At the tender age of 9, David Larson had already developed an eye for cool cars. There was one in particular that fascinated him, a jet black 1962 Corvette.
“It belonged to a good friend of our neighbors in Elgin, Ill.,” he recalled. He would sit on a low retaining wall and wait for the Corvette to show up. But there was a small problem.
“My father was a Ford man. He worked as a Ford mechanic and the only thing he drove was Fords.” And the Corvette was a Chevrolet. So he would sit and dream about that beautiful black Corvette.
One day, he got up the nerve to tell the young man who drove it, “Nice car.”
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“Would you like to sit in it?” the ’Vette owner responded. Little David Larson didn’t need to be asked twice. Eventually, he was offered a ride in the car, which was cleared by his parents. The die was cast: he was a Corvette man.
“I would always sit on the wall and watch for him, and wait to take a ride,” Larson remembers. Time marched on and, unbeknownst to him, the Corvette owner, Art Brenner, decided to sell the Corvette. Larson was a young man himself by then. But when Brenner called his parents’ house to see if he might be interested in buying the car, they made it clear there was no way an 18-year-old should have a Corvette.
Fortunately, one of the neighbor kids casually remarked to David, “I can’t believe you’re not going to buy Art’s car.”
That set off some serious negotiating and, surprisingly, his father agreed to co-sign a loan for him to purchase the Corvette.
“But we didn’t drive it much. We had so much respect for the car. It was an original, true survivor car, so it was parked for the first four years. We never took the car out,” Larson said.
The car had been well cared for and was in excellent condition when they finally decided to start driving it. It was so nice, in fact that Larson was invited to join other Corvettes in leading a parade at a Road of America road race near Elkhart Lake, Wis.
But disaster struck when a woman ran a stop sign in her car and crashed into the right front fender of the immaculate black Corvette.
“We never made it to Road America,” said Larson, who regretted taking the Corvette out on the road. But it was repaired using original factory parts and would eventually get to lead a prestigious parade at the Bloomington Gold Corvette judging in 1987.
“This car ranked number four in the survivor class,” Larson said. But the three cars judged ahead of it had been trailered to the event, so his street-driven car was picked to head the parade.
The car later underwent a complete frame-off restoration/modification at Steel Ridez in the Chicago area, with Mike Long, a friend of Larson’s handling the job, including the amazing Tuxedo Black paint job.
Larson wanted to keep the Corvette true to its origins, while making it more road-ready and dependable. The original 327 cubic inch V-8 engine was rebuilt to factory specifications, with only an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, a Rochester-style aftermarket carburetor and later model valve covers added. Factory cast iron exhaust manifolds were bolted to a new stainless steel exhaust system that uses factory-style mufflers.
An alternator manufactured to look like the original generator was installed for reliability. The front suspension was replaced with newer pieces, including power disc brakes and power steering.
Inside the bright red interior, a Hurst shifter topped by a red knob operates the original 3-speed manual transmission, rather than the more commonly seen 4-speed.
“The 3-speed was the standard transmission, but most of them were replaced by 4-speeds,” Larson said. “In all the years I’ve been at Bloomington Gold, I’ve only seen one other 3-speed car.”
He retained the original 15-inch wheels and knockoff-style full wheel covers, but decided to add a splash of red to the exterior by using BFG Silvertown Red Line radial tires instead of the thin line white walls that came on the car. The entire restoration took two years.
Larson moved to Wichita in 1992, bringing his prized Corvette with him, never thinking he would ever consider selling it. But one day local hot-rodder Troy Pate and his mom, Charlotte, spotted the car and followed it until they got a chance to talk to Larson.
“He always liked the car … and Troy kept after me and I finally sold it to him. But we made an agreement that if he ever wanted to sell it, I had the first option to buy it back.” Two or three years later, Larson was able to exercise that option and it’s clear it won’t be leaving his possession again.
He and his wife, Debbie, take it out for ice cream runs, where it still attracts a lot of attention.
“We usually drive it with the top off. It’s a good driving car,” he says, noting that he rarely enters it in a show, but enjoys letting his grandkids throw candy from the Corvette in parades. “That’s what it’s about now, kids and grandkids.”
Larson was especially pleased when his 13-year-old granddaughter, Lainey Graves, asked if he could pick her up in the Corvette from her last day of school last year. He was more than happy to oblige.
And the best part, he said, was realizing that she was riding in the same seat he had ridden in at the same age, long before he became the proud owner of the Corvette.
Mike Berry: email@example.com