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Now or Never: A story of how my Corvette returned to my family

Jayce Yale

I have read and listened to a lot of car stories over the years, and found them to be just as interesting as the cars themselves. This one is up there on my list of craziest car stories.

As a young kid, you could find me sprawled out on the floor with dozens of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. I had two large bins of toy cars, and would always let my imagination run wild as I would set up make believe car chases and races. Having so many different makes and models of toy cars allowed me to learn how to identify cars out on the road as I traveled along in the back of my parents’ vehicles.

Sometimes I would watch my Saturday morning cartoons; other times, I would watch Stacey David on TV try to put a vehicle back together. Although I had no idea what Stacey David was doing, I thought it was cool because it was about cars. One of my favorite shows growing up was the Dukes of Hazzard because of the General Lee. In fact, my Dad installed a Dixie horn on his suburban just like the General Lee had. Every once in a while, I would pass a red C3 Corvette while riding around with my Mom, and she would mention she had always wanted a red Corvette.

One spring weekend in 2005 my family was at the beach in Ocean City, Md.. Unknown to us, it was the annual Cruisin’ Weekend where thousands of classic cars gather to cruise up and down the Ocean City strip of Coastal Highway. As we walked around and looked at some cars, my Mom mentioned to my Dad about wanting a red Corvette, which was news to him. We found a couple parked for sale there, and my Mom really started looking at them hard. A couple weeks later, she found the one she wanted on eBay. It was a custom 1979 candy apple red Corvette for sale in the Midwest. After an appraiser checked it out in person to make sure the seller was listing its condition accurately, my Mom bought the car sight unseen, and had it shipped to Baltimore. A family friend let us borrow his car trailer so my parents could pick it up.

I remember being in the driveway shooting hoops when the trailer pulled in. It was love at first sight as I looked over the custom paint. The color, the body lines, and the stance made it the sexiest car I had ever seen. When I think of a red Corvette, this is what comes to my mind. My Dad popped the hood, and I had no clue what I was looking at underneath. But suddenly, I wanted to know what I was looking at, and how engines worked. Social Media did not exist yet, so checking out rides was done at local car shows. I quickly learned about the important things in the car hobby, as I witnessed folks who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on their cars throw tantrums when they did not win a trophy, and be too afraid to drive the car for risk of paint flaws. I learned to appreciate the old school, and to enjoy your vehicle.

From car shows on TV such as Overhaulin’, to a couple rebuild manuals, to looking at all the different engines at car shows I slowly figured out what I was looking at, and how cars worked. My family enjoyed taking the car to local shows, parades, Cruisin’ Weekend, and Corvette Weekend at the beach. I always enjoyed riding with my Dad because he would rev the engine up at shows, and occasionally break the tires loose at red lights. As I progressed through high school, I started getting excited to earn my driver’s license to hopefully have a chance to drive the Corvette.

On a rare occasion, I got to do so, and it was an experience unlike any other. In high school, guidance counselors would preach to us about doing something we enjoy for our future career. Since cars were what I enjoyed the most, I decided my college education and career path would be automotive related. I graduated from Delaware Tech with an associate degree in Automotive Technology, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Automotive Management from Ferris State University in Michigan. I currently work for a large transportation services company as a Fleet Maintenance Supervisor.

None of this would have happened if my Mom had not purchased the Corvette. One evening after pulling the Corvette into the garage, my Dad noticed the inside of the Corvette was filled with smoke, and the blower motor was running. Some mice had made a meal from wiring, which created a short circuit that melted the fuse block. It almost put the car and garage up in flames. We were able to find a specialty Corvette shop, and have them replace the wiring harness and rebuild the rear end, which have been the most extensive repairs made to the car since we have owned it. We also had the interior replaced since it was faded and the seats were worn out.

Shortly after I graduated from college, my Dad was diagnosed with terminal gallbladder cancer out of the clear blue. His battle with the disease did not go well, and unfortunately he passed away less than a year later. Some of the memories of my Dad I will always cherish include riding around in the Corvette listening to AC/DC’s The Razor’s Edge album on cassette. After my Dad’s passing, the car did not get used much as I became a working adult and homeowner, and the car became another item on my Mom’s list of things needing fixed or dealt with. My Mom started talking about selling the car, but there was no way I would post it up for sale myself. There was a for-sale sign in the car, but it would “mysteriously” disappear whenever I drove the Corvette.

I wanted to buy the car, but did not have a garage, or have much time outside of work, and talked myself out of buying it. I felt it was not what I wanted but was for the best. I had hoped someone far away would buy the Corvette so I would not see it around locally with a stranger behind the wheel. Of course my mom found a buyer for the car that only lived 25 minutes away. During the late summer of 2018 I took the Corvette for a final drive the day before the new owners would be picking it up. The buyers were a retired couple, and the gentleman wanted to have a classic car again after owning a ’68 Camaro when he was younger. The car was driven to their home and tagged, and that was the only time the car was driven by the new owners.

Unfortunately, the gentleman had some heart problems and passed away just a few months after buying the car. On a Friday in April of 2019, I had a notification on Facebook that my half-brother had commented on post in a for-sale group. I clicked on the notification out of curiosity to see what he was buying. The notification brought me to his comment, where he tagged my Mom and said, “Look familiar?” I scrolled up and saw the Corvette was for sale! At first, I was confused as to why the couple would be selling the car so soon, but then I had a fight or flight response. It was now or never. I wanted this car since my family first purchased it, but I passed when the opportunity came up. Now, less than a year later, I had another opportunity to purchase it. I realized I either had to purchase the car now, or else I would never see it or have an opportunity to buy it again. I just could not pass it up again. I do not have a garage, but I would find a way to store the car.

I had to have the car, and this time I bought it! I messaged the person posting the car that Friday afternoon, and explained I was very interested in the car, and was the son of the woman who sold them the car. The person that posted the listing was the owner’s nephew, and he referred me to his aunt to discuss buying the car. He gave me her Facebook info, and I sent her a message. The following morning I had not received a reply yet. I knew I had to act fast so the car would not be sold from under me. I messaged her nephew again to try and get her phone number to call her, and he provided her number. I gave her a call at lunch time and was told someone was coming the next day to buy the car.

At this point I was desperate, and would do just about anything to get the car back. She told me she would accept a cashier’s check if I could meet her that day to buy the car. I drove to the bank as soon as I got off the phone with her, and made it to the bank fifteen minutes before it closed. I had a friend give me a ride to her house that evening to purchase the car. I learned of her husband’s passing, and surely had sympathy for her as I lost my Dad a couple years prior. Sometimes when you sell a car like this, it gets driven hard, wrecked, damaged, or taken apart, but my drive home would be the first time the car had been driven since the new owners drove the car home from my parent’s house. What are the odds of that?! The car was exactly how we left it. Naturally, the first place I drove it to was my parents’ house.

My first drive as the owner was overwhelming. I thought of my Dad, all the memories I had of the car, and just could not believe it had been sold only for me to buy it back. What a story! The car is beat into my brain as being my Mom’s car, and I am not sure if that will ever change. One thing that certainly will not change is hands of ownership, since I never intend to get rid of this car. I will never be able to have my Dad back, but I was able to get the Corvette back. After quite a story, the car I envied for the past 14 years is finally mine!

About the Car: Paint- Custom mixed Candy Apple Red with black pearl graphics over silver base coat and clear coated. Painted in 1991 by Joe’s Fiberglass/Restoration in O’Fallon, MO Powertrain- Replacement 350 bored .40 over into a 388, 375hp, stroked with a 400 crank, hydraulic cam and lifters, LT1 heads, Edelbrock hi-rise manifold, Holley 750 carb, flat top pistons, 4-bolt main, double roller timing chain, running 9.1 compression. Factory auto trans rebuilt with a shift kit, 3.55 rear end Built in 1991 by Wayne Bennet Racing in Phoenix, AZ Interior- Pace Car seats, modern Kenwood radio, wood accents, steering wheel engraved with Zora Duntov’s signature, rear cargo sport deck Appearance- Daytona hi-rise hood, 24k gold plated emblems, bubble tail lights, American Racing wheels, ground effects

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