Matt Rodriguez made it back more than 40 years ago from Vietnam, where he worked as a crew chief on a chopper.
After he returned to the States in 1970, he began a 30-year career with General Motors in the tool and dye department. That’s when he also started his long love affair with Corvettes, picking up a used 1968 model that he later sold to buy a new 1980.
“When you are young, everyone wants a Corvette, and I had an opportunity,” Rodriguez said.
He wishes he still had that first Corvette, but the custom 1981 model he owns now has a soft spot in his heart, too.
“It didn’t look like that when I got it,” he says. “It was kind of messed up.”
After overhauling the engine and adding a new paint job and interior, among other things, Rodriguez will be showing his pearl white creation during the eighth annual Old Town Motorfest on Sunday, July 21 from noon to 4 p.m. in Old Town Saginaw, Michigan.
Steve Snow, co-owner of Dynamic Corvettes at 308 N. Hamilton St., Saginaw has worked for more than a decade with Rodriguez on the restoration of his ’81. Snow is helping organize this year’s show and believes about 4,000 to 5,000 people will turn out to look at some 200 classic cars and motorcycles lining the way along South Hamilton and Court streets.
Registration for the event takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday at The Saginaw News office, inside the Ippel Building at 100 S. Michigan Ave. Cost to enter a vehicle is $15. Admission to the show is free to the public.
Registered car owners have a chance to win cash prizes every 30 minutes with trophies for Best of Show, Best Engine, Best Interior, Best Paint and Best Motorcycle presented at the conclusion of the show. The Saginaw News also plans to present its second annual “Headliner Award” at the show for a vehicle that “really turns some heads.”
Snow and the crew at Dynamic Corvettes have helped Rodriguez restore his Corvette since he bought it in 2000 from a dealer in Holton.
For example, the pop-up headlights have been replaced with custom, sunken-in lights, and as is the case for many of us, Rodriguez’ car is always a work in progress. In fact, he’s just ordered a new custom hood that will be the next step in the restoration.
“Every year we do something new to it,” Snow said. “Some guys take a bit at a time and some do it all at once. It’s a nice car.”
Snow says the car is customized to the personal taste of Rodriguez. “Some people prefer the custom look, and others like to keep it original,” Snow says.
It’s a car that Rodriguez says he loves cruising around town and going to car shows. “It’s a car,” he says. “Put miles on it – that’s what they are designed for.”
Ironically, Rodriguez bought his first Corvette at a shop in Kalamazoo, the same place where Snow started his 40-year career working on Corvettes.
Snow said he’s expecting “perfect car show weather” on Sunday when everything from street rods and low riders to classics will be on display.
Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-70s.
“I think we’ll have a great turnout,” Snow said. “It’s about enjoying Old Town. If you don’t have a chance to come here normally, it’s a reason to walk around. With the shops and restaurants it’s a great place to do a show. It’s something different to do on a Sunday.”
Old Town Motorfest is organized by the Old Town Saginaw Association with help from Dynamic Corvettes and Bay Valley Corvette Club. Proceeds from the event are donated to various charitable organizations.
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