Corvette Regrets: Cherish Those Projects

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This 1967 Corvette coupe is one of my biggest regrets. 

It’s not about selling the car after owning it for only a couple years. It’s about not valuing the car as the only project that my father and I worked on together. If I still had this Corvette, I’d feel that I still had part of my dad with me, even though he’s been gone for nearly 15 years.

1967 Chevy Corvette profile
The lone photo of the author’s Daytona Blue ’67.Glenn Auspelmyer

Do I even remember why I wanted this car? Not really. I was 25 and it was probably just another impulsive decision, a purchase made on a whim. I think it was advertised for sale with no picture in some print publication. This would have been in 1972 or ’73. I don’t even know what drew my attention to this particular car—probably the low price of $1800—but I made arrangements to go look at it because it was only about 10 miles from where I lived in New York.

I hadn’t asked any questions about the car, so I had no idea what to expect when I met the owners and saw it for the first time. Both defied any expectation I could have had. The owners were a very young hippie couple with bell-bottom jeans, sandals, and tie-dyed T-shirts. It wasn’t my personal style, and it shouldn’t have been cause for surprise, but trying to reconcile the couple as the owners of a Corvette was an uncomfortable mental leap. Until they showed me the car.

When I saw it, the car and its owners immediately fit together. It was light blue and both sides, from front to rear, were adorned with painted ribbons and stars of various colors that looked like a rolling acid trip. No wonder the price was low—most prospective buyers probably ran away like their hair was on fire when they witnessed this carnival-themed automotive atrocity.

I was quite taken aback at first, but I think it was at this point that an idea started forming in my still-developing brain: I realized that for what I wanted to do, this could be a good platform. It had a 327-cid V-8 with 350 hp and a four-speed manual, and it drove well. The couple was apparently very motivated to sell, because it took no time to agree on a purchase price of $1500. I definitely should have taken a picture of the car as it was when I bought it, but it never crossed my mind.

I took it home and showed it to my dad (who, incidentally, ran an auto repair and body shop next to our house called Ben’s Garage) and announced my repainting plan for the Corvette. In the infinite wisdom of youth, I had decided that it had to be totally repainted, and with a completely different color. I had chosen one replicating the almost-black Daytona Blue offered on earlier Corvettes. 

If I’d been smart, it would have been comparatively easy to strip off the adornments and preserve the original paint, because the car was otherwise clean and unmodified. But I was not smart, wouldn’t approach any level of real intelligence for decades, and clearly seemed determined to do everything the most difficult way possible.

Surprisingly, Dad took it calmly, because I think he sensed an opportunity for a lesson about the hard work needed to achieve what one desired. (I suspect that he had always wanted—and maybe even expected—me to follow him into the auto repair business.) He outlined the work that needed to be done and made it clear that I would be responsible for removing the chrome, removing the paint from the entire body, and prepping all surfaces for painting.

Ben & Glenn Auspelmyer—Ben's Garage
The author as a boy with his father and little sister.Glenn Auspelmyer

Looking back, it’s obvious to me now that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into by completely changing the color from light blue to dark blue. It meant that pesky areas like doorjambs had to be stripped, sanded, and prepped as well, which exponentially multiplied the grunt work required.

Dad found a pair of coveralls for me to wear and set me up with the various grades of sandpaper and materials I would need for the project. I won’t bore you with the details of endless hours of stripping paint, sanding, smoothing, and preparation for painting. Let’s just say that it built not only character, but arm muscles as well.

Several times a day, from the other bay, I would hear Dad say, “You’re gonna lose money on this job if you don’t go faster than that.” Even though he was joking, in a one-man shop, time really is money, and this was how he made his living and supported our family. I now realize that this collaboration brought me closer to my father and gave me insight into his strong work ethic. I certainly learned that the physical work he did every day was hard, even though he never complained.

When Dad was convinced that the surface was as smooth as I could get it and all the dust had been removed, he donned the paint mask and goggles and sprayed several coats before he was satisfied. After letting it dry for a day or two, removing the masking tape, and replacing the chrome pieces, we thought the paint job came out pretty well for a small garage effort, and I was happy with it. 

Sadly, after investing all the time and effort together on this project, I wasn’t mature enough to be sentimental about this unique experience working with my dad, and I sold the car only a couple of years later for $2500. At the time, I thought I’d made a killing.

So, yeah, regrets, I have a few. 

In the moment, I hadn’t valued this connection to the only project I ever worked on with my dad. I never took any pictures, and the car and my dad are gone. Now I have only memories of this joint venture.

***

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Comments

    Well, as I read it, you still have plenty of the connection to your dad over this car, even though you no longer have the physical vehicle.
    I personally have quite a few physical items of my father’s, but they don’t mean as much to me as the times we spent together and the lessons he taught me (not to mention the arm muscles he gave me the ‘opportunities’ to build).
    To all the dads out there: Happy Father’s Day 😊

    Great learning experience and story. Im finally Getting my parents 77 Chevy C-10 out of storage this week. They brought it new and I have a lifetime of memories in that ole blue fleetside. Cleaned it up with new suspension and paint in 2011 when they were still alive to enjoy the old truck. Mom died in 2015 and dad in 2021. The truck has been dormant since 2019. I miss them both and will never get rid of this old truck.

    My dad could hardly check his oil. He was not mechanical. He was also paralyzed fully in one leg and partial in the other. Football injury that. Returned at35 years old.

    He could work on the car but just was not mechanical.

    But my father knew I had a passion for cars early on and he made it so I could feed it.

    Neighbors were all racers and even at 11 years old he let me work on the stock car till 2 am and go to races with them till 3 AM.

    He knew i was in good hands and I was learning.

    Today I make my living in the racing industry and I am still very pass about cars and I owe it all to him letting me feed my addiction.

    He originally wanted me to follow him at Goodyear in the computer center but later told me I made the right choice. Well it was his choice to let me follow it to start with.

    If you have a kid and they have a love that is healthy and safe help them follow it. Even if it is outside your wheel house. It may just set them up for success.

    My son is not mechanical but he loves accounting and I made sure he was educated for what he needed and now is starting his CPA. Now he is making good money his interest in cars is starting as he can now afford them.

    So fathers contribute in many ways and even if you don’t have that car the memories will always be.

    Sold my split window in 99 to have money to go to China to adopt my second daughter. No comparison to what she has brought to me but still wish I could have kept the Corvette! She’s on her own but the car would still be here.

    Sorry, but you’ve got it backwards. Some who’ve read my story will know this. I built a car with and for my daughter. She’s now gone forever and all I have is the car and the memories. Would trade the car in a nanosecond to spend just one more day with her – just one…

    Shortly after getting married in 1977, I spied a 1964 Corvette roadster sitting under a tree at a used car dealer who had once worked for my father, who was general sales manager of the local Chevrolet/Buick dealership. It was silver, with huge patches of primer showing through. The transmission had issues, and there were other minor deficits, but for $3,600, I had to have it. I replaced the transmission one afternoon in my cousin’s front yard, then started on the paint prep. I removed the bumpers and spent months sanding, filling cracks and bubbles in the fiberglass, and putting on several coats of primer, all the while using it as my daily driver.

    One day, I parked it in front of my office. A client stopped by, and managed to hit the front of the car. He cracked the point. I was able to restrain myself and swore to always use the lot behind our building. But repairing that damage took a lot of work.

    After all was done, I took it to my dad’s dealership’s paint guy and had him shoot a couple coats of Corvette white paint. I was so proud. But the cost and increasing unavailability of premium gas, as well as a somewhat long commute in an un-air conditioned car persuaded me to sell it after about two years. At least I got $5,300 for it so my work wasn’t all for naught. But it was a great car while I had it.

    Glenn, I also really enjoyed your story but even after keeping a ’63 convertible 37 years, the regrets of selling it after a similar relationship with my Dad and that car still lingers. I’ll always miss Dad, and most likely, that car too.

    Flyboh, thanks so much for your insightful comment. You and I share a very similar experience. As others have noted, family always eclipses possessions; a car can somehow be replaced after it’s gone, a family member cannot. But having the tangible results of a joint project from a long-ago collaboration with a loved one might make the memories even sweeter.

    Thank you, for sharing this story. Like you, I really like stuff, but I love family and friends.

    I miss my dad most when I get a new car; I’d want to show it to him. I bought his 67 cougar from him in 76, drove it for 25 years or so and sold it about 20 years ago. I would have loved to have seen his face when he saw it when I bought it back in deplorable condition a few years ago. Would have been fun. Yeah, as I get older, stuff becomes less important than people.

    My parents were immigrants and always drove used beaters that my uncle, who owned an auto repair shop, would find for them. Cars I remember were a 1963 Oldsmobile Super 88, 1957 Bel Air, various FIATs (my uncle specialized in foreign cars), a ’72 Nova, ’74 Malibu Classic among others. They were both blue collar workers toiling in factories, with my dad sometimes working two or three jobs to support his family of four kids. Buying a new car was never an option.

    For many years my mom was driving a beautiful ’77 Cadillac Coupe de’Ville that my uncle had found. Then one day in 1991 my dad said, “you know, someday I’ll die and I would have never owned a new car”.

    My mom promptly responded with, “Well let’s go buy one!” So, with some of us out of the house and my younger siblings in their late teens/early 20s, the time was right for them to go buy a new car.

    Having loved their ’77 Cadillac, they set their sites on a new Cadillac. Not the downsized FWD models that GM was starting to sell, but the last of (at the time) RWD Cadillac Broughams.

    One day they found a beautiful new ’91 White Brougham d’Elegance in the back of a dealer lot. My mom was hooked. It had to be a white Brougham with the tufted burgundy seats of the d’Elegance trim.

    Obviously in pre-internet days so finding one involved dealer searches, visits and phone calls. The searching fell on me.

    None were to be found in the end we went back to that one my mom found at the back of that dealer lot. So I began the process of negotiating on behalf of my mom and dad. I had gotten the dealer with $25 of my dad’s final bid and he wouldn’t budge. Yes, $25!!

    His response to me was, $25 is better in my pocket than the dealer’s.

    In the end the dealer relented and my parents were the proud new owners of a Cadillac. I could still see the pride in their eyes. They came to this country with literally nothing in their pockets and now, over 30 years later they had a new car, a Cadillac.

    That car only came out on the sunniest of days. In 1994 when I married my late wife my uncle drove my bride to be to the wedding in that car.

    Sadly my dad passed away in 1998. My mom still drove that car occasionally, but the miles put on it were few and far between.

    In 2007 a new job had me moving my family from Chicago to Michigan. Shortly after my mom had asked if I wanted the car. The car had become too much for her. It was too big to drive around in the city not to mention the gas. If I wanted it, it was mine. Free. That 16 year old car only had 27K miles on her and looked as new as it did the day they drove it off the dealer lot.

    Having just moved to a new city I was busy trying to get my family settled into their new life. That Cadillac wasn’t really my type of car. Too big, too floaty, too old-manish. It wasn’t a car a wanted to daily drive, not to mention that I was unsure if it would even fit in my garage.

    My uncle ended up finding a buyer for it and it was gone.

    Not long after I regretted not taking that car and figuring out a way to keep it. It would’ve been a great car to take out on weekends or to a cruise.

    Still regret it to this day.

    Several years later I bought my own Cadillac, albeit one with a different personality, a 2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe.

    Not my father’s Cadillac, but I love it as much as he did his and I’m sure he would’ve loved mine.

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