In 1974 my wife, Carol and I were actually looking for a van or other vehicle for Carol to drive to work when we came across the ad for the Vette in the Sacramento Bee. It went something like: “ ’65 Corvette Stingray convertible, Rex Hutchison racing engine, 4 wheel disc brakes, factory air, factory sidepipes, power windows, hard top, mags, radial TAs, minor body damage, $1500.” I asked Carol to read the price to me to be sure of what I saw, and she verified it. I asked her if she wanted a Corvette to drive to work instead of a van, and she said to take a look at it first. I called the seller to verify that the price wasn't a typo. Was it $15,000?
He said he was in the Air Force, his young wife was pregnant, and they were getting transferred out of the area. He also said that he was setting the car up for drag racing and where they were going didn't have a drag strip. I went with $1500 cash in my pocket. The minor body damage was a smashed right front fender which wasn’t too bad. I thought I could learn how to work with fiberglass to fix it. We took it for a test drive and when we got back I handed the seller the $1500 cash and drove the car home. Then came the "rest of the story".
Shortly after we bought the car, Carol and I took it for a shake down drive around Folsom Lake in the foothills east of Sacramento, California. As we were decelerating down the winding road into the American River Canyon, I noticed blue smoke coming from the exhaust, an indication that oil was being sucked into the cylinders from somewhere. Then it got better....The round trip around the lake was about 40 miles. We were about 10 miles from home when I approached a stop sign and depressed the clutch pedal. It went all the way to the floor and stayed there!
We were then in the middle of what seemed like the boonies. No cell phones in those days and the nearest phone was at the entrance to Folsom lake, almost a mile away. I managed to pull the pedal back up, and with judicious power shifting, managed to drive the Vette to the lake entry gate where there was a telephone. As I was headed to the phone booth, a tow truck had pulled into the parking lot. I waved him over to see if I could get him to tow us home. He said he was there to tow a trailer, but was able to change his assignment and towed us the 10 miles back home.
Well, a week or so after we got home, we started to look into the various problems with the car. It turned out that the throwout bearing was welded to the clutch, both heads were cracked, and there were 4 broken inner valve springs according the Rex Hutchison, the engine builder. He verified it was one of his motors, but the guy wasn't just setting the car up for racing... he had raced the heck out of the car.
In the years following our first serious shakedown run, we pulled the drivetrain and completely rebuilt it from the fan to the rear end. We put the car up on blocks and stripped the paint down to the fiberglass, replaced the smashed right front quarter panel, molded some rear fender flares and front splash guards, molded a ducktail spoiler on the rear, and completely reworked the headlight assemblies since the motors only worked when they felt like it.
After all the bodywork was completed and the patchwork was done, the car looked like a refugee from a wrecking yard. We painted it over a long Thanksgiving weekend. I have to tell you that I had tears of joy in my eyes when the primer coat was laid down. It looked like a whole car!
Four long days and nights later we drove the car out of the spray booth with nine coats of lacquer and an absolutely beautiful paint job on it!
We've owned the car for forty years and have managed to put about 30K miles on it. In recent years we've redone the upholstery and carpet and put new chrome rallye wheels and new tires. We've talked about putting a newer engine that could run on unleaded gas without having to put octane boosters in the gas tank at every fill-up. It's been a really cool car and a real head turner over the years!
Owning a Corvette puts you into a different space when it comes to cars and the camaraderie you experience when you get around other Vette owners is fantastic. As a result, Carol and I have been members of Corvette Owners Club of Sacramento in the past, and I am currently the president of River City Corvettes of Sacramento, Carol and I having been members of this Club for almost ten years.