Ron Cherry: A preference for Corvettes
Most car lovers have strong preferences for certain cars.
Sometimes it’s for a marque, like a Chevy, Ford, Jag or VW. Sometimes it’s a certain model, like a Chevy Corvette, a Ford Mustang a Jag XKE or a VW Bug. Sometimes it’s even a certain year, like a 63 Chevy Corvette, a 65 Ford Mustang, a 61 Jag XKE or a 56 VW Bug.
Think of it like a guy who only likes blue-eyed, voluptuous blondes or a gal who only likes tall, muscular, swarthy men: it’s a matter of personal taste.
While Ken King is not as focused as the guy in the last sentence about his cars, he definitely is into Corvettes. He owns three and his wife, Ann Byer, owns one as well. Maybe that’s an important criterion for women he finds attractive.
King bought his first Vette when he was only 18, a 1957 model.
When he was in college, someone ran into it. Using the money he was paid in settlement, he didn’t put it back stock, but modified it into a custom Corvette.
He entered it in a number of shows and won a few trophies, one of which was from the Sacramento Autorama, who awarded him a three-foot trophy that was inscribed, “Outstanding Award 1963.”
When he went into the military, he sold his Vette. “I regretted it from day one,” said King.
Once King got out of the military, he bought a 61 Vette.
“This will be my forever car,” he told himself. However, that changed when a 2-ton flatbed truck ran over the car. “It totaled my car,” he said. “It just ripped off the front end of it.” It was a short forever.
So King was once again in the market for a Vette.
On August 10, 1967, he found one he liked. The fact that he knows the exact date 50 years after speaks volumes about King and Corvettes.
The woman who owned it was selling it to buy a new Chevy pickup. It was a 63 roadster with a 327 cubic inch 340 horsepower engine and a Borg-Warner 4-speed trans. Except for the engine, trans and a rare, optional 3.08:1 posi rearend, the Vette had few options.
It did have both the hard and soft top as well as an AM radio, but no power steering or brakes. With only 38,238 miles on the odometer, it was reasonably low mileage and in good condition. A plus to King was the color: Ford maroon.
Obviously, it was not original since the code on the data plate was 923A, Riverside Red, but King liked it and plopped down $1950 for it, then drove the former owner to the Chevy dealer to buy her pickup. He told himself, “This will be my forever car.”
About a year later, King swapped the wheels for rally ones from a 68 Vette. He also buffed out the paint.
“It looked really nice,” he said.
But he didn’t do much else but drive and maintain it until 2010. That’s when he decided to give it a sprucing up, but bring it back to even more original rather than modify it.
“I never really liked Riverside Red,” King said. “But I realized it would be stupid to paint it Ford maroon again.” So he repainted it in its original color.
He also rechromed the bumpers and redid the aluminum hood plates. Locating a set of properly date-coded 63 wheels, he put them on with the original hubcaps he’d kept.
He had the engine rebuilt, keeping the original block, heads and all other number-coded parts, as well as had the original production marks reproduced. Even all the glass is from when the car was built in 1963. The soft top was showing its age, so Ken replaced it with a correct one.
Inside, the car needed very little. “It’s mostly original,” he said. “I call it 95 percent original.”
The plastic chromed arm rest mountings were showing their age and he replaced them. The center armrest and the seat bolsters also were losing the test of time, so he replaced them.
Other than that, the entire interior is what rolled out of the factory when the car came off the assembly line on March 5, 1963.
Yes, King has researched that. He did change the bias-ply tires that squealed around corners and followed every groove in the road for Diamondback radials with stock-size whitewalls. “You have to make some adjustments,” he said.
After the Vette got its facelift, King drove it to San Diego, where it was awarded a Top Flight rating of 96 percent Original by the National Corvette Restorer’s Society at their 2012 National Convention. No mean feat, that.
But his Vette is no trailer queen, hauled to car shows to compete for trophies. Since buying it, he has put an additional 110,000 miles on the odometer. For him, the pleasure of owning a Vette is driving it.
And he has no plans to sell it. Ever. After all, it’s his “forever car.”
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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