The date was June 29, 1966 and that young man was my father. Little did he know that his actions, 41 years ago today, would set into motion a chain of events that would forever change the life of his yet unborn son. Think I’m being dramatic? Read on…
Phillip Cornett was working for Ethicon, a division of Johnson and Johnson. That year, J&J awarded the top salesman from each of their divisions a 1966 Ford Mustang. My father won the Mustang, but being a Chevy man he said “What would I do with an old Ford?” The day he picked up the Mustang, he drove it Rohrer Chevrolet in Camden, New Jersey and traded it in for a 1966 Corvette.
The 1966 Corvette he purchased was the base model, a 327 cubic inch 300 horsepower engine coupled to a 4-speed transmission. It was a convertible, painted Tuxedo Black with Silver interior. The only options including the 4-speed were positraction, an AM/FM radio and whitewall tires. Total cost for the Corvette was $4,639.15. Phillip received $2,439.15 for the Mustang and agreed to make 36 payments of $70.28 per month to cover the difference. With Tags, Title and interest on the GMAC loan, his out-of-pocket cost was $2,530.08
My mother, who was dating Phillip at the time, used to refer to the Corvette “Phillip’s Last Fling”. They traveled up and down the east coast in that Corvette, visiting family and friends on Chesapeake Bay or cruising through the mountains to eastern Kentucky for family reunions.
Phillip and Carole got married the following year, and I came along a year after that.
I grew up in that car, going on drives with my dad, to car shows at the town square, or on parts runs to the local speed shop. The file on the Corvette grew as he rebuilt the engine in the mid seventies. It’s funny now that I’m involved in the same hobby to see who he was dealing with back then. I have receipts from all kinds of parts companies including a couple from “T Michaelis Corvette Supplies Inc”, which we know today as ProTeam.
My father passed away in 1982 at the age of 44. The Corvette sat in a barn in Indiana for eleven years. We would joke with my mother that she was the “Widow” with an old Corvette in the barn. Many tried to buy it but none succeeded. Just prior to Thanksgiving in 1993 she said “Come get it if you want it”. I don’t remember what triggered that conversation, but I do know that my wife and I flew to Chicago from Tampa that following weekend, picking it up before she could change her mind. We made the trip back to Tampa by towing the Corvette on a u-haul car hauler with a pickup truck borrowed from a friend.
Two years later I was doing what I had set out to do in college, selling advertising for a major market television station. But I came to hate that job and frankly it hated me, so in the fall of 1995 we went our separate ways. Filling my free time by surfing the web and teaching myself HTML, I built my first website, The Route 66 Corvette page which was of course dedicated to my 1966 Corvette.
My second website was built for a guy in Colorado who wanted to help people buy and sell Corvettes through a dedicated classified ads website. It was February 1996 and that site was www.VetteFinders.com. Four years later I bought out the owner and as of today, over 12,000 Corvettes have been bought and sold through the website. Other sites came later, www.CorvetteImages.com in 2003 and then www.CorvetteBlogger.com, the first dedicated Corvette blog was launched the summer in 2005.
Someday my son Phillip will know what it’s like to be behind the wheel of this car, shifting quickly though the 4-speed while the wind blows through the open cockpit and the exhaust roars. Perhaps he will think of me the same way I think about my father, riding shotgun silently beside me like Private Malone.
But that’s the future.
Today I sit at the computer in my home while my kids play close by. The phone will ring and I will answer a question from someone wanting to buy or sell a Corvette. And this story that I posted on my blog will be read by a couple thousand people.
All because a young man bought a 1966 Corvette Convertible 41 years ago today…
A Corvette Thanksgiving