I first saw a C2 Corvette while in the Air Force in 1963, a dark blue '63 coupe. Brand new and the center of attention. How fortunate (and wealthy he must be) and proud the owner must feel. I couldn't imagine a more classy and elegantly styled automobIle and relegated owning one to pipe dreams rather than any chance of reality. I frequently dreamed of being able to have one 'someday' but figured it would always be a dream.
Out of the service in mid '64 and into the work force which included a full time job plus two part time jobs to support learning to fly airplanes. Flying had been a passion since childhood but was unable to pursue that dream until after the service.
So any spare money went to flying lessons and little thought given to cars.
Until one late night returning home from the 3 to 11 shift at work in September '68, I drove past the local Chevy dealer and saw it. A 1967 Goodwood green Corvette coupe. Not very knowledgable about Corvette details, I didn't know what the scoop in the hood or the white stinger meant. All I knew is that it was the most beautiful car I had ever seen.
The very next morning, I sat in the driveway of the dealership waiting for them to open. I spent the time conjuring up ways to get enough money together to make enough of a down payment that could be met by my rather meager take home pay. I knew in my heart that somehow, that car and I would would drive off together.
Finally, the doors opened and negotiations began. It seems the car was delivered in California to a local guy who completed his tour of military duty at Vandenburg AFB and returned with it to Ohio. From the information I was given, he went gaga over the '68 'Vette but he was too late to order one. So he ordered a '69 and when it arrived, traded the '67 in. As I found out, he took delivery of the '69 the very afternoon I passed the dealer on the way home from work.
The car had 14,000 miles on it with the original red stripe tires.
Then the dream was shattered. They wanted $4,000 for the car. Who in the world has $4,000 or the means to finance that amount? And the 1950 Ford 2 door sedan I owned wasn't much of a trade in. Sold the Ford later that week for $20. And before anyone asks, yeah, I do wish I'd kept it as well.
Well, I gave them $100 (everything I had in my 'emergency' stash) to hold the car and arrange financing and after three or four days (they hadn't as yet invented instant credit check back then), which gave me time to get creative and come up with another $400 for the downstroke. We had finally agreed on $3,700 for the car, I turned over the $400, signed the papers and off I went.
Oh yeah, insurance. Hadn't given that much thought since I only carried liability on the Ford.
Well, fortunately, or unfortunately as it occasionally became, my girlfriend's father was my insurance agent. I had already convinced him, that although I wasn't earning a wheelbarrow full of money as an aspiring new commercial pilot, I was indeed, a responsible and cautious driver.
This was brought into question sometime later when he noticed there wasn't much tread on the rear tires as compared to the front. That was the 'unfortunate' previously referred to.
Somehow, I managed to juggle finances well enough to have both the car and I survive. Although I do have to admit to taking a crash course in robbing Peter to pay Paul and graduated cum laude. The girlfriend and I parted, reminiscent of Harry Chapin's 'Taxi', she to find a career and I went off and found the sky.
The car became my daily driver, left at the airport for days on end. As the say, thru snow and sleet and dark of night, final tally being 136,000 miles on the odometer. Fortunately, around 1974, I had started buying GM parts with the thought some day of restoration. Not with any thought of an investment but simply liking the car and knowing it would ultimately need rejuvenation.
Over the years, the car did a lot of sitting as I was busy, getting married, restoring an old farm house and of course, my job kept me away quite a bit. I did begin the restoration but it was slow going. Body off the frame on a rack, chassis in another part of the barn, engine on a stand and just where did I put that transmission?
Oh yeah, you can't do a proper job in a leaky and cold barn so another project; build a new barn, insulated with heat and recently, A/C.
And the restoration went without a hitch. That is if you don't consider 30 years a hitch. Oh yeah, now why did the body go on then off...then on....then off and finally back on? And what's this about the windshield? And the... And what about... And so on.
Well, we (we, used herein, refers to my lovely and charming wife and the occasional friend or two) installed the driveline on the frame to do an engine test run. Also, since I replaced all the fiberglass forward of the windshield, I felt it wise to glue the front end together with weight on wheels.
Once gluing was complete, I figured it was easier to take the body off to pull the engine/trans than to risk body damage. Great! Off to paint.
After several months delay, car returns home so that we can install the driveline. Body off again, install engine/trans and good to go. Oops.
To do a good restoration, you should replace all the floor pan metal reinforcements. Which I did. Or tried to do. All went well with the seat brackets and inner seat belt brackets. However, the outer seat belt brackets CANNOT be installed with the body bolted to the frame.
Body off again. Install brackets and body on again. If it weren't for support from my Akron buddy, I may have swam into the sunset at this point.
Well, before we put the dash and interior in, let's install the brand new (in 1974) windshield. Not a fun job for a novice but let's give it a try. In fact, let's try it a couple of times.
First install and a leak check and you would have thought I built a Corvette shaped aquarium. Take it out and try again.
Windshield installed and no leaks. Time to install the reveal molding.
I had replaced all the trim clips when the windshield was out. And having original GM molding, I expected little difficulty.
The upper molding simply did not want to fit properly and I proceeded to remove the trim. Having problems with the tool designed for the job, I tried using a right angle pick. Ah, success. Uh, what was that crunching noise when the pick was under the trim. Hmm. Sounded kinda like glass under your foot. Whatever, let's press on, all is well.
Until the next drive when I hit a small bump in the road...and a crack appeared in the windshield starting where the pick was when I heard the crunching noise.
With all the major problems solved, on to the details.
Like servicing the brake system. After listening to all the pros and cons regarding silicone brake fluid, I elected to stay with DOT 3 fluid. No problem. Hah!
I learned years ago to bleed the furthest wheel first and did so using the old school two man method; one pumps and holds and the other bleeds. Didn't seem to be working. Then I was told, and read, start with the wheel closest to the master cylinder. That, too, failed to produce desired results. My buddy from high school says, 'ya need a Mighty Vac'. So I got one and...no success.
Another friend has a commercial brake bleeding system, guaranteed to work. Nada.
Finally, starting all over with my wife on the brakes and me at the wheels, success.
Gee, that only took three weeks.
Not to mention the zillion other little details that do not go as planned.
Eventually, we prevailed.
July of 2013, it rolled out of the barn under its' own power. Restoration complete. Well, as my wife says, it will never be finished. There's always something to be done.
Originally, it was a pretty basic car, the only power equipment was the 427 engine with three Holley two barrels and close ratio 4 speed Muncie. Manual steering and brakes, vinyl trim and tinted glass.
During the restoration, we upgraded to leather seating, originally GM side exhaust and added reproduction finned aluminum wheels. In lieu of the original Goodwood green, it is now 2000/2001 Corvette Dark Bowling Green Metallic.
In shows, we've placed first in the C2 class in an all Corvette show, second out of 75 classic cars and best of show in that same event (two classes, classic and muscle car), second in a best of the 1960's show, and second in a one class show with 156 entrants.
I'm frequently asked, "is it for sale?". I suppose everything has a price but we plan on keeping it awhile longer.
My best memory? After leaving the dealership, I drove around for awhile finally stopping in the park that surrounds Cleveland. Getting out, stepping back to sit on a bench and just look and admire. A pipe dream that actually came true. Other memories? Certainly. But that first drive is my most memorable.
To paraphrase a Todd Rundgren tune, 'I don't wanna work, I just wanna drive my Vette all day'.