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The Chevrolet Corvette: Love At First Flight

Florida Pickers Has Two Classics Available

"Corvette" was an old term used to describe small warships that were first used in the 1670s by the French Navy.

How it ended up the name for the model destined to become the fifth longest running automobile ever produced, sandwiched between the Toyota Land Cruiser (1951) and Mercedes SL (1954), is the subject for another column.

In case you wondered, the Chevrolet Suburban, still in production, which made the scene in 1933, is the oldest auto in production today.

Because sports cars were the ilk of foreign manufacturers like MG, Triumph, Jaguar, BMW and Austin Healey, to name a few, when the Corvette was introduced it was destined to become "America's Sports Car," making it, touch and go, through 7 generations.

In 2020, the all new C8 variant will hit the road with a mid-engine prototype now making the rounds at select Chevrolet dealerships to give an admiring and anxious public a taste of what's in store.

Flashing back to the beginning, our darling car-ling Corvette, was rushed into production after it generated a buzz as a concept car at the General Motors' Motorama show in 1953.

On June 30 of that year the first C1 exited the assembly line, and a perennial icon was etched in history.

Yet because of a lukewarm reception before it gained momentum only 300 were built making the '53 Corvette one of the most difficult Vettes to lay your hands, and eyes, on. #181 was purchased by a collector in 1972 for just $5,000. That same car with less than 10,000 original miles on the ticker brought $660,000 at auction in 2014.

And that wasn't even close to the record sales figure for a Corvette.

The top two highest priced Corvettes were both L88s, each one of only 20, from 1967.

These record breakers brought $3.4 million and $2.86 million respectively.

Our Corvettes featured in FP this week are, as promised, show stoppers starting with a '56 black and white example with red interior priced at $69,000.

One of 3,467 built, these upgraded C1s will continue to bring top dollar. This example was bought by Ron Jaquette three or four years ago from "a preacher who had owned it for a while," Ron relates.

"I always wanted a '53," he muses. "But I guess that's not going to happen. This is my last one," says Ron, who is in 80s.

At a younger age, Mike Silvester, manager of the Corvette Shop & Supplies Inc. in Tampa is the owner's son-in-law.

He exudes the air of "nice job if you can get it" demonstrated by the smile on his face, as he can look forward to an endless procession of Corvettes in his Dale Mabry showroom south of Hwy. 275.

Not because he married into the best seats in the house, but because when he was just 13 years old he spotted neighbors both driving classic Vettes.

That was in Brandon, and in the afternoon, when he got out of school, one of those lucky neighbors who restored cars put him to work sanding and prepping them for paint.

Mike had discovered his calling, and never looked back.

Mike has given FP permission to post two of his special Corvettes.

To begin with, a 1962 C1 which was the final year of this first gen series and one of 14,531 built, for sale at $65,000.

Then there is his pride and joy, a '66 C2 Corvette Stingray, priced at a whopping $85,000 with rare factory A/C.

Those who buy and drive Corvettes "are a crazy culture," says Mike. "Everyone falls in love for a different reason.

"I can't figure it out."

But Corvette drivers can relate.

It's love at first flight.


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