My Struggles With Corvettes!

It all started when I was a toddler. My parents would make my sister take me on dates. To distract me, they'd point me out the window whereever we were, and tell me to name every type of car that would go by. Then they would smooch.

When I was in third grade, I was very smart but very bad in fine motor skills. My dad decided he could help me overcome that by having me build model cars. It did help, even much later when I took a brain surgery class. But that was much later. My dad was, among other things, head salesman at a company called Bruck Braid. This company made all sorts of braided material, from the fringe on outdoor umbrellas to the webbing in beach chairs to a cable that helped launch Saturn V rockets. One of their customers was Revelle in Culver City, which used braided steel for the contacts in their slot cars. My first slot cars were a GTO Ferrari and a 1964 Corvette fastback. I think I still have them, will post links here if I ever get to taking pictures. Later, I also got a 1/32 scale set with a Vette, which I eventually gave a spider-web paint job, by letting enamel paint partially dry, sticking in a toothpick, then pulling the toothpick to make a strand, and dropping the strand on the model.

Growing up in Westchester (near the LA airport) in the '60's, I was exposed to many hot cars of neighbors and friends older brothers. Many famous car people and places were nearby, although I didn't know at the time that that was an unusual thing. My parents house had a number of houses back up to it. One neighbor had a hotrodded Willys, another paved over half his backyard and had all sorts of 50's cars as well as a 30's V16 Cadillac. My dad had been a mechanic and owned a garage in Brooklyn in the 30's, but by the sixties he had old man ideas about cars. As a salesman, he drove a lot - 50K miles a year, before all the freeways were built. As I recall, he had a yellow '57 Buick (which he sold to my uncle - I always thought those fins looked like Bozo's hair), a green '61 Olds (I distinctly remember the mechanical linear speedometer which would change from green to yellow to red), tan '64 Chrysler Imperial (one day he had to go to the bathroom really bad, and so didn't get it into park and set the brake - it came to rest on the neighbors low cement block retaining wall - I'll scan those pix in one day), and finally a '69 Cadillac Sedan de Ville with the 472 engine. My mom had a '61 Galaxie (later sold to my brother's wife), and I vividly recall the family going into the Ford dealer in Manhattan Beach in February, 1965 to buy her a new car. They had a dark blue Mustang fastback with a black interior. I said "Mom, you should get this car!" Dad said "You're just saying that because you think you're going to get it when you turn sixteen." "Well, yeah!" Mom said, "I need a four door car," so we bought a "honey gold" (read: babypuke green) 1965 Galaxie 500 with the 352 big-block, green vinyl upholstery, automatic, and a combination outside rear view mirror/spotlight. Sure enough, that became my first car. I didn't particularly appreciate it. My mom had offered me the Caddy (my dad died two weeks before I turned 16), but it was thrashed with 150K miles, rusted panels, springs sticking through the seats, and so forth. I hacked on the Ford some, learned about rebuilding carburetors and body work, but after about 4 months my brother sold me an ex-rental Gremlin for payments of $100/month (I was working for him in the washing machine business for $1.85/hr). The day I got it, I spent the evening installing an 8-track/FM. The next morning on the way to school, some jerk in a mini-pickup cut me off and I crashed into it. Got that fixed, 8-track got ripped off at dealer. Had some good times in the Gremlin, at the end of the summer I got a big chunk of change to buy another car. So my brother told my mom he had seen a Vette for sale in front of a pizza place on the corner of Hawthorne and Sepulveda.

It was an early '63 roadster hipo (carburetted), with Washington state plates. The story went, the guy had bought it a few months earlier from a drag-boat racer who had built it up .030 over with TRW dome-tops, a marine cam, painted it white (over the original Riverside Red), put on a trailer hitch to tow his drag boats, then discovered it wasn't a really great tow vehicle. He let me drive it, then said "let me show you how to really drive this puppy." We went to an industrial area near the Torrance airport and he showed off. I went and got $1400 the next day and it was mine. Naturally my brother had gone to see it in the meantime, offered him $1200, and was told "some kid is about to give me $1400!" Similar non-running cars were going for several hundred more than that at the time. It had 152K miles on it.

Of course, the first thing I did was take it to Jefferson Blvd. and wound it up to near 150MPH. It blew out a spark plug, putting a star crack in the hood. Apparently, someone had unscrewed the plug and not torqued it back down, as I was able to screw it back in. Sure felt bad for a short time there, though, thinking it was blown. The next summer, my friend Richard Goldstein painted it pearl white with a blue stinger. And so, I was off to college next to the blue pacific. (later I'll expand here on some of the memories: getting two tickets in a row, getting a ticket with a dog in the car that didn't like uniformed people, letting a girl drive and the accelerator sticking wide open, pulling a wheelie in the Westchester High parking lot, breaking the differential mount, replacing the radiator, replacing the heater core, having foxy teenaged girlfriends, having two Corvettes, driving with another guy and three girls, racing a 1300 Mini coming out of Yosemite, driving 1 south from San Francisco, selling it and seeing it around, blowing and rebuilding the engine, electrical issues, transmission linkage falling apart at 1AM in Oxnard making me drive backwards to a gas station and getting surrounded by police, the 180 skid parking maneuver, replacing the top, etc.)

Sold 1983 for $4500 to a dealer who painted it the original Riverside Red, slapped in a slightly different interior, and put it on display where I would drive by every day coming home from work and see a crowd of people checking it out (where Aviation ends into Sepulveda in Hermosa Beach). He sold it for $13K (I believe) to a teenage girl who lived across the street from my brother's former house on Loyola Blvd. in Westchester. I never knew how many miles it had when I sold it because the odometer broke at 89999, as I was watching it and waiting for it to turn over while I drove up Storke Road in Santa Barbara, but it must have been at least 200K.

April, 1981, I'm perusing the classifieds and see an ad for the Chevy dealer for new Corvettes at a discounted price, and "yes we have four-speeds." At the time, that was a big deal because the year before they weren't selling manual transmissions in California, and there was some grey-marketting going on. So I went right down and bought one for, I believe, $17,282 out the door. The salesman said they weren't making blue Corvettes, which was technically a lie - that year they were being made in St. Louis and Kentucky, with different types and colors of paint at the two factories. So I bought a white one with tan interior. They were selling custom paintjobs for another $3000, but even $17K was more than a years salary. My girlfriend thought I was crazy - "What would anyone need with two Corvettes?" This one had the Gymkhana option, which was the contemporary sport suspension with steel springs instead of plastic in the rear. It did handle very well, although I manged to put it into a curb after the first rain at the end of the summer. It was never quite right until about 1988 (I think) when I had the frame "pumped." (more memories to come)

Sold 1991, I drove it up to Corvette Mike and he gave me a check for $10K (I think). He was buying them up and shipping them to Japan.

Fall, 1992, I'm perusing the classifieds and see an ad for a Quasar Blue ZR1, 5K miles and only $48K (when a few months earlier they had been selling over the $64K list). So I went and bought it! (more memories to come)

Sold 1998 to some guy who buys high-end cars and drives them for a while then sells them, gave me a check for $24K (I think). Then I bought a minivan.
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