Ron Cherry: Second time around with a Midyear Corvette
May 25, 2018
Back in 1971, Ed Arroyo ordered a new Datsun 240Z. At the time, these sport coupes were so popular that there was a waiting list for delivery. He was working at his father's body shop in San Francisco at the time and growing tired of waiting after six months with no delivery when they towed a stolen-recovery red '66 Vette roadster into their storage yard.
The car was nicely optioned, with rare power windows and air conditioning. However, many parts had been stripped from the car by the thieves and the car wasn't worth the money then that it would be now. Eventually, his father ended up with the Vette for the charges against it.
"I was really a Chevy kid," he said. "So I cancelled the 240Z and got it from my dad."
He soon put it back on the road, with a black convertible top and factory sidepipes, plus a hidden "kill switch" that stopped the car from running when it was off to prevent a recurrence.
A stroke of bad luck
When wife Marilyn parked it at the Safeway where she worked, she didn't use the kill switch and, as fate would have it, it was again stolen.
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"I was in a panic," Ed said. "I didn't have comp insurance. I talked to a tough guy who was a friend of a friend and not long after he told me where to find it sitting on blocks."
It had been stripped again, but Ed was becoming an expert on reassembly and put it back together. Although he and his wife loved the car, a house was more important so he sold it in 1975.
"I got $3,500 for it," he remembered. "It'd be worth a small fortune now."
In 2009, another Midyear Corvette came his way. Ed owned a body shop in San Francisco when a car dealer around the corner, Classic Car West, brought him a red '65 Vette roadster for a minor repair. It had a small crack in the fiberglass above the license plate holder.
The car was in relatively good condition inside and out, with a white convertible top, plus optional knock-off wheels, teak steering wheel and an AM/FM radio with a power antenna. The running gear was in great shape, with a mild 300 horsepower 327 cubic inch engine with a 4-speed trans.
"I decided that car wasn't going to leave my shop," he said. "It was going to replace the Vette I sold."
He bought it. Since his 40th anniversary was approaching, he had an idea. After fixing the crack, he drove it home, parked it in the garage and put a big red bow on top of it. Then he brought out his wife.
"When Marilyn saw it, she started crying," he said. "She said, 'What have you done? How much have you spent?' After about 20 minutes, she came back and said, 'I want a black top and sidepipes like the other Vette had.'"
Once the Vette was truly a part of the family, Ed set about doing a frame-on restoration.
"I was going to retire soon, and figured I'd better do it while I still owned a body shop," he said.
He did a repaint, replaced all weatherstripping, refurbished the gauges and "replaced every wire in the car, dash, lights, everything." Inside, he pulled up the carpet, installed Dynamat insulation, redyed the faded carpet and reinstalled it. He also put on new seat covers. It didn't have power steering, so he bought an aftermarket power steering gearbox, but found he would have to cut the steering shaft to install it.
"I went for stock power-assisted steering instead," he said. "The new gearbox is sitting on a shelf."
The Vette did not have the optional hard top, but he found one at the L.A. Roadster Show in Pomona, California.
"I almost had to fight a guy who wanted it too," he said. "I repainted it red, redid the headliner and replaced the weatherstripping. Since then, it just sits in the garage."
Most importantly, he changed the convertible top to a black one and installed sidepipes.
After retiring and moving up here, Ed found a period-correct 365 horsepower 327 cubic inch engine, bought it and rebuilt it to factory specs in 2017.
"It's got the Duntov 30-30 cam, solid lifters, double-hump heads, a Chevy high-rise intake and a Holley carb," he said.
That translates to the second-highest horsepower 327 engine built that year, with the highest having a mechanical fuel injection. However, going with the high compression of 1966 has created a problem: pinging.
"In the '60s, we had high octane gas, but it's not the same now," he said. "I'm buying octane booster in five gallon cans. But it doesn't ping now."
Fun for the whole family
Although it is actually Marilyn's Vette since it was an anniversary gift, she is generous about time behind the wheel.
"I usually drive the car, but she does like driving it," he said. "It is her car. Our son Gerry enjoys driving it too. We let him use it. We're not uptight about it."
The Vette stays in NorCal, but Ed said, "I make the most of the car."
One fun thing is to pick up his two grandchildren from school once a month. Since they don't get out at the same time, he's able to pick them up separately in the two-seater.
"The kids love it," he said.
Although the Vette gets used, it does not get abused.
"I drive it easy and enjoy it," he said. "I don't push it hard because I don't want to break anything and have to fix it."
The plan is for this second-time-around Vette to be around a long time.
Ron Cherry's books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, "The St. Nicholas Murders," is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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