How did this collection begin?
While I never set out to have a ‘collection’ of Corvettes, it began with the purchase of a car I’d dreamed about since I was a junior in high school in Hugo, Oklahoma...a 1963 Corvette split window coupe. I’d only had my driver’s license a few months when that car was produced and I was smitten. Of course, I never really thought I’d own one.
So how long was it before you got the ‘63?
It took me 22 years to be in a position to acquire one. I found it listed in the want ads, for sale by an individual, and after dropping none-too-subtle hints to my wife, Sandra, she finally encouraged me to buy it, saying it would serve two purposes.: ’my gift to you for your 40th birthday,’ and an invitation to ‘go ahead and get over your middle-age crazies.’ I’ve now owned the car more than thirty years and it’s almost like a member of the family...at least to me. As to if I ever got over the ‘crazies,' you’ll have to ask Sandra that one.
By the way, that little split-window coupe that I bought in 1985 is now worth about six times what I paid for it...and it’s just as beautiful as it ever was.
Truthfully, I can’t explain it. I think a lot of other collectors or individual Corvette owners would agree...you either like them or you don’t. But if you do, you really do. Sure, there are all the slogans like ‘America’s only true sports car,' or the fact that comparably-performing European cars cost at least twice as much, but there’s something else intrinsic in driving and owning a Corvette. And just exactly what that is, I can’t say. I just know it’s there. But I'm not just a Vette guy...check out the two Bel Airs & the Impala SS.
What’s so special about the ‘63?
Well, for me, it’s because it was the first one I ever acquired, it was a gift from Sandra and it’s just a beautifully-designed automobile. More than a half century after it was manufactured, it still gathers friendly horn honks, turned heads and thumbs up when I drive it. That’s fun.
But from a general standpoint, it became an instant classic because of the one-year-only split rear window. 1963 was the year of the first coupe and it was the 10th anniversary for Corvette. By the way, there are numerous facts in general for each year represented in the collection and specifics on each car listed elsewhere on this website. Facts by Year.
What’s unique about this collection?
I think there are several unique things about it, but obviously, you can’t expect me to be objective.
First, there's the color scheme. All cars in the collection, with the quite obvious exception of the red ‘57 Bel Air, are either black, solid silver or a combination of the two colors. I think when black and silver cars are kept spotless, there's nothing prettier. The black cars show dirt easily, but if you keep a black or silver car clean and polished, you'll have a great looking vehicle. The new exceptions to the color scheme are the Cyber Gray ZR1 and the Shark Gray ZO6.
Second, this collection represents at least one of every Corvette generation except C4. Aficianados know there have been seven generations to date. And I carefully chose which cars I wanted to represent an individual generation based on design significance, factory options, milestones, and of course, my own preference. In the collection, you’ll find coupes, convertibles, a T-Tops, three ‘fuelies,’ two Big Blocks, three ZO6s, including the 2015 with a ZO7 performance package and two blistering ZR1s…a 2009 & a 2012.
Any other benefits to owning one or more classic cars?
The greatest ‘benefit,' at least to me, has simply been pride of ownership. I enjoy my cars....looking at them, driving them occasionally and sharing pictures and information with others who have similar interests. The internet has accommodated that last benefit to a huge degree.
And another benefit not be to be dismissed, of course, is the increase in value classic cars have been enjoying in recent years. In the fall of 2006, Newsweek magazine reported that the classic car industry had increased by 25% in the previous twelve months alone...becoming an $18 billion a year business. That’s pretty impressive. Like everything else, those values took a hit with the recession which began in 2008, but they've been rebounding since.
It’s being driven largely by ‘Baby Boomers’ and their ability to buy and collect the cars of their youth, the 50s & 60s...a time when most people agree, the automobile industry was at its zenith in terms of design, performance, and style.
You mentioned the internet. Did you ever buy any of your cars over the internet?
That’s an interesting question because about 20 years ago, I met a local car sales owner who dealt mostly in upscale classic cars. I had been to his showroom and he only had a couple of cars. I asked him where his inventory was and he told me most of them were in nearby warehouses. When I asked him how that worked if people couldn’t physically see the cars in the showroom, he said, ‘Oh, 90% of the cars we sell are bought online by customers all over the United States and beyond.’
I couldn’t imagine buying a car that way. After all, at the very least, car buyers had always wanted to ‘kick the tires’ of the car they were considering.
Having said that, I must admit that several of the cars in my collection were purchased over the internet and so far, I’ve never been ‘burned.' The key is obviously to know the reputation of the seller, look at lots of pictures from every angle and if it makes you feel better, hire an independent inspector to look at the car for you before you close the deal. I’ve done that on occasion. Then, always use a shipper with an enclosed transport trailer, and request that your car be placed on the top row. Most haulers wait until they have several cars to transport before making a run. If yours is on the bottom row, oil or fluid leaks from the cars on top could damage your vehicle below. Of course, you can always use the internett to help you find your car, but then go see it in person before finalizing the deal!
What about auctions...any purchases ever made that way?
“Until a few years ago, the answer to that question was ‘No’. But I actually did buy the ‘57 Bel Air Fuelie Convertible at auction. I was lucky to get it below market price, so even with the ‘Buyer’s Premium’ added to the hammer price, I felt I got an expensive bargain.
In spite of my attitude about certain aspects of auctions, I love auctions, of all kinds...and especially classic car auctions. I watch hours of auction sales on TV, such as Barrett-Jackson and Mecum Auctions. But I watch to keep up with what kind of prices these cars are bringing. And honestly, I have always had a mental block about that ‘Buyer’s Premium.' That little concept popped up a few years ago in most auctions and I have trouble getting past it. I normally attend lots of auctions, but so far, only one car auction as a buyer.
There are three cars in the collection that aren't Corvettes. Why?
In high school, I had both a ’55 Bel Air 2-door coupe and later, a ’57 Bel Air. Those two years became classics of design in their own rights, and I had to have one of each...one more time. One’s a frame-off restored ’55 Bel Air and the other is a rare fuel-injected ’57 Bel Air convertible...one of only 68 made that year. And after a search of several months, I've added a black/black '64 Chevy Impala SS 409 to the collection. I had a '64 in the months before Sandra and I were married, but sold it. It was a 4-speed 327. So, I've now replaced it, 45 years later, with a 409.
The complete story of my affection for '57 Chevys was printed in Classic Chevy a while back. You can read it in The '57 Chevy section of this website. That black ’57 convertible was sold in order for me to purchase the red ’57 ‘fuelie’ convertible that is a part of the collection now.
Also, it’s kinda’ fun having both a ‘57 Chevy convertible and a ‘57 Corvette convertible. They’ve long-since celebrated a 50th birthday, and are holding up pretty well...still among the most popular of all classic cars. 1957 was a landmark year for the automotive industry and those classic designs still turn heads when they’re driven in public.
Which car in the collection is your favorite?
At the risk of sounding dismissive, that’s like asking a parent ‘which child is your favorite?’ Each is different in style, handling characteristics and ‘feel.' And I like everything about each of them. After all, I hand-picked them to my own tastes as I acquired them. So, no favorite. But if pressed, the ‘63 split window would hold a great deal of affection since it was the first in the collection. I’ve now owned it more than 30 years.
Do you ever sell any of your cars?
Rarely, but I have on a couple of occasions. The ‘63 would be the last to go. Because, as mentioned before, there’s a lot of sentimentality attached to it, being the first and all. I sold my ’84 so I could complete the collection of C2s in the garage, but that’s the only Corvette I’ve ever sold.
What advice would you give to a first-time Vette buyer?
Well, I’m certainly no expert, but I would say study the market and what these cars are selling for. The internet makes that so easy now. And if you can, go to one of the big Corvette shows. You'll find links to them under the 'Video & Links' section on this site. You'll see that all of the shows are 'Corvettes on steroids', so enjoy!.
After you’ve decided to buy, invest in the best-equipped and best-condition car that you can afford. While there is a strong market for all older Corvettes, many are worth far more than others for varying reasons. Learn those reasons. If restoring cars is your thing, you can probably save a lot of money. But while saving money is important to me, restoring classic cars is not. I buy them as close to original…or completely restored as I can and let them appreciate from there. Most of all, enjoy your purchase. If you bought it right, you’ll also have a great investment.
What will your next Corvette purchase be?
I’m out of room! And I was even when I purchased the 2015 ZO6. I had to ‘bump’ another Corvette from inside the main building to make room for it. But GM did such a great job with the C7s overall, I had to have one. What’s next? Can’t say. But, ‘never say never!'