The Corvette Returns
Awhile back, I wrote a post about the unhappy days I had with my special-ordered 1974 Corvette Sting Ray. It was a mix of wonderment and poor labor practices all rolled into one. It was the last of the all-fiberglass bodied ‘Vettes, the last of the 454 V8s, and the next to last year for convertibles (of that era). It was one of the last Corvettes to come off the 1974 production line. You can read about its checkered past in Listening to the Inner Idiot. I loved that car, and also loved getting rid of it in 1976.
Turns out that the “poor bastard” who then bought that car recently contacted me, not to curse me but to ask questions about what tidbits I recalled about its options. He’s owned it since 1976 and is preparing to restore it. It has just 39K miles on it now, which means he’s driven it not much more than I did in the year and a half that I owned it. Due to its automatic trans, it’s mainly his wife’s car. He’s owned many early 1970s Corvettes, and prefers a manual transmission, but this is his only big-block, his only convertible, and his only automatic.
It was repainted black in the late 1980s for a change of pace, then went back to silver later. Oddly, he told me that he hasn’t had much trouble with it, but has farmed out its maintenance to shops, where they just do what they need to do. I sympathize with those shops, since I may be the only Corvette owner ever to have the frame underneath all that fiberglass Ziebarted (rustproofed), which not only prevents exposed fastener threads from releasing, but must be removed to even get a wrench on them. The inability of the passenger window to close all the way, the windshield leak and the big unfixable air gap where the convertible top meets the rear deck have gone unmentioned. No split fuel lines, dead circuits or smoking electrical switches. What it’s worth on the market now, only he knows. I’ve never owned a more viscerally beautiful car, a more capable one, nor one as deeply flawed in both production engineering and assembly labor, top to bottom.
Do I perhaps wish I had it back? After all, what followed looked like a more coldly corporate committee design, albeit with more sophisticated underpinnings that finally launched it into the bottom rungs of the upscale international market. Nope, I see it for what it could have been and what I hoped it would be, but when the zenith of your automotive hopes proves to be a high-maintenance doomsday machine that there’s no way to live with except as a hobby car instead of daily transport, that’s where I have to sign out. Not worth the pain. I’m glad it fits into someone else’s lifestyle. I’d feared that some kid would crash it, and it is a relief to find that it still exists, absorbing someone else’s earnings – and that they like that.