A svelte Corvette with fine lines | TheUnion.com

A svelte Corvette with fine lines

Hari Matsuda loves rounding off sharp corners. As an industrial designer, he’s made his reputation doing exactly that, having invented the Soft Tech

style that’s applied to such products as cameras and computers.

Thus, it shouldn’t be any surprise that he likes the look of the Corvette, one of which he has – a 1955 model.

“When the Corvette first came out in 1953,” says Matsuda, “it was a style I fell in love with.” Even though he was just a kid then, he seemed born to appreciate the styling of the 1950s. Indeed, it became the foundation for his design work.

How he purchased his Corvette is a story worth telling. A California native who moved to the Chicago area, Matsuda attended a car auction there. “There were three Corvettes for sale,” he says, “a red one which sold immediately, a black one which was too expensive, and the third to come up, a white one.

“That’s what I wanted.” The bidding was off and running, with paddles stabbing the air right and left. Finally, Matsuda was in a dead heat with only one other person, who also dropped out. Turned out that person was a dealer who wanted a real bargain so he could resell the car. Thus, Matsuda ended up getting the Corvette for below dealer price (and he won’t tell us what that was – drat!).

More good news: The car had low mileage on it (about 78,000) partly because it had been kept in a showroom for five years. Once Matsuda got it – three years ago and restored – he parked it in his garage and has only driven it 40 miles since then.

Not only does Matsuda have a good eye for design, he also knows high performance cars because he drives them himself – having raced his Porsche for 14 years – and teaches others how to drive them. He can tell you, for instance, how fast to take a corner posted for 45 mph if it has been raining for five minutes or for five hours.

Fast forward to the fall of 2003. On a glorious day of single digits in Chicago, Matsuda decided to relocate. So he wandered around California until a friend encouraged him to come to Nevada County. The rest, as they say, is history.

He liked what he saw, bought a house in Nevada City and immediately joined the Roamin Angels Car Club – good decisions, all. Not only is he a member of that club, but also of a Porsche club and a Corvette club, called the Straight Axle Club – a tribute to the earlier Corvette’s design that makes the tires bounce a lot on the road. “It’s so bad,” he says, “we love it. It actually drives like a pickup.”

Another part of his Corvette’s distinctive but impractical design is the panoramic windshield. “Visually, it’s a great idea,” says its owner, “but it precludes side windows,” a feature anyone who has a smoker in their car misses. But it does have a V8 engine, and that counts for a lot to a person who loves speed.

Matsuda spends his days now thinking of new product designs, working on his several cars – one of which is a race car – and setting his alarm early on Friday mornings so he can get to breakfast with the Angels (“I couldn’t believe it when they said I had to get there before 6 a.m. or I wouldn’t find a seat,” he laughs). He likes working on his Corvette “because I can see concrete when I open the hood.”

By this spring, he expects to be driving the Corvette around and about, but he doesn’t expect to get the same reaction to it here as he once got in Evanston, Ill., when the driver of another classical vehicle (a Mercedes) came to a dead stop, blocking traffic, as he queried Matsuda about his Corvette. Or the time he was awaiting AAA for roadside service and a guy driving on the other side of the highway made a U-turn just to come and talk. “Classic cars are rare in the mid-West,” he says in explanation.

While classics aren’t rare here in Nevada County, it will be a pleasure to see the svelte Corvette around town. It might even be in the next Roamin Angels’ car show this spring.

Check out more about Matsuda at his Web site: haridesign. com.


Pam Jung writes about classic cars for The Union. She welcomes ideas for stories and can be reached at 265-8064.

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