If you’re looking to stand out at the next cruise-in and still maintain your budget, you might want to consider this piece of Corvette history up for sale on Craigslist.
Back in the late ’60s and early to mid-’70s, Corvettes were not known for their great storage capacity, but Corvette entrepreneur extraordinaire Ralph Eckler proved to be a pioneer with his unique hatchback conversion that greatly increased the utility of the car while maintaining the original lines – several years before the ’82 Collector Edition debuted with a functional hatchback.
This 1975 Corvette, said to be the first Eckler’s Hatchback built and actually owned by Mr. Eckler himself, is being offered for just $25,000. Sounds reasonable for what you’re getting.
The car is said to be a multiple NCCC Best of Show trophy winner and remains in mint condition, and that’s not hard to believe since the car has just 6,599 miles on the odometer. It’s reported to have been garage kept its entire life, having never been driven on the road, just on and off the trailer at shows.
That relative lack of use means the car could use a tune-up to get it ready for street use again, the seller says, though it runs as is.
According to an article by Jim Prather in the October 1976 issue of Vette Vues, Eckler started with a 1975 coupe as the prototype, then completely redesigned the car from front to rear.
“I first saw the car at the recent NCCC Convention in Orlando, Florida,” Prather wrote some 44 years ago, “and was very impressed and excited with the beauty, added interior space, and yet retaining the basic Corvette lines. We’d very much like to see the 1978 Corvette use some of the concepts of this beauty, at least as far as the rear hatchback design!”
Prather listed special features of the car, including electrically operated double-latched hatchback door (GM latches) that was operated from the passenger compartment; test-proven automotive positive weatherseal around the hatchback door; increased usable cargo space with improved accessibility; standard tempered, tinted, safety glass with electric defrost element; stainless steel moldings for corrosion resistance; specially designed interior side panels and one-piece underbody panel; gas filler door relocated into a recessed area of the center body panel; Eckler’s custom C-530 Monza Tilt Front-end with special hydraulic/pneumatic lift mechanism; custom rectangular headlight assemblies with clear plexiglass covers; “street use” front spoiler; and 8½-inch front and 10-inch rear American Mag wheels with GR60 and LR50 BF Goodrich radial tires.
The paint consists of nine color coats of Emberlite Firemist Gold Lacquer, one coat of clear lacquer containing “Diamond Dust” particles, and 10 coats of clear lacquer hand rubbed for a final finish.
Prather wrote that the prototype car required a complete strip-down, including the replacement of the entire frame, and repair of many other mechanical parts before construction of the new design could begin.
Much attention was paid to minor details, including the firewall, underside of all fender wells, and the underside of the complete tilt front-end that were sanded smooth, filled in, and sprayed with black Gelcoat.
The engine block was stripped and repainted with many components chrome plated, and the interior included complete re-upholstering in genuine saddle leather, custom door panels with special woodgrain inserts, color-coordinated plush cut-pile carpeting, and woodgrain panel inserts in the center console.
Prather wrote that the total design and building time was well over 12 months, with six months of concept and design and six months of the actual building of molds and preparation of the car for NCCC Convention competition, where the car took first place for full custom its first time out in July 1976.
We don’t know how many of these hatchbacks were eventually sold that were said to fit on all 1968-76 coupes and convertibles, but Prather did write that the kits included “everything you need” except the window glass that was available from your local auto glass dealer.