Q: Greg, I read all of your columns and appreciate the muscle car articles, so thanks for that. Many of the stories you tell are similar to my experiences, and then some.
After my discharge from the US Navy in 1962, I migrated to Saginaw, MI, to visit some old Navy pals. It was then I bought my first Corvette, a 1962 roadster finished in white with a red interior. It had two tops and came with 327 with 250HP and a three-speed transmission. I drove that for a while, until the spring of 1963, when I bought a used ‘63 Stingray which was Matador Red with the white soft top and a 300hp engine.
Well, I got tired of losing drag races so I ordered a 1965 ‘Vette roadster in maroon with the 365hp solid lifter engine, one top, radio delete, and side pipes. I let that one go, and headed to Ohio at 26 years of age. I got a job there, saved up some dough and late in ‘67 I bought a brand new 1968 GTO off of Sweeny Pontiac’s lot. It was white with black vinyl top, 4-speed, and the 335hp V8.
Soon after I met my current wife Terri, I was headed back to my little apartment after church, and I merged on to a big four-lane highway. I looked in my rear mirror, and saw two headlights and the outline of a Camaro. It was dark and deserted that night, and I let that Camaro get up to me. We both punched it in second gear and that Camaro absolutely flew past me like a rocket.
My guess it was a big block 396, maybe a Z-28, but I had no time to find out. The next morning, I went back to Sweeny Pontiac and ordered a 1969 Ram Air 4 Judge. Seven weeks later, no Judge, so I got tired of waiting and canceled the order. I headed across town, ordered a black on black with red stripe 1969 Chevelle, 396-375hp, M22 4-speed with a 4:10 gear, (KK code on 12-bolt rear), no air, bucket seat with console and Firestone wide oval tires. This is the exact same 396 engine that was rated at 425hp in the 1965 ‘Vette.
Well, a week before my wife Terri and I tied the knot, I was in the same position on that same 4-lane highway where I got dusted by that Camaro. Looking in my mirror, there was a ‘Vette on my tail and he came along side, we both nailed it in second gear, and my Chevelle fishtailed and then hooked up. I slam into third and then fourth and that ‘Vette was fading fast. Then, right as I came over a knoll, there were the blue lights flashing and radar enforcement.
I was pulled over and the ‘ Vette kept on going. That ticked cost me $205 plus court costs and my insurance doubled on me. That was it for me and muscle because Terri and I had our first baby in 1970, and I traded my 396/375hp for a 1970 Chevy Caprice two-door, gold, with air. There was no muscle car in my life until 1988 as my job and family kept me busy.
I bought a red ‘69 Chevelle SS396 in ‘88, and was re-living my youth. I did a complete restoration, spent too much and kept it for some time until I sold it and settled down again.
Well, it didn’t last. I then got into ‘Vettes (C3s) and did frame-up restorations on four of them. Then I bought a 1989 roadster that was set aside at the Corvette Bowling Green assembly plant by a production guy, and it had a great paint job. It had two tops, and I kept it until I found a 1990 ZR-1 LT-5. I traded the owner my Corvette roadster and $12K for his 11,000 mile ZR-1. Talk about a special machine. I had some fast muscle cars and C2’s and C3’s, but the ZR-1 was heaven. I kept it for couple years, and it eventually went to a guy In Pennsylvania who saw it on the ZR-1 Registry.
Since then, we’ve lived in Florida for 15 years, did some rehabs, bought property close to the intra-coastal, then the wife and I retired and we now live in Tennessee. I built a new home and am settled down…for now.
However, I’m hoping to buy a 1996 Corvette roadster, silver on oyster or black, with two tops. I love the C-4’s and prices are in the basement right now.
This lifelong car trip has been fun, no regrets, and I thank God every day for our health, and what he has done for us. Our favorite charities are St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Shriners. Thanks again for your great columns. Vincent V., Knoxville, TN.
A: Vincent, what a wonderful letter filled with so many memories of your lifetime love of fast cars. Granted that $205 ticket may not be a good memory, but I’m sure you learned from it. Your exciting life calmed down a bit after meeting your future wife at church, and I’m glad you are not ashamed to thank the good Lord up above for your health and what sounds like a blessed life.
The cars you owned were really special, from the 1965 Corvette 365hp 327, the strongest carbureted small block available that year for just $129 more and one of five 327s available. The sixth V8 in 1965 was the debut of the famous 396 big block 425 horse L78 you note that powered your really fast 396/375 L78 ’69 Chevelle. But that ZR-1 was really special.
The reason I printed your letter almost in its entirety is to show how addictive this car hobby can be throughout a person’s life, coupled with those great muscle car and church memories. I especially like that you are looking to buy a Corvette C4, as you mention prices are very attractive right now.
Thanks Vincent for your letter, and God bless you and your family.