Custom Search
Corvette - An American Dream: Sep 18, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sweet Yesterday

The year was 1961. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States. There was trouble in Cuba, and he advised Americans to build bomb shelters. And he asked Congress for $531 million to put a man on the moon. Construction began on the Berlin Wall and Pampers were introduced. IBM released the Selectric typewriter (yes, I remember those) and the last episode of I Love Lucy aired. The average price of a new home was $17,500, and regular gasoline could be purchased for 31 cents per gallon. My how things have changed.

But some things don't. Some things are classics when they're created. Others achieve that status in time. The C1 Corvette (1953 - 1962) falls into the former category. General Motors produced 10,939 Corvettes in the 1961 model year at a base price of $3,934. The car pictured above is one of those vintage Vettes. (If you can't see all of it, maximize your window, because you want to see all of it.)

This car is one of only 7,013 originally, and still, equipped with a 4-speed Borg Warner T-10 transmission. But it gets better. It has its original 270hp motor, and only 2,827 Vettes were produced with that power plant. The color is Honduras Maroon, and that paint graced the fiberglas of only 1,645 of them. This color was only available in 1960 and 1961, so it's unusual to see one with so few in that color. And 47 years later, there probably aren't very many of them with this build sheet left, either. So, to say it's rare is a bit of an understatement.

The exterior styling was face-lifted for 1961. It was the first Corvette without heavy "teeth" in the grill area. The rear was completely restyled with four taillights, now a Corvette Trademark. The transmission tunnel was reduced in width to give the interior a 20% increase in interior space.

And it was the only model year that had this cool little emblem on the front fenders.

This beautiful Corvette is owned by my friend Frank Dreano of Winter Garden, Florida. Frank was kind enough to send me some photos when I asked. He also told me a little about it. I'm going to let him tell you so I don't get anything incorrect. So here's the story . . .

I bought this car just over a year ago from a NASCAR wind tunnel engineer in South Carolina. The color is Honduras Maroon (an original '61 color) with Ermine White coves and a black interior with correct olive/black Tuxedo carpet.

The car has the original 270HP solid lifter, dual four barrel, 283 cubic inch motor with the original Borg Warner T-10 4-speed. It's taken a year to get EVERYthing working correctly on this car including the original Wonderbar radio, the parking brake flashing warning light and the original windshield washer system.

The only modifications I have made are to add an electronic ignition/distributor with a vacuum advance, front disk brakes and custom heat isolators under the carbs to help with digestion of modern gasoline mixtures.

The biggest problem with the car was finding the correct 4 bbls (it had 1956 Carter WCFB carbs when I bought it). I did find the correct 270 HP Carter carbs on eBay in July of 2008 and this completed the mechanicals on the car.

I restored the entire interior including all gauges, a new windshield, a new dashpad, new carpet, metal door panel inserts, new kick panels and completely restored seats. The car is driven about 2,000 miles annually.

And there you have it. A legendary sports car that's been well cared for and kept as close as possible to the way it was originally built. It doesn't get much better than that. So if you ever decide to take that long overdue road trip in your own Corvette, and the highway leads you to Winter Garden, Florida, tell Frank hello for me. And thanks for sharing the love.