Vetting the Candidates

In about 1969, I set the land speed record between Hoboken, on the left side of the river, and Bridgehampton Race Circuit out near the tip of Lon Guyland. My friend Jabe and I headed out in the dark of night across Manhattan via the Holland and Queens Midtown tunnels, out the BQE to the LIE, and eventually to Route 27. Somewhere along the route, a big motorcycle tried to keep up but eventually gave up.

I was driving Jabe’s then-four-year old, Polo Green, 1965 Corvette roadster. 327/300 engine. 4-Speed. He had traded a Triumph Spitfire that he had souped up with a Volvo engine for the Vette.

That was a fine ride.

I was smitten but a couple of years later, I started driving Camaros and (almost) forgot about America’s real sports car.

Time passes.

I’ve been telling myself that I need a ride for South Puffin.

I want a Vette.

68 VetteI didn’t even look at the yellow one on the right.

Or one on Craigslist today. That ad for a 1998 Vette proudly says the car is in “excellent condition!” but it does need four new tires with sensors. Uh oh. Four run flat Goodyear tires with a 6-year warranty, the sensors, parts and labor will cost $2,098.04. “Everything else is in excellent condition.”

Ye gods. I’ve paid less than that for an entire car.

“Is it okay if I say I don’t like the styling of that era?” Liz Arden asked me.


Generations.1  I admire but don’t like the solid axle C1s, love the C2 Sting Rays, and don’t like the scuttling crabs at all (Chevy called the C3 a “Mako Shark”; I didn’t). Its engines and chassis were mostly carried over from the C2, so the chrome bumper year cars started with pretty decent performance but I disliked that styling and the smog-driven anemic power (they had a puny 305 cubic inch station wagon engine for crying out loud!).

The C4-series that I’m looking at started with a clean sheet of paper. Not as much raw power as the rompin’ 350 and 427 era but great handling, looks that I like, and the advantage that those cars are priced affordably. The C5 and C6s are exquisite, world-class, sports cars but I’m not all that keen on their bulbous lines. Or the $2,000 tire changes.

VetteWe drove to Burlington-area to check out an ’86 convertible with low miles. The seller told me it had a “weathered interior” but was solid and that he had cleaned the edge connectors so the electronic dash works again. It will eventually need a new top, he said, and is “beige-ish” in color.

He gave me directions and told us to poke around before he got there, so I made sure to get there an hour before he did. Perfect!

First impression was bad. The car was sitting on the lawn with grass clippings in the wheels and grass a couple inches taller than the lawn under it. The paint wasn’t bad, really, and I liked the “beige-ish” color a lot but it was scratched and a little chipped here and there. Mostly it looked like it had had a run in with a bramble bush. Backwards. I couldn’t get the hood to open or the rear of the top to release. Passenger side hood latch didn’t seem to work and the top latches seemed disconnected from the release lever. Some of the switches were broken. The leather seats had some holes worn in the surfaces. It really really needs a top. All in all, I could see putting a couple-three grand into it to fix the things that needed fixing (and I hadn’t even gotten to the need for a battery or that I hadn’t looked under the car or under the hood) and ending up with a 25-year old, tired looking daily driver. With low miles.

Oh, yeah, and there was a clump of leaves and stuff under the floor mat that looked like a mouse nest.

The seller drove up as we were driving out. I apologized and told him it was just too rough for me.

VetteOooh! There’s a nice looking ’91 in southern New Hampshire for three grand more.

The owner of the ’91 responded with darned good pictures and a lot of info. He garages it in the winter but parks outside on dirt and gravel when she drives it in the summer. Makes me figure the brake lines, fuel lines, and maybe frame are pretty rusty.

Turns out he bought car four years ago at a New Hampshire police auction. It had been a seizure that served a couple of years as an undercover car and got sold when the cop shop couldn’t keep it running. He replaced the computer before he realized it needed injectors, so it has new injectors and a new ‘puter.

I’m a little nervous about auctions for police cars or seized-by-police cars.

tractor v. sheriffNewport, Vermont, made the news last week when a car alarm from their own parking lot rousted deputies in the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department from their quiet Thursday afternoon naps.

Five cruisers, one transport van, and another department vehicle crushed on the concrete like soda cans. And a large dual-wheel farm tractor last seen rumbling down the road and out of sight. Without cars, the deputies couldn’t start a car chase, so they set out on foot.

The local farmer and tractor owner was obviously disgruntled.

I probably won’t buy one of those (former) four-door sports cars, either.

Gotta kiss a lot of frogs in this business.

Vettes, like iPods and iPads, are identified by “generations.” A Corvette from Generation 1 is usually referred to as a “C1,” one from Generation 2 as a “C2,” and so on.

  • C1 -> 1953-1962 Solid axle generation
  • C2 -> 1963-1967 Sting Ray
  • C3 -> 1968-1982
  • C4 -> 1984-1996
  • C5 -> 1997-2004
  • C6 -> 2005-present

5 thoughts on “Vetting the Candidates

  1. I mentioned to Herr Post that I watched the C-1’s race at LeMans in (I think) 1959 (It has been a long time). They spent a lot of their time at the gas pump and in the brake shop. I don’t think any of them finished the race the year I was there.

    The Aston, the Jag and the Porsche ruled; and even the little French Panhards did well.

    But I think Corvette came back to the race in later years and kicked some butt.

    — George

  2. Male fiddler crabs will scuttle over to defend a female against intruders, partly (OK, mostly) because the females will offer sex in return.

    I simply have always thought the earlier C3 bodies looked very much like a scuttling crab.

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