As a kid, Tom Ligouri watched "Route 66" and dreamed of driving a Corvette of his own. In 1969, he got his chance and the car has by his side ever since.
Tom was just 21 when he picked up his LeMans Blue convertible at a dealership in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. It came equipped with a black vinyl hardtop, black leather interior, a 350/350 engine, and close-ratio manual transmission. "It was gorgeous," he recalled.
Waiting until 1969 wasn't easy. He was tempted by the '68 models, but his dad - a heavy-equipment mechanic -advised him against buying a first-year model. And in hindsight, his dad was right. The first C3 was slammed by critics for excessive styling, increased bulk and a carryover platform. 1969 was a good fit for Ligouri, and he's never looked back.
"It's been loyal to me, and never left me stranded," he said. "It's been a good friend."
40 years, a family and 92,000 miles later, the Corvette still shines. Ligouri says mechanically, it runs like "Swiss watch" and the original clutch is still like new thanks to a fair amount of TLC from Ligouri. He hasn't driven it regularly for years, and he still only takes it out once a week "for some exercise."
"I'm very particular about where the car goes," he explained. "Usually I don't even get out of the car. It's been pampered its entire life."
And coming back to it every week, after driving a four-cylinder car for work, was a genuine thrill.
"To get into a Corvette after driving so slow is such a thrill."
The car also stayed by his side through his divorce - one of the only things he was able to keep. It was something he could turn to as a way to escape the problems in his life.
"It was loyal to me, more than anyone I know. Even my ex-wife," he said.
And even though he considers himself a shy person, he still appreciates the attention being a Corvette owner can bring. He recalled one incident when he and his then-wife went to a restaurant in the Keys to watch the sunset. The entire kitchen staff emptied into the parking lot - to check out the car instead.
"I always drive with the top down. What's the point of a convertible otherwise?" he said. "I always get thumbs up from people; I'm proud of it."