Cherished Race Car becomes Timeless Family Legacy
As a handsome bachelor, Charles was an Air Force pilot in Florida, skillfully flying super fast F-86 Sabre jets and living a life of adventure and service in the 1950’s. It was there he developed a love for something else that was fast- the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette convertible. An early fan of the Corvette in general, Charles had owned a 1954 model, traded it in for a 1955 model and then made his last trade for the 1957 Corvette convertible in October 1956. The car was #132 of 6,339 produced. A beautiful Venetian Red with contrasting Shoreline Beige side coves, red waffle interior, a beige hard top and whitewall tires, the car was a stunner. Packing a 283 cubic-inch V8, dual carbs and a three-speed transmission, the ‘Vette ran like the wind. He had no idea at the time it would be a timeless classic that would become a cherished family legacy car.
Some say the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette was destined for greatness even when the car first rolled out. The overall design was similar to the 1956 model year, but the 1957 model had a host of new performance options. Older Corvette’s looked good with sleek lines and a sexy road presence, but lacked true speed.
Engineering chief Zora Arkus-Duntov convinced Chevrolet to invest in building beautiful cars that had top performance capabilities, which would bring victory on international racetracks. His design changes for the 1957 model did not disappoint and brought on the power, featuring the 283 cubic-inch V8 with either a three or four-speed manual transmission, a dual four-barrel carb set-up, or the exciting new Rochester fuel-injection system that could produce 283 horsepower for an impressive one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch. The 1957 Corvette quickly became a performance legend.
Charles wasted no time to enjoy everything the car had to offer and raced at the storied Daytona Beach racetrack on February 3, 1957 when the track was still sand. He ran an impressive speed of over 110 miles per hour, becoming a member of the Daytona Beach Century Club and was featured in an article in the Tyndall Air Force Base newspaper. The article caught the eye of a young lady named Martha who soon became his wife. She too, developed a love for the special little convertible that brought them together.
Soon, Charles became a family man but now the 1957 Corvette was also a part of the family. He stylishly drove the car as a daily vehicle and in 1962 the car hit 99,999 miles, a true milestone. Family photos show the car as a part of their everyday lives, with pictures of Martha smiling in the passenger seat or the car parked in the driveway with their young children in the yard. It was a typical white-picket-fence, ordinary life with an extraordinary car.
Charles continued to drive the Corvette late into the late 1960’s and then kept the car garaged until his retirement in the 1990’s when he began to do a home restoration on his beloved convertible. By this time, his youngest daughter Leigh had married and she and her husband Bob often visited Charles and shared his love of the car and assisted in restoring it. When Charles passed, he left his prized vehicle to Bob to take care of and to make sure it’s maintained at the highest level. In a beautiful gesture, the car was passed down to the next generation.
According to Bob, “I fell in love with the car. I helped Charles a lot when he restored it. He did a great job, but when I inherited the car Leigh and I decided to take it to the next level.”
They had a lot to work with- this gorgeous 1957 Corvette convertible has matching numbers, the original drivetrain and the unusual beige plastic hard top is also factory original. “According to some experts, the hard top should have been Venetian Red,” explains Bob. “This car came originally with the light colored top because it was sold in Florida…or so we think. He was the original owner and that’s how this car came. The photo of Martha was taken in 1957 and you can see it’s a light colored top.”
The car also has the original engine, transmission and rear end. According to Bob, the only thing not original was the intake manifold and carburetors Charles had traded to his brother back in the day. “He traded it for a single four-barrel carburetor because it drove better in normal street use,” Bob explained.
Under the care of Bob and Leigh, the rare roadster received an extensive restoration that took 7 months and was recently completed to its former full glory as if it just rolled off the showroom. The process was a true labor of love and a nod to Charles.
“We had a carburetor expert build up the correct dual four carburetor when it was restored.” said Bob. “That was the only thing that was not original. It was a 245 HP with the hydraulic lifter, which you can see on the original invoice. We eventually bought the correct intake and carbs and Charles got to see that before he passed away.”
Thus, the torch was passed and this cutting edge performance racecar from the 50’s took its place in time as a classic for another generation. Today, Bob and Leigh enjoy their newly restored 1957 Corvette convertible with friends and family, going on lovely drives and to the occasional car show, saving the experience for special occasions.
“Charles wanted the car to be taken care of and treated right,” says Bob. “And he knew we would do that”.
Great story! Beautiful car! Thank you for sharing!