Automobile companies spend a lot of time and money choosing the right name for a new model.
Ed Cole, chief engineer for Chevrolet, chose the name Corvette, naming it after a line of small, fast, maneuverable ships used by the United States and royal navies in World War II and before.
There have now been seven generations (body styles) of Corvettes, known as C1 through C7, in the car's 60-year history beginning in 1953.
Concord resident Steven Roberts, a Corvette fan almost since birth, owns a beautifully restored 1964 Corvette (C2) two-door coupe. But this is not his first Corvette.
In 1965, he owned a 1963 Corvette.
"I had just graduated from high school in Citrus Heights and was on my way to Cal in Berkeley," he said. "Apparently you have to go to class to do well at Cal. I was enjoying my Vette and I was very good at going to parties. Then Cal sent me a letter after my first year suggesting I take some time off before pursing my academic career."
This was the Vietnam War era and Roberts was draft bait as he was no longer a student. He sold his Corvette, joined the Air Force, and planned on buying another Corvette as soon as he got out of the service in 1971.
When he left the military, Roberts enrolled at UC Davis, this time attending classes. He also fell in love, got married and had two kids, all of which delayed Roberts' plan. He earned a degree in civil engineering, had a good career, but no Corvette.
In 1980 a neighbor's son, Larry Kissinger, owner of Pro-Automotive in Concord, had this 1964 Corvette Stingray that he was slowly restoring and would occasionally drive to his parents' house. Roberts coveted the car.
"I told Kissinger," Roberts said, "I would buy his '64 Vette from him when my kids graduated from college. My kids were 3 years old and 6 months old at the time."
Fast forward to 2005 when both kids were now college graduates.
"I was ready to live my dream. My wife, Jeanne, said that I should call Kissinger and buy the car," he said.
Kissinger had just made an agreement to sell the car to someone else, but, fortunately for Roberts, the deal fell through.
Working on the car when he had time available, Kissinger took 25 years to completely restore the Corvette Stingray. But when done, "the car was immaculate," Roberts said. The 41-year-old car had only 43,107 miles on it when Roberts bought it for $35,000.
"Kissinger just drove the car to test out what he had fixed and had driven it less than 5,000 miles in 25 years," Roberts said.
"During the first year I owned it we (Roberts and Kissinger) worked out the bugs. We found out the headlights didn't flip open, the backup lights didn't work, the clock didn't work and there were some speedometer problems. It just needed some tweaking for me to drive it. Kissinger changed out the 327 C.I. V-8 engine for a Chevy 350 C.I. V-8 engine because it is a more reliable engine."
The exterior paint, Riverside Red, was new, as was the black leather interior. The Corvette is equipped with a four-speed manual shift and power steering but no other power equipment. No air conditioning, power windows, brakes or seats. The car has rally wheels and rims from a 1967 Corvette and Roberts has changed out the standard AM/FM radio for an upgraded radio that has improved speakers and a cassette player.
This aerodynamic fiberglass Corvette has some interesting styling features. The aircraftlike doors curve into the roof of the vehicle making it easier to enter and exit the car. The trunk area is fairly large, but there is no exterior trunk opening. Access is only gained by reaching over or moving the seats forward. The gas filler tube is right in the center of the rear deck.
Because the car was restored so well, Roberts has only invested an additional $3,000 for fairly normal maintenance items. He estimates the current market value somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000. Roberts actually drove the Corvette daily the first two years of ownership but now only drives it several days a week. He has driven the car about 45,000 miles since acquiring it in 2005.
When new, a 1964 Corvette coupe cost $4,252 ($32,060 in today's dollars) which was $215 ($1,621) more than the convertible model. Chevrolet made 22,229 Corvettes that year, about 37 percent were coupes. A three-speed manual transmission was standard, but 85 percent of the Corvettes had the optional four-speed manual at a cost of $188.30 ($1,418) more.
What is the long term plan for this Corvette? It is definitely not for sale.
"My son thinks he will inherit the car," Roberts said, "but I'm not thinking that far down the line."
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com