1963 Chevrolet Corvette. Photo courtesy Glenn Hersh.
[Editor’s note: This “Reminiscing” story, edited by Richard Lentinello, comes to us from Hemmings Classic Car reader Glenn Hersh.]
I had given my 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible to my brother when I left for overseas. What a sweet ride that was; and I had proven that 283-cu.in. V-8s and Powerglides would haul one night when I ran through a Maryland State Police speed trap along Rt. 197 at 102 MPH in a 35 MPH zone on the way back to Ft. Meade. I won a free night’s lodging (and breakfast) in the basement of the Jessup police barracks. I also got my car back the following morning for a $107 fine and $36 impound fee).
In January of 1971, I sat in the Auto Dealer section of the Freedom Hill BX on the U.S. air base at Da Nang, Vietnam. I kept bouncing back and forth between the Ford and Dodge dealers trying to make up my mind which car I was going to order. It was a toss-up between a big two-door LTD with the giant high back buckets and the slick new Charger. In the end the brand new shiny red, super stock Dodge won the day. Well, it was brand new, shiny and red but hardly ‘super stock.’ It was a three-on-the- tree 318 model. You see, I was getting married and leaving the military when I got home. I had to act ‘grown up’. With car insurance being what it was for males under 25, that four-speed Big-Block that I coveted went out the window. I also told myself I could at least have a stick shift that I could easily teach my wife to drive.
A year and a half later when my bride had run off with my best friend, I was coming home from work one afternoon and pulled to a stop in traffic on a bridge. In front of me was a white Corvette. I never cared much for Corvettes and I didn’t know much more than that about them. But there was something striking about this ‘Vette. It had a body strip right down the middle of the rear window. So I began about a two-month long search for one. I got an education along the way learning exactly what a ‘split window’ was. Corvettes, there were tons of them around. I stumbled over at least a half dozen 1958-‘62s that I could have bought for two-grand with extra bucket seats, tops and numerous other spare parts. But, I wanted that one with the strip down the middle of the rear window.
I was beginning to think I was going to have to settle for something less when one day I spied this red Corvette on the used car lot. I hung a u-turn in the Charger, rolled into the lot and there she sat, all done up in new paint and looking like she just rolled off the assembly line. Four-speed, four-barrel 327. SOLD. For a cool three grand, what I bought and sold the charger for, I had the Corvette of my dreams.
A week later, while driving the Corvette home from work, the clutch pedal stuck. I called the salesman who sold me the car and he said ‘no problem’ and told me to call the Sports Car Center and have it towed in for repair. The following day I got a call from the guy at the garage and he said she needs a new clutch and the carb is shot, too. I said, fix it, I’ve only had it a week and I’m sure the dealer is good for it. Two days later, I got a call that the car was ready. I went over to pick it up and the guy said the dealer isn’t going to pay, you need to write me a check. I was flabbergasted. So, I called the salesman and after half an hour of protesting I was nowhere. So, I wrote the check, and drove the car straight to the bank where I promptly stopped payment on it. I did have the courtesy to call the guy at the garage and tell him I was doing it. The next day I took the Corvette to my mechanic and told him to give it a thorough going over to see what else might be wrong with it. He reported back that the front shocks and ball joints were shot.
I got a call from the salesman that evening and he was ranting and raving about coming to get the car and putting a mechanics lean on the vehicle. I was ready for him by now. You see, the salesman had told me the Corvette had come up from Virginia just a couple days before I bought it. It had brand new Pennsylvania state inspection on it when I bought it. I told the salesman to do what he had to, but if he did, I was headed straight to the State Police to let them know about the badly shot front end that had just passed through the dealers state inspection department. His tone dramatically changed and he then said “You know what, why don’t you just bring the car over to me and I’ll make it all right for you.” Case closed!
I owned that split window Corvette for about two and a half years and I learned to love it more than anything I’ve ever had. I loved the way it would ‘squat’ when I’d stomp it. If you have ever driven one of those old Corvettes you know what I mean. I spent hours on tight winding back roads with it. Stories, I’ve got tons of them; like the time I was coming around a Cobra Jet Torino in a set of tight S turns, hit a giant water puddle and spun her 180 degrees. Talk about ‘shaky knee syndrome’. Or, the time I was running hard on a back road down in north Georgia and a carload of ‘good old boys’ in a 1965 Impala pulled up on my bumper down a long straight. I knew there was a near hairpin coming up and at the last second pulled her down into 2nd and slid her through the turn. The last glimpse I got of the Impala, it was bounding out through some farmer’s field.
The problems with the Corvette were never ending. It gobbled breaker points like high test gas and the spindle bearings were forever wearing out until I found a guy who knew they needed to be shimmed according to GM specs. The heater core went out on me one cold winter morning and promptly filled the passenger side floor with Prestone. I just bypassed the heater and the only heat I had after that was what came up through the shifter boot. I drove a college girlfriend home for Christmas break one winter out on the turnpike to Pittsburgh. It was snowing off and on and I had to stop at nearly every overpass to scrape the ice off the windshield. Good thing she had a warm winter coat.
Toward the end of my run with the Corvette, the cherry bombs that the Virginia boys had put on it were about gone and when I’d get on it in the dark of the early morning hours on the way to work, flames flew out the tailpipes. Man, I loved that car.
When the time came to let her go, I did it with a two-line classified ad in the local paper. I came home from work (in my beater VW) the evening the ad ran for the first day. There were 16 guys standing around the Corvette where it sat on the street in front of my house. So I promptly began the non-scheduled auction and sold it to the top bidder for $3,300. One of my buddies told me that the guy who bought the car promptly took it home and proceeded to strip it to the frame and restore it. The following weekend I bought a like-new 1972 LTD two-door (with the giant high back bucket seats) with less than 20k miles on it off a Chevrolet Dealer’s lot for $2,400. It was in the beginning of the gas crunch; I drove that big Ford for 10 years.
Last winter I tried to locate my old Corvette through a Corvette registry; I had no luck. But if anyone knows where 1963 Corvette split window coupe, # 30837S106073 is, I love to know. You see, I’ve got this feeling that ‘She’s got to be somebody’s baby’.
By the way, I finally got the super stock Dodge, too. It’s a 2005 Magnum R/T with a cat-back system, cold air intake, streetfighter wheels and red line tires. It’s only got about 10k miles on it and comes out only on days of perfect weather to make those 130 MPH rips.