Original Owner: A Trendy Hairstyle Helped This Chicago-Area Corvette Buff Buy a ’72 LS5 Coupe in Cash

’72 Vette was the last with both chrome bumpers and pop-out coupe rear window. Courtesy Frank Pope

Frank Pope could barely contain his joy upon arriving at Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet in Elmhurst, Illinois, with his girlfriend, Joanne. He’d driven about five miles from his Melrose Park home to watch his new Targa Blue 1972 Corvette roll off the auto carrier. It was October 15, 1971, a day Pope had been anxiously awaiting since ordering the car eight weeks before. With Joanne by his side, he excitedly pointed to the car.

“Here I am, this 26-year-old guy, with my heart pounding,” Pope recalled for Hagerty. “It was the only one on the trailer with the big-block hood. I said to Joanne, ‘Do you see the difference from the other Corvettes on there?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Look at that hood. It’s a big-block.’ But I might as well have been speaking a different language. I told her, ‘I will never sell this car,’ and she gave me a look like she was thinking, ‘This guy must be nuts. He’s never going to ask me to marry him.’ But I did. We got engaged on Valentine’s Day 1972, and we’re still married.”

Pope still has the Corvette, too, now with just 42,000 miles and still getting out for fun. Over the years, he added engine modifications while keeping the exterior and interior mostly stock. The blue Corvette fulfilled a long-time dream for the young man who’d learned his trade in barber college. 

Frank Pope has owned his 1972 Corvette LS5 since new
Frank Pope has owned his 1972 Corvette LS5 since new.Courtesy Frank Pope

The car also opened a new world of camaraderie with other Vette owners. Pope joined the Northern Rays Corvette Club and attended major Vette meets. Along the way, he befriended Corvette luminaries, including legendary chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and his wife, Elfi; Corvette designer Larry Shinoda; racer John Greenwood; Bloomington Gold founder Dave Burroughs, and master Corvette hunter and restorer Kevin Mackay.

Meeting Shinoda at Bloomington Gold in 1992, Pope invited him to speak at the club’s 20th anniversary dinner. Shinoda drove Pope’s car and signed its firewall, and the autograph remains one of Pope’s favorite memories attached to the Corvette.

Corvette designer Larry Shinoda autograph 1992
Corvette designer Larry Shinoda autographed Frank’s Corvette over 30 years ago.Courtesy Frank Pope

The Corvette That Hair Bought 

Pope proudly recalled paying cash for the Corvette one year after opening his men’s hair styling shop in Melrose Park, the town where his family had lived since 1911. He usually parked the Vette in front of the shop, which he felt helped attract customers.

“People still ask me if it’s the same car they remember seeing there,” he said.

Some of them may even remember a kind of haircut they got in the shop, something called “the Pope Shag.”

“Shag haircuts were big in the early ’70s, but I came up with my own version,” he said. “It became popular and was featured in a New York professional men’s hairstyling magazine. I advertised on local radio and did those haircuts for men, women, and children. Those haircuts paid for my Corvette!”

Frank Pope Shag haircut
Pope models his version of the popular shag-style haircut in 1970. Its success paid for the Corvette.Courtesy Frank Pope

While still a barber, Pope spent nights selling cable TV service. “To promote sales, I got the idea to do a local show about neighborhood events. That’s how I got started doing videos.”

He later left the hair styling business and became an investigator for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. “I retired 12 years ago. I was a deputy sheriff, and that helped me out when I’d be flying down the street in the Corvette and get pulled over.”

Pope’s investigative background and friendship with Burroughs brought him an intriguing freelance job in 2013: helping to authenticate Dana Mecum’s 1961 Corvette Gulf Oil racer, the first Corvette racer with corporate sponsorship. The car had been ordered by dealer/racer Don Yenko and driven by him, Dr. Dick Thompson (“The Flying Dentist”) and Ben Moore. It was the SCCA National B-Production champion in 1961 and 1962. Pope’s evidence, including original paperwork from Yenko’s widow, Hope, helped affirm the car’s authenticity. The historic Vette sold at Mecum’s 2013 Monterey auction for $1.4 million. Pope watched the sale from home on TV.

Love at First Sight … at 8 Years Old

Pope’s love of Corvettes started when he was eight. His father gave him a scale model of the ’53, and he saw the real one at the Chicago auto show later that year.

“I told my dad, ‘Someday I’m going to have one of those.’ He said to me, ‘I believe you will.’ My dad was a semi driver, and he drove his own Mack truck cross-country. He taught me to identify cars. When I was 4 years old, I knew every car on the road by sight.”

Frank Pope with his ’72 Vette at a local show
Frank Pope with his ’72 Vette at a local show.Courtesy Frank Pope

A dozen years later, Pope fell for the Mako Shark II concept car when he saw it at the auto show. 

“They said that was going to be the next Corvette body style. I bought the scale model and airbrushed that shark-like paint scheme onto it. From the first time I saw the ’68 Corvette, I knew I had to have one.” He waited until he turned 26, when his cost to insure the Corvette dropped by half.

Let’s Make a Deal

Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet, which advertised as “Chicagoland’s largest auto dealer,” gave Pope a good deal on his Corvette. The owners, Nick Celozzi and Maury Ettleson, starred in TV commercials in which they promised to beat any price or refund the difference in cash.

Pope’s ’72 Corvette was one of 3913 to get the 454-cubic-inch big block V-8 (option code LS5), out of the 27,004 made. The LS5 added $294.90 over the Corvette coupe’s $5533 base price. (The convertible started at $5296.) 

1972 Chevrolet Corvette warranty booklet documents sticker
Courtesy Frank Pope

“The sticker price was over $7200. I got it for $6458 out the door, tax included,” Pope recalled. “It’s got every option from that year—air conditioning, leather seats, tilt wheel, power windows, power brakes and steering, AM/FM stereo, and a rear window defogger, which was a rare option.” (Just 8 percent of 1972 Corvette coupes had the defogger.) 

Factory Basics: 1972 Chevrolet Corvette

Shinoda, lead designer on the 1963 Sting Ray, was head of Chevrolet design Studio 3 when his team followed GM design chief Bill Mitchell’s directive to create a new Corvette with bulging fenders and an upturned tail. They did both the Mako Shark II and the new ’68 body that would go over the 1963–67 chassis.

The ’68 coupe debuted a two-piece lift-off roof and removable rear window. The resulting open-air feel helped make the coupe more popular than the convertible, and it accounted for three quarters of Corvette production in 1972. Standard equipment included a Positraction rear axle, Flo-Thru ventilation, tinted glass, four-wheel disc brakes, carpeting, Rally wheels, and an anti-theft alarm system. A wide-ratio four-speed manual transmission was standard, and buyers could select a close-ratio four-speed or the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic for no extra cost. Pope chose the automatic.

Chevy made 27,004 Corvettes in 1972, three quarters of them coupes
Chevy made 27,004 Corvettes in 1972, three quarters of them coupes.Courtesy Frank Pope

The ’72 Corvette offered three engine choices, all with leaner carburetor jetting and altered spark timing to reduce emissions, with output consequently reduced compared to 1971. The base L48 350-cubic-inch small-block V-8 touted 200 horsepower under the newly adopted SAE net rating system. Two optional engines included the high-performance LT1 350 with 255 net hp and the LS5 454 with 270 net hp. Those numbers seemed far off the previous SAE gross ratings, but in fact, compression had already been lowered for 1971, when the LS5 had 365-hp gross and 285-hp net ratings. 

The 1972 Corvette was a year of “lasts” for the third-gen Vette, aka C3, including front and rear chrome bumpers (the ’73 got a plastic-covered front bumper); the pop-up door hiding the windshield wipers; the coupe’s pop-out rear window, and the Vette’s fiber-optic console warning light system. 

A well-optioned LS5/automatic coupe like Pope’s weighed about 3700 pounds, according to period road tests. The car was still quick among Detroit’s offerings, with the LS5’s 390 lb-ft of net peak torque a key to its laying down a 14.1-second quarter-mile time at 93 mph in Motor Trend’s hands. That was with the standard 3.08:1 axle ratio, which is how Pope’s Vette came equipped as delivered. It would not stay that way for long.

Day Two (and Three and Four) Mods Wake the Beast

A drag racer at heart, Pope drove a 1966 Impala Super Sport 396 that he also ran at Great Lakes Dragway near Union Grove, Wisconsin—simply “Union Grove” to racers. “A local artist would letter the car ‘Frank the Gearhead Barber’ in Tempera paint. We’d wash it off after racing,” he remembered.

The Corvette’s stock performance disappointed Pope, so he had the dealership change the 3.08 axle ratio for a 3.55. “It was a little better, but I still wasn’t happy,” he said.

Vette magazine Frank Pope featured three decades ago
Vette magazine, now defunct, spotlighted Pope’s Vette three decades ago.Courtesy Frank Pope

Next, Pope had dealership mechanic Art Frerichs swap in different pistons to raise compression from 8.25:1 to around 10.5:1. Due to the stock open-chamber heads, though, the switch only raised compression to 9.5:1. Pope removed the air-injection reactor pump (AIR) emissions control system and changed the stock dual-snorkel air cleaner to Chevy’s open-element version. “I could feel it was getting faster,” he said.

From there, Pope switched the factory cam for a CompCams Magnum and replaced the original Quadrajet carburetor with a Holley. He liked the results.

“I nailed it, and it almost got away from me,” he said. Later, he’d want even more.

License plate advertises Corvette 454 engine
The license plate advertises the 454 engine.Courtesy Frank Pope

Around 2001, Pope gave the LS5 a clean-up bore, balancing, and blueprinting. Cylinder displacement went up a bit, to 460 cubic inches. He had the heads redone with 2.19-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust valves, versus stock 2.06-in. / 1.72-in., along with some pocket porting. 

“Now I had real 10:1 compression,” Pope said. 

He changed the intake to an Edelbrock Torker and a Quick Fuel Technology carb. Pope had befriended QFT founder Marvin Benoit, who consulted with Edelbrock engineers to optimize the carburetor for the manifold. Other changes at this point included a CompCams hydraulic roller cam and a 2400-rpm stall speed torque converter.

1972 Corvette fuel-injected LS5 Frank Pope
The fuel-injected LS5 in Frank’s Vette makes much more power than stock.Courtesy Frank Pope

Pope estimated his LS5 now had closer to 500 net horsepower, and quarter-mile times supported that. At drag strips in Kentucky and Tennessee, Pope ran his best with the car on street tires, headers, and full exhaust: 12.42 seconds at 109 mph. His most recent engine mod came in 2018, when he replaced the carburetor with MSD fuel injection. “It starts right up like a new car. I can feel that it’s faster but haven’t timed it,” he said.

This drag racer wanted better handling, too. On John Greenwood’s advice, Pope replaced the Corvette’s stock nine-leaf rear spring with the seven-leaf spring from the FE7 Gymkhana Suspension option introduced on 1974 Corvettes. “That made a major difference in handling,” he said.

Duntov steering wheel 1972 Chevrolet Corvette mod
Duntov steering wheel is another addition to the car.Courtesy Frank Pope

Some added chrome under the hood includes valve covers a friend had given him. Inside the Vette, Pope replaced the steering wheel with a Zora Arkus-Duntov four-spoke wheel. In 1976, when replacing the battery, Pope took advantage of an offer from JCPenney that promised a free replacement if it ever failed to hold a charge, for as long as the customer owned the car. Pope held them to that pledge.

He laughs, “You know how many free batteries I’ve had since 1976?” 

Many years later, when JCPenney eliminated its auto service department, those battery contracts were transferred to Firestone. A clerk there told Pope, “It’s just you and another guy.”

JCPenney Battery warranty sticker
Pope has been getting free batteries since 1976, thanks to an overly generous JCPenney sales promotion.Courtesy Frank Pope

Trick Wheels

There’s just one exterior modification to Pope’s Vette—the wheels. After seeing preview photos of the 1973 Corvette with the new, optional slotted aluminum wheels, Pope wanted those for his car. Chevy, however, withdrew the option (YJ8) after finding a porosity problem. Some sets were reportedly sold through dealers, but Pope couldn’t get them, only the center caps with the Corvette logo. 

Pope adapted Corvette center caps to American Racing Vector wheels
Pope adapted Corvette center caps to American Racing Vector wheels 50 years ago.Courtesy Frank Pope

The YJ8 option would return in 1976, but Pope had found an attractive alternative in 1974, the American Racing Vector 10-spoke. Greenwood used Vectors for his company’s mid 1970s Sebring GT and Turbo GT custom Corvettes, and Buick essentially copied the Vector design for its 1984–87 Regal T-Type and Grand National wheels. Pope did a workaround to use the Corvette center caps, which must be installed through the back on the Vectors versus the front on the Chevy wheels.

As with all parts he’s removed from the car, Pope has the original wheels in storage.

Corvette Memories

Hagerty: Was the Corvette your daily driver?

FP: It was when I first got it. We had almost no snow in Chicago that year. But after the first year, I’d put it away in winters.

Hagerty: Do you drive it much today?

FP: I drive it in the spring and summer. On Sundays I meet with a group of Corvette guys, all around my age. We meet at a little coffee place at nine in the morning and stay about an hour and a half. Then I go home and take my wife to church in our regular car.

Frank Pope Jr as kid with Corvette engineering legend Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1984
Frank Pope Jr., age 5, with Corvette engineering legend Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1984.Courtesy Frank Pope

Hagerty: Any memorable drives in the Corvette?

FP: I think the most memorable one was when Larry Shinoda drove it. He really got on it and scared the hell out of me. There have been others, too. I let my son and daughter drive the car in a closed area when they each turned 15. Three years ago, my daughter Jeanna’s boy, Francesco, turned 14 and said, ‘Hey Gramps, you think I could drive your Corvette this year?’ I let him drive it around a cemetery for half an hour. I was impressed. He listened to my instructions. He wasn’t nervous. I made a video from the passenger seat so he could show his friends for bragging rights. When he turned 17 he asked me to let him to drive the car on the street in spring.

Frank Pope 1972 Vette build date
Courtesy Frank Pope

Hagerty: Did you ever consider selling the Vette?

FP: Never! I knew I would never sell this car. It’s a trophy to me. I did buy some other Vettes through the years, just for the novelty of having them, including a 1969 427/435 four-speed car. I’d clean them up and sell them.

Hagerty: Do you still get on it?

FP: Sure! Young guys in Mustangs think it’s just some old guy in a stock classic Corvette. I’ve surprised more than a few away from a light, and then they don’t want to come up next to me at the next light.


Car: 1972 Chevrolet Corvette LS5

Owner: Frank Pope

Home: Melrose Park, Illinois

Delivery Date: October 15, 1971

Miles on Car: ~42,000

Are you the original owner of a classic car, or do you know someone who is? Send us a photo and a bit of background to tips@hagerty.com with ORIGINAL OWNER in the subject line—you might get featured in our next installment!


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    Frank took me for a ride a few years back and scared me to death and I was screaming like a little Girl Scout. Frank a super nice guy and his stories are endless. Congratulations on a great article, will see sometime this year.

    Really cool story about one of my favorite car designs. I’m a real sucker for long-term relationships.

    I would love to bump up the compression ratio on mine, but probably not something that’s going to happen unless something drives me to pull the engine. It has plenty of smiles per mile now

    I’m not really a Corvette guy, so I skipped over this article quite a few times. But this morning, I decided I’d find out what the rather catchy title really meant. Glad I did! I’m a skinhead (nothing political or ideological about it, I’m just completely bald 😉), so I kind of didn’t much relate to the whole haircut thing, but I did feel sympatico with Mr. Pope when it came to his marriage. Anyone who can boast of 52 years of marriage deserves all sorts of respect. I too have been married 52 years (but it took me two wives to reach that goal), so I’m kind of a cheater when compared to this man. I’m envious of anyone who can show a car that they’ve owned for 50+ years, and I guess if it’s a big-block ‘Vette, that’s even more special. Hats off to the Pope family!

    Great story about one of my old neighbors. I can remember Frank driving around the neighborhood in the coolest car I’d ever seen.

    By 1981 I had grown completely tired of the C3 design, and would have never anticipated this change in my feelings, but now I like the early C3s a lot, better than C2s and early C4s–still not crazy about the later C3s though. This is a spectacular example.

    I bought one of those batteries for my mom’s VW Rabbit. I only got 1 free one before the car rusted away

    Of course he’s wearing white New Balances. Vette guys really don’t like to do themselves any favors.

    I’ve known Frank for almost 40-years and share his passion for C3’s. Like Frank, I too was at the 1965 Auto Show when they debuted the Mako II concept “Shark”. It was love at first sight! Unlike Frank though, it took me another 30-years to buy my first, and current, C3 (a 1971 Coupe). Together, we are so passionate about C3’s that we spearheaded a yearly car show, along with our friend Ed, that highlights the 1968-1982 corvettes. It’s called “Sharkfest” and always takes place in July alongside the Fox River in our area. The show keeps growing in attendance as does our Shark owners community here.
    This article greatly expresses Franks story, personality and accomplishments.
    The main thing I would add is Franks compassion towards his friends and acquaintances. He is always there for us when we are in need. Whether it’s a helping hand or a helping word, we can always count on Frank.
    A previous commenter stated that he should be a legend. Fact is, Frank Pope IS a legend around here!
    God bless you “Uncle Frank”!!!!!!!!

    I’m proud to call Frank my friend since before that monster of a car was even built. I’ll never forget my first ride in it with Frank. Thrown back in the passenger seat it was more like being fired out of a cannon than going for a car ride. And that was on 17th Avenue.

    Those were the days, Frank!

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