Customs & Classics
Sometimes it's easy to believe that some things are just meant to be.
In 1969 just two days before Taranaki youngster Chris Jury was celebrating his eighth birthday, a brand-new C3 series Chevrolet Corvette convertible rolled off the production line in St Louis, Missouri.
Painted a hue called cortez silver and with a gunmetal grey interior, the big-block 427 cubic inch V8-powered sportscar was soon on its way to a dealer in Southern California, where it was sold to its first proud owner.
All this was taking place at exactly the same time that Jury was developing a love of Chevy Corvettes. He doesn't know why it happened, it might even have been because he was given a Matchbox Toy model of one for his birthday, but the eight year-old was convinced the vehicle was the most beautiful car in the world.
It certainly was good-looking. It's design had been inspired by the Mako Shark II concept car that the Chevrolet division of General Motors had developed as a show vehicle, its bodyshell featured a long shark-like pointed snout, and its body lines dramatically flowed over the front and rear wheels.
As a result the C3 convertible quickly became possibly the most recognisable Corvette of all. The model line had had its beginnings way back in 1953 when the inaugural C1 series was built using the chassis and suspension of the 1952 Chevrolet sedan, and it had been improved from 1963 with the so-called "mid-years" C2 series which had been dubbed the Sting Ray.
Then came the C3 Corvette, the famous generation that proved so popular it remained in production for a full 14 years. While the cars built in 1968 were simple known as Corvettes, from 1969 they once again became known as Stingray, the difference being that this time the moniker was one word instead of two.
And now, coming up 45 years later, Jury owns the very Corvette Stingray that was produced so close to his birthday.
He loves the car, and he knows all about every centimetre of it. He can tell you that virtually every part of the car is original, with its carburettor the only component of note that isn't. He knows this because he has his Corvette's original "tank sticker", a copy of the car's order form that is traditionally glued to the top of every Corvette's petrol tank, which means he can match the serial numbers of various components on his car with those on the order form.
"That's also how I know who the original dealer was, and that his business was in San Deigo in southern California," says Chris.
This is actually the fourth Corvette that Jury has owned.
His first was a 1980 model that had been won by a 20-year-old New Plymouth man in a brewery-sponsored competition, and he was too young to get it insured. So Jury purchased it, and happily used it until he sold the car to get married. Then he purchased a 1985 C4 version in 2000, and followed that up with a 1994 C4 which he owned for two years.
"But I'd always had a hankering to own what I considered to be my dream Corvette, a C3," he explains.
"My plan was that it should preferably be a roadster, and with a big- block engine, and with the chrome bumpers front and rear that were a feature of the models up to 1972."
So he headed to USA to find one. The first such model was being sold by a classic car dealership on behalf of its owner at Dublin not far from San Francisco.
"I looked all over the car and it seemed very good to me. Corvettes have a glass fibre body built over a steel frame, so with the older classic models you need to get them up on a hoist and look underneath. This one was good, but there were others I wanted to look at so we headed to Texas to study another.
"That Corvette looked good too, but we decided that the first one ticked all the boxes so we headed back to Dublin and purchased it."
Jury says he doubts he will ever sell the car, particularly considering his discovery that it was built on a day so close to his eighth birthday.
"I might like to own a newer one as well, but I don't think I'll sell this one. It's too good," he adds.
He's right, too, the vehicle has won the title of Best C3 at an impressive four of the last five national Corvette conventions.
Taranaki hosts the Corvette Nationals from February 21 to 23 with around of the vehicles expected to attend.
The first Corvette, dubbed C1, rolled off the assembly line in 1953 while the latest model is the just-released C7, and it is hoped that at least one example will be in Taranaki for this month's event.
- © Fairfax NZ News