This blog will document the Big Journey of the 1966 Corvette we purchased from a family member back in 1974. Larry is getting ready to rejuvenate (NOT restore) it and prepare it for sale. As Larry’s wife, I’ve been part of this little drama for the past 40 years, so I’ve decided to document this chapter of The Corvette Story.
Larry is an accomplished mechanic, even holds Airframe and Powerplant certificates and worked for awhile as an aircraft mechanic. That particular qualification set him apart from the others when he was first hired as an airline pilot. Now that he has retired from US Airways and we are living in the Pacific Northwest, he has decided that the pleasure vehicle for him now–at this age, living in this region–is a boat.
Some have asked, Gee, since you’ve held on to the Corvette all this time, why sell now? That leads to the bigger question: How does a retired airline pilot raise enough money for a boat?
Aha! Sell one toy, buy another.
About the Corvette
Back in 1974, Larry and I had recently returned from a year in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Larry got his first year of experience in the cockpit, as a Flight Engineer in an L-100 Hercules. Now he was a First Officer for a nonscheduled airline in Oakland, California, we a job that allowed us to move back to our native California.
Cousin Tom, a recent USC Dental School grad, was raising funds to open a practice. Reluctantly, he put his Corvette up for sale. Tom had been the third owner, had all the paperwork and so on. When Larry bought the car, it made the parting just a little easier on Tom.
Larry’s first order of business was to convert the traditional carburetion system in order to circumvent the increasingly stringent air quality requirements in California. So he purchased a beautiful 1963 fuel injection unit, which, when installed, would create clean enough emissions for the car to pass.
We took delivery of the car in Burbank, California, where Larry drove it right over to my parents’ house. Dad, a terrific mechanic himself, (and an old barnstorming pilot, too), had a whimsical sign over his garage door that read: Jim’s Groj. The two of them worked a full week reconfiguring the car to get the fuel injection system working, but it did work, flawlessly. Of course, Larry saved all the original parts.
Okay, so life has a way of intervening. By 1976 we had one baby and by 1979, we had another one. The Corvette became a garage fixture, a sort of objet d’art. As a result, of course, every house we had after that required a three car garage–two bays for the jalopies Larry ingeniously kept running (and running and running)…and one capacious bay for the custom-tarped Crown Jewel.
Larry became a pilot with US Airways, which in 1991 necessitated a cross-country move to Pennsylvania. And yet another three-car garage.
The last outing of the Corvette took place in Pittsburgh when our son, Craig, (the 1979 baby), begged his dad to get it running so he could take it to his Senior Prom. It was glorious! That was 1997.
Now it’s 2012 and we have moved again across the country. Larry’s retired and we live in the Pacific Northwest. Larry doesn’t want an airplane (thank God!), but he does miss the navigation, weather, and intrigue of going places.
I prefer a boat to an airplane. I’m not that Granny who could figure out how to land the airplane if the old boy slumped over the yoke mid-flight. But I could certainly float in a boat and wait for the Coast Guard.
But wait, there’s more!
Seems simple, then. Fix the Corvette. Market it. Sell it. Pass the Kleenex. Buy a boat.
Alas, four decades have passed since Dad and Larry put the fuel injector unit on the car. Dad is gone these 20 years. In one unexpected plot twist, the fuel injector unit has positively skyrocketed in value and is worth lots more OFF the car than ON it. So although Larry was hoping to avoid “restoring” the car, he will have to put the original carburetor system back on, then fix up and sell the injector unit separately. (It’s that important.)
If it took Dad and him a week to install the fuel injector 40 years ago, how long will it take Larry to reverse the process now? He’s older than Dad was when they did the job together. It’s a fearsome amount of work.
The very first thing that held Larry back was the idea of being on his back on a garage creeper under a low-clearance sports car. Extremely un-fun, possibly injurious.
So what’s the answer? If you know Larry, (and if you don’t know him, you soon will), you know that there will be no half-measures. He decided he needs a garage lift, just like the commercial one at the auto alignment shop he frequents.
When we designed and built our “retirement home” here in the Pacific Northwest, Larry made sure that its mandatory three-car garage would be ample. ‘Cause you just never know, right?
Somehow this garage morphed to 1000 square feet, (about the size of the house in Burbank where I grew up). Except this garage has a ceiling is 13-1/2 feet tall, (a feature which, I assure you, the Burbank house never had). Before ordering the lift, Larry measured exactly where things would go, dropped weighted strings from the ceiling, mocked up the configuration on the floor, and even borrowed a friend’s pickup truck to make sure it would fit.
Truck? Where did the truck come in? Well, what are we going to haul the boat with?
At last, after a couple of years of deliberation, thinking about, then dismissing, less expensive alternatives, Larry took the plunge. He ordered a Rotary Lift for the garage. It will be here about the third week of April.
We invite you to follow the shenanigans
This should get interesting right off the bat. Larry will have to poke two big holes in the concrete of the garage floor to put in concrete pilings capable of holding the lift. That will probably necessitate repairing some of the radiant floor heat tubes that run throughout the concrete out there. Oh Lordy…here we go!