As I have said more times than I care to remember, I have always been a car guy. Even when I was little, my first and favorite memories are of cars. When I was three or four, my father owned a 1972 Corvette convertible, Elkhart Green with a black vinyl mesh interior. I remember standing up (this was long before airbags, crumple zones, mandatory seat belt laws, or the hyper-safety-conscious society of today) in the passenger seat, convertible top down, with Dad’s foot deep in the throttle on a two-lane Missouri highway. I would squeal in delight as that big V-8 roared down the road, blowing my hair back, watching all my surroundings speed up in synchronicity with that green bullet. I loved his Corvette, and was forever hooked on those fiberglass wonders.
When I was 14, my father began looking for a Corvette close in vintage to his high school graduation year, 1961. He liked the styling of the previous model year, because it still had the sweeping, rounded rear end. Dad had been in an accident when he was in college that had done some permanent damage to his left ankle, so manual transmissions were out. He wanted a car that was original, not modified. He also loved the red with white cove paint scheme. This search pre-dated the internet by quite some time, so the best place to look was the local newspaper. The trouble was I was so infatuated with cars, I would steal the classified ads every weekend. If Dad wanted to look for a Corvette, he had to ask me for the ads. Eventually, he just started asking me what was for sale each weekend.
After about a year of searching, I found an ad for a car I thought Dad would like. It was a 1960, red and white, numbers matching 283/230hp engine, and a Powerglide automatic transmission. It had 29,000 original miles on it, and had never been wrecked or damaged. The gentleman who owned the car lived in a little town on the other side of the city. I remember riding to his house with my father, in his bright yellow 1976 Corvette. The seller had a driveway full of other great cars, but nothing as cool to me as that 1960. Dad drove the car, negotiated his purchase price, wrote the seller a check, shook hands, and agreed to pick up the car in a couple of days.
I remember Dad drove the car for a few months, then parked it in an airplane hangar. We didn’t have enough space for it at home, and my father was a private pilot, so he parked it with his plane. I didn’t see it much for a few years.
I barely graduated high school. Dad says I got out on a plea bargain. It wasn’t that I was incapable (I was in the gifted program—and in-school suspension), it was that I was bored. I wasn’t much interested in most of my school work. I was far more interested in cars and girls. So when I did graduate, my father told me I should go find a new car. He gave me a budget and a few other parameters, and let me go. I chose a little red Mazda RX-7 GTU. Dad called to find out how much insurance would be. Little did he know, I had paid off a truckload of speeding tickets over the past three years. The insurance agent just laughed, then told him “around $3,000 a year. He may as well be driving a Corvette”. The old man was livid. But lightning had struck. I watched the look on his face change as the idea took hold. Then he asked, “How would like to have my old Corvette?” That is how a skinny, irresponsible, 18-year-old punk from Kansas came to own a vintage Corvette convertible three days before high school graduation. Dad was thrilled because he saved the purchase price of an RX-7 GTU. I was thrilled because I got to look like King Stud of the Universe.
I still have that Corvette. I have restored it from nose to tail, driven it, enjoyed it, and I am restoring parts of it for the second, or even third, time. It has just over 53,000 miles on it now. It is still all numbers matching. I have owned five other Corvettes over the years, and sold them all, but I always kept the ’60. I am nowhere near as skinny as I once was. I now have gray hair, a beautiful wife, two beautiful daughters, two gorgeous grand-daughters, and a cute little dog. And that Corvette still makes me feel like King Stud of the Universe.