When Dale Lake bought this 1972 Corvette LT1 coupe, he was about 30 years old.
Today, he’s a spry 80-year-old, and in January 2021, after a virtual lifetime of owning – and racing – one of the rarest and best performing C3 Corvettes, he finally decided it was time to part with the car that outlasted three wives, including one who issued an ultimatum that it was her or the Corvette.
Now, with his fourth wife standing beside him, supporting his decision to finally sell the car on his own terms, the longtime former president of the Palm Springs Corvette Club decided the time had come to give a new owner a chance to enjoy his car.
Now it’s being auctioned off by a Las Vegas dealer on eBay, with bidding slated to end at 9:28 tonight. So far, we’re shocked to see the high bid standing at just $22,101, having understandably failed to meet the reserve.
We’ll cut to the chase and explain one possible reason for that low number. Lake, who loved to autocross the car for years, blew up the original engine and replaced it with a more powerful 350/300 horsepower motor about 20 years ago. He’s also made other modifications over the years, starting with the custom wheels that cost him $300 before taking delivery of the car from Harry Mann Chevrolet in Los Angeles on July 31, 1972. He also modified the suspension with a front 1.25-inch sway bar, Billet upper control arms, modified bushings, rear sway bar, and composite rear spring, and he removed the spare tire and carrier to make the car as light as possible. Also gone is the air conditioning, finally an option on the LT1 that year after being unavailable on the first two years of the LT1, though like many of the original parts that have been removed, it’s included with the sale of the car.
“I have been in the car business for 33 years,” says the seller, Doug Williams, of Rafiki Motors, “and to actually buy a car that spent 50 years with its original owner is beyond rare, especially with Corvettes. They just seem to trade hands so often, but I hope this LT1 finds its next owner’s passion like it had from its first owner.”
You may notice in some of the 180 photos with the listing that Williams appreciates that passion, having left the show memorabilia plaques on the T-bar area between the two removable roof panels “because of the history of the car.”
You’ll also see the original bill of sale that shows Lake paid $7,367.85 for the car after receiving a $504.40 discount. Options on the car included air conditioning ($456), power brakes ($46), LT1 motor ($392), power steering ($113), AM/FM radio ($281), and those new mag wheels still on the car ($300).
The LT1s, of course, are noted for their 4-speed manual “rock crusher” transmission, but Lake switched to a five-speed Tremec transmission. The original transmission comes with the car, but as the former owner of a ’71 LT1, I personally believe I would prefer having the five-speed Tremec.
The paint was recoated in the original color years ago and remains in “exceptional” condition, with the most notable blemishes being a chip on the right side of the front nose and a few chips on the rear. The car is said to have never been involved in an accident, and all body panels are the originals. Underneath are a rust-free frame and undercarriage that’s “highly detailed without damage or rot.”
The interior “appears like new,” the seller notes, with door panels, dash, leather seats (with brand new leather and foam), and carpet “all in exceptional condition, with only the slightest wear from brand new.”
We found it interesting that the seller drove the car 100 miles back from Lake’s home in Bullhead, Arizona to Las Vegas and admits “performance was less than flawless as the car had sat in his garage for about ten years with very little use. Functionality was almost as interesting as I left at dusk and found the headlights inoperative. Driving about 75 miles in the darkness of the desert, I was glad that my chase driver became my headlights in front of me instead of behind me for the balance of the trip. I filled up in Laughlin, Nevada and arrived home just fine.”
After spending $2,800 at the tech and tune shop, though, “this 1972 Corvette LT1 performs like it’s ready to race again.”
You owe it to yourself to read the whole listing, even if you’re not interested in buying the car. It’s a fascinating story and not your typical used car ad. To me, with this car, you’re buying its one-owner history, more than you’re buying an LT1 because it’s not really an LT1 anymore in many ways, especially since the original motor is long gone and the suspension has been modified. I’d definitely fit the car with air conditioning again, as my ’71 LT1 had Astro-Ventilation, which is just Chevy’s way to say “poor man’s air conditioning,” which living in the hot South became the major reason I wound up trading the car for a more comfortable and more powerful 2005 coupe after a year of ownership.
In the coming years, a new owner will have to wonder if the sentimentality of those first 49 years of one-ownership will make this car more desirable, or without the original motor in place, will it become just another ’72 Corvette?
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