 1960s. “Now,” says Frey, “it’s just for fun. It’s not a trailer queen. We drive it to shows, cruises, family reunions and other special occasions," like taking his mother for a birthday ride every year. And no, he won't tell you how fast they went in July, for her 99th.