At some point during their childhood, brothers JJ and Pierre Petersen discovered that they could do and experience more in life if they started sharing. They quickly applied this realization to cars: instead of each driving one car, they could pool their resources and share their automotive experiences.
That’s how the two Phoenix, Arizona, residents ended up in Washington, D.C., in the winter of 2016, the new co-owners of a sunflower yellow 1972 Chevrolet Corvette. The classic car world was new terrain for them: neither brother had owned a vintage car before this, nor were they experienced mechanics. But hey, they figured, you have to start somewhere, right? They had pooled their savings and purchased the car sight-unseen over the internet and—either because they didn’t know any better, or because the idea seemed like a fun adventure—they flew back to D.C. to drive the car home across the country.
They stopped to visit family in Kentucky as they made their way west. A cousin, admiring the Corvette’s 350-cubic-inch engine, pointed at a corner of the engine bay and remarked on a component. The Petersen brothers had no idea what he was talking about, unable to identify a radiator from a camshaft. Soon, they were being tested on other pieces of the engine. They failed to identify any of them, much to the amusement of their kinfolk.
If nothing else, their innocence augured adventure. Shortly after leaving Kentucky, the brothers encountered a snowstorm, quickly learning how to steer a large, rear-wheel-drive car through a whiteout on bald tires, as 40 cars backed up behind them.
The weather wasn’t done with them yet. As they rolled through Globe, Arizona, on the home stretch of their journey, they encountered a torrential nighttime downpour. They had already learned that the headlights on this old Corvette were barely worth the power it took to illuminate them, a fact that weighed on their minds as they navigated the slick mountain roads. The windshield turned out to be less than watertight, too, forcing one brother to wipe the inside of the glass with a scarf while the other concentrated on not driving the car off a cliff.
Not surprisingly, this Corvette quickly came to represent more than mere fear of death for the Petersen brothers.
“During the road trip, all we ever did was bond further and faster regardless of the snowstorms, the hail, the rain coming through the windshield, the freezing cold, the wind blowing through the side of the door,” JJ says. “Whatever it was, we bunkered down together and kept on persevering. This car is a really nice representation of the bond that I have with my brother.”
The Corvette has also been the brothers’ gateway into a whole new world of knowledge.
“I’m actually really happy that we got it even though we didn’t know anything about it at first. It really incited the process of learning more about cars and engines,” says Pierre, who recently finished rebuilding the motor on his 1987 Ford Bronco, which now sports a 387 stroker engine.
The Corvette’s current imperfections—including pop-up headlights that are stuck in the “up” position—have their own charms, giving the Petersens free reign to drive and use the car for a lot more than weekend outings. The Corvette is a piece of Pierre’s daily life around Phoenix, carrying him to the office and on errands. JJ, for his part, lives most of the time in Singapore but always looks forward to returning to Phoenix and the Corvette.
“One of my favorite things to do when I get back into Phoenix is go and play tennis with one of my buddies,” JJ says. “There’s something about just throwing my rackets into the passenger’s seat, climbing into the driver’s seat, rolling the windows down and just driving off for the courts to go and play. It makes the entire experience just a little bit better. It changes that commute from something that I was going to have to do to something I wanted to do.”
The typically rain-free skies of Phoenix are always an added bonus.