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 competiti
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 together. Unfortunately, befor
Years past and priorities changed. The ’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 Vette, neatly 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 (
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.