Monday, February 23, 2015

"I LOVE YOUR CAR!"

... a young girl shouted as I drove my new (to me) 1976 Corvette around town. I smiled and waved at her, then commented to my bud—and certified car nut—Dave Preston, "That's never happened to me while driving my 89 Turbo Trans Am."

This is the sixth Vette I've owned. I've had a 1968, two 1971s, a 1975 (project car), and two 1976s.

I had the chrome-bumper C3s while I was a young kid, barely in my 20s. At that time, I had no idea of the future value of the car I drove.

One of the 76 Stingrays, I owned in my mid 20s. It was painted a bland shade of beige with dark brown interior (GM's to blame for that choice of colors, not me. I later replaced the brown interior with a red one, which was a much better choice) .

The car had the L-48 350 V8 coupled to an automatic tranny, and it was a dog, but I loved it just the same. Besides, I was living in North Miami Beach at the time, and I was 25.

The 1975 project Stingray was an impulse buy. At the time, I thought I wanted another project and—after reading way too many articles about LS conversions and restomodded Corvettes—I was sure I wanted to build one.

Well, I was wrong.

Yes, I wanted a Vette, but one that I could enjoy.

So I sold my project car (in a matter of days), and I kept looking at ads for local cars offered for sale. And then I spotted an ad on Craigslist for a beautiful, low-mile, all-original, 1976 Corvette Stingray.


I'll spare you the purchase and negotiation details, but I got it for a very reasonable amount.

Needless to say, price is always an important consideration. Plus you also have to factor in the "invisible" costs of classic car ownership. Things such as title transfer fees, license plate, insurance, and whatever mechanical things that will need to be addressed (with a pre-owned classic car there will always be mechanical issues), are factors that will afect the cost of the vehicle.

One thing I did was to determine ahead of time, the exact car I wanted. Having a clear idea of what you want is crucial for making the right purchase.

My list of "wants" included:

  • Corvette Stingray (1976 was the last year for the C3 Stingray)
  • 1970 through 1976
  • Ideally, a chrome-bumper model
  • A low-mile car
  • And the most important want... a 4-speed manual transmission

My '76 fulfilled most of the wants, and since it is a 2-owner vehicle (I am the third), with low miles (only 44,000 miles, which is low for a 38 year-old vehicle), and a manual transmission, this was the right car for me.

I picked up my car last Friday, and as I drove it home, I noticed many people taking a quick glance at the Stingray on the road. I even got a couple thumbs-up from passing motorists. I felt everyone loved the car. Well, almost everyone, as a brand spanking new Corvette drove past me, with the driver totally ignoring my classic Vette. I was going to nod at him, but he was busy driving. Or maybe the dude was lost in thought worrying about his monthly payments.


As I tinkered with my new toy in my garage, a couple of kids walked past. One of them took the time to tell me, "Nice Corvette!" He then proceeded to mention to his pals, "I've always liked the older Corvettes," as they walked home. And these kids were probably around 12 years old.

I really like my 1989 Turbo Trans Am, but C3 Corvettes are special, and I just love my new '76 Stingray.

There are of course a few details that I plan to address in the near future. Things such as recharging the air conditioner are important when you live in Florida. I also am in the process of repainting the rims the original silver color (the previous owner had them painted the body color). And I also want a better radio and speakers in the car.

The body has collected a few scars over the years, and I will address those in time. But for now, I don't want to have a "show" car. Instead, I want to enjoy this classic to the fullest, and that includes driving it to the local coffee shop and not worrying about someone parking too close to it.

I am going to enjoy my '76 Vette.


By the way, if you are interested in purchasing one of the best 1989 Turbo Trans Am 20th Anniversary models out there (one of only 1,555 built), I've consigned mine with Gateway Classic Cars of Orlando.