*This great story about a cherished family heirloom was sent to me by Jim Krom in honor of his mother, Peggy. Enjoy!*
You can listen to this story on The Iron and Steele Podcast, here:

Now, I know exactly what youre thinking, and I know all of the cliches about Corvette ownersmidlife crisis purchase for some fat bald guy, the Hawaiian shirts and New Balance shoes, the car staying safe in the garage and only coming out if conditions are absolutely perfect, the hours arguing over which wax is best.  
And of course, the owner making sure everyone at work or social gatherings knows that hes a Corvette guy by working mentions of my Vette into pretty much any conversationAlways ready with follow-up factoids for anyone that happens to take the bait: “You know, my Vette is super rare-its signature series anniversary edition #867of the 5309 made, and the only one in electric avenue red, with the FZZ package and all-weather floor mats or “My Vette is so fast! It's got a K&N filter and cat-back exhaust and stage-2 tune, so shepushing around 700 horses  I bet if I put a $100 bill on the dash you couldneven grab it!

But none of that rings true with my folks. No, they knew exactly what a Corvette is really good at – going fast and cornering hard. All through the 1970’s and into the mid-eighties, we spent pretty much all of our free time on Corvette Club competition events – including parking lot autocross or racetrack gymkhana, as well as road rallies and even a yearly trip to the drag strip. Most years, our summer family vacation would be a trip to the NCCC (National Council of Corvette Clubs) convention, in exotic locations like Milwaukee or Denver.

Back in the day our house was typically stocked with at least 3-4 complete cars plus countless more partial/parts-cars (all C2/C3’s although this was before those designations were used, back then it was "Classic” for 53-62, “Early Model” for 63-67 and “Late Model” for 68+). Corvettes were so omnipresent in my early years that I distinctly remember once when my dad dropped me off at school and my classmates making a big deal about his daily-driver ’73 convertible, but I honestly had no idea what the fuss was for –I was suddenly aware that most families don’t even have one Corvette, let alone several at a time (who knew?).

The crown jewel of the collection was the ’67 roadster race car that was put together from parts and scraps. It ran in the “race prepared "autocross class and was built similar to an SCCA B-Production car: Cutdown Lexan windscreen and roll bar, huge flares stretched over steam-roller sized slicks, gutted interior and stiff race-only suspension. The small-block 350 was a relatively mild build but still sounded awfully impressive out of the uncorked side pipes.

Both my dad and my mom had a lot of success with that ‘67. Even though mom pretty much dominated the lady's competition (1st place overall six consecutive years) with that car, she really wanted a Vette of her own. One that was a little easier to manage and was built to her needs. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t looking for a secretary’s car with automatic trans and A/C, just something that her 4’11” frame could pilot a little easier. Plus, even though I doubt mom would ever describe herself as a feminist, she still considered it empowering to be able to have her very own car.

So, dad bought an almost-complete 1964 convertible and gave it to mom for her birthday in 1977. Plans were made and pieces started to be collected to put it togetherUnfortunately, before the project could really get going, the race car had a crash and the decision was made to take the front bodywork from moms 6to repair it

Years past and priorities changedThe 67 was prepped for full road-racing duty in 1982 and then sold in 85 when their racing vehicles of choice changed to VWs as a more cost-effective option. More years passed; they quit racing altogether, retired and bought some rustic vacation property in northern Michigan to share with their grandchildren. Through it all, mom’s Vetteneatly tucked in the corner of the barn, remained unfinished.

Then, in 2010; mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the prognosis was not good. While battling her cancer (knowing it was more than likely terminal), she started putting together a “bucket list” of things she wished to do in her remaining time. She wanted to visit Hawaii, she wanted to take a cruise with her youngest grandkids in hopes that it would help them remember her when she was gone.

I was talking to mom one day and she told me that she regretted never getting to go for a drive in her Vette. She wanted to put it on the list, but it seemed like too big a task to manage. This caught me totally off guard as I hadn’t heard mention of the car in ages, and I had no clue how much it meant to her. So, I immediately began to put together a secret plan to grant her wish of making her ’64 roadworthy.

I started by contacting some of mom and dad’s old Corvette Club friends. Many were eager to help, but there just wasn’t a good way to get the project off the ground. This was the real world and not some Discovery Channel show hot rod build and it soon became obvious that it really wasn’t feasible in the amount of time she had left.

As that reality set in, I told mom what I had tried to do for her, and she was touched by my efforts. This was definitely an “it’s the thought that counts” kind of situation and when she learned of my plan she simply asked if I would like to own the car – to which I replied “of course”.

The very next day, an ad popped up on Craiglist for a complete $500 ’64 Corvette front clip and hood, only 5 miles from my house. You may recall that the front bodywork was still missing after being used to repair the crashed race car. I’m not really a very spiritual guy, but the timing of that transaction gave me chills – this was clearly meant to be.

My dad and I went through the shelves in his barn and sorted through the boxes and boxes of available parts (many NOS) and I know that almost everything needed is there. The original engine is long gone, but I have a rebuildable 350 intended for it. There’s no rot anywhere in the structure as the previous owner had started a frame-off restoration and cleaned/painted the frame and put the suspension back together.
It might not be too pretty to the untrained eye, with mostly unpainted fiberglass and incomplete interior but it’s a really solid start. My vision for it is from the era before C2 Vettes became stupid expensive and all the purists came around to obsess over them having proper NCRS-approved restoration parts. A fun driver street machine with Torque Thrusts, fender flares and big ol’ Hooker Header side pipes making that great growling noise from a built SBC.

Mom passed away in March of 2012. In many ways it feels premature to write this story now, since it’s still missing an ending. I’ve had the car for over ten years and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t made much progress. Other cars and home projects have jumped the queue, mostly because it has felt like such a daunting thing to tackle. I hope I’m not letting mom down, but I do think she’ll appreciate that the project I’m currently finishing is my wife’s dream car, a '55 Bel Air.

1 comment


Another great story!

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