Little white Corvette a fitting tribute

11/16/2013 12:00 AM

11/16/2013 6:36 AM

Sometimes, a car just speaks to you. That’s the way it was the first time Rick Mast spotted the Ermine White 1961 Corvette at the Devlin-Starbird custom car show a couple of years ago.

“I just kept going back to it,” he recalled. “I told my brother, `I think I want this car,’ He said, `But we’ve already got four Corvettes and there’s no more room in the garage.’”

Rick Mast figured they could sell one or two of them to make room for this one. There was just something about the all-white roadster. His brother, Russ, knew what the attraction was.

“Our mom had talked about getting a ride in a brand new, white ’61 Corvette when she was young,” he said. “She said, `Now that’s a real car,’” he recalled.

This particular Corvette had languished for some time in a barn in Nebraska and then apparently wound up in Lawrence, where it was restored by Mike Maples, another auto enthusiast, beginning in 1997. At least that’s according to a note on an index card that came with the Corvette when the Mast brothers finally bought it from Fred Shanks in Derby.

The note reads, “1961 Corvette purchased without Leanne’s knowledge. I parked it in the barn for two weeks before I told her. Leanne wasn’t real happy at first, but loves it now, five years … and thousands of dollars (later).”

The car was, however, just a bit too white, according to Rick Mast. Most Corvettes that year were two-toned, with the cove painted a contrasting color. This one was white with a white cove, having only a black soft top to break up the expanse of white color.

“It just needed something,” Rick Mast said.

As luck would have it, the brothers located a factory hardtop with flawless glass on eBay and took it to Blagg Body Shop in Derby, where multiple layers of various paint colors were carefully sanded off. The Mast brothers had spotted a custom car at The Chill car show in Park City painted in exactly the right color. The decision was made to paint it a subtle Mystic Green Metallic color, to match the green carpeting in the car.

“I believe it was a 1999 Honda color,” Rick said. With that decision made, it was a short step to painting the cove to match. But by using computer modeling done by his brother, he realized it would make more sense to paint the front panel of the cove a light silver color to distinguish it from the shadowed area of the front wheel well.

It proved to be the right choice.

“Lots of people talk about the color,” said Rick. Russ notes that it has won a “Best Paint” award at a car show. It also racked up three “Best of Show” awards this season.

“We had the car lowered, too. It sat about four inches too high. And we put on the Tru Spoke wire wheels and the wide whitewalls … that was really about all that we did to it,” Rick said. The tires are period-correct 15-inch radial reproductions of old Firestone bias-ply tires sold by Coker Tires.

Under the hood resides a replacement 350 cubic inch small block Chevy V-8 equipped with a single 4-barrel carburetor. It is bolted to a correct 4-speed manual transmission.

Inside, the iconic Corvette dashboard, with its wide-sweep 160 mph speedometer, color-keyed tachometer, flat 3-spoke steering wheel and passenger-side grab bar matches up nicely with a pair of black vinyl bucket seats and pull-style knob door releases. The hard top is fitted with a white vinyl headliner that reflects light downward.

“There’s a little bit of a bubble-top look when you’re inside it,” Rick Mast said.

When the car is shown, it’s usually displayed with the rear deck lid open to show off various Hollywood posters and signs, since it seems like the kind of car a movie star would have driven in the early 1960s.

“The thing runs perfectly. We’re really happy with it … I don’t think we’re going to do anything more to it,” Rick said. “We need to give this car a name, though,” suggesting possibly calling it “Marilyn,” after Marilyn Monroe.

Why not “Sam,” after their mother, Samantha?

“I’ve always thought this was a tribute to our mom,” Rick noted. “She would have loved this one.”

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