The story behind a Corvette is what makes it stand out in a crowd.
Take this 1960 Corvette, which has had just two very conscientious owners since rolling out of the factory in St. Louis, Mo., not once but twice.
The original owner, a teacher named Ed Graye from West Frankfort, Ill., ordered the car with the “big” 290hp, fuel-injected 283 engine with a three-speed manual because he wanted to drag race it on the streets.
After he’d owned the car just two weeks, Graye realized that the engine was actually the 250hp 283 fuelie, known as the “small” fuelie.
He went back to his dealer in El Dorado, Mo., and protested. He found out the factory apparently ran out of “big” fuelies while his was coming down the assembly line and substituted the “small fuelie” instead. Here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn.
Instead of just telling Graye he was sorry but it was too late, the dealer actually had the car loaded on a trailer and towed 100 miles back to the factory, where they pulled the small fuelie and plugged in a 270-horsepower dual-quad 283. It wasn’t that simple, though, as the factory workers also had to install a new tachometer, a bigger radiator, and other items specific to this high-performance small-block.
How’s that for customer service?
We know all this because Graye’s neighbor, Gary Skinner, was there. He says the switch made Graye a happy man and he drove the ’60 “real hard” until 1968 when he parked it and never drove it again. Skinner thinks he knows why.
“He told me at 150 (mph) the left front tire went down and he almost flipped it,” Skinner recalls. “That was in 1968. He never drove it again.”
Despite efforts by Skinner and others over the ensuing years, Graye seemed determined that he would not sell the Corvette, despite parking it in a shed for a couple of years before building a pole barn to cover it.
Finally, patience proved to be a virtue for Skinner.
“When he got ready to sell it, I was third on his list,” Skinner recalls. “His sister didn’t want it. His son had just started a new business and couldn’t afford it. So I ended up with it.”
Skinner, who had actually ridden in the Corvette when it was new, finally became its owner in 1986, paying Graye $7,500. Just three weeks later, he turned down $25,000 for the car at the Chicago Vette Fest at McCormick Place.
“There, all the Corvette people got to see it,” Skinner says. “My intentions were to restore it. After I talked to them they said don’t you dare restore that car. Keep it as is, so that’s what I did.”
Skinner has proven to be a great caretaker of the car over the past 29 years, trailering it to big shows in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
“Every place I take it, it gets something. It’s just an eye-catcher,” he says.
Skinner bought the car with just 11,110 miles on the odometer. Now it shows just 760 miles more, mainly from driving it on and off the trailer, in parades, and on short trips close to home.
Skinner believes as a result, it may be the lowest mileage and most original survivor around.
“I’ve messed with Corvettes for quite a while now,” he says. “I think this Corvette is probably the most original ’60 model in existence.”
And it’s all thanks to two very caring Corvette owners who wound up living next to each other for years.
What a story that makes.
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