1972 Corvette

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72 Vette front

1972 corvette 350 4 speed

I owned a 1972 Corvette for about 2 years during the early 80s. It had a rebuilt 350 sbc and 4 speed and the numbers didn't match (bad bad move on my part!). It was incredibly fast, I remember racing a Kawasaki 750 from a stop light and we were even up to 70 mph. Just a note: the 73 passenger's side mirror was added because 72 Vettes don't have a factory option for a passenger side mirror! It's too bad that I don't have pictures of the engine - it had a complete chrome kit on it, from the air cleaner housing, distributer housing, valve covers, everything. I spent a lot of time cleaning chrome on this daily driver!

I eventually sold it because Vettes are incredibly expensive to keep at 12 mpg. Parts were astronomical in price even in the 80s. For example: used door panels were $500 a shot, and new OEM panels $1000 each. Everything that I would consider to be under $100 for a good used part was typically $500 and up. (I guess this explains my low budget approach with the 54 Pontiac!)

Dash

72 Vette dash.

Door panel

72 Vette leather interior

If you look at the picture of the front of the car, you'll see that the driver's front headlight doesn't lower properly. Each headlight frame was made of "white metal" and the adjustment screws were frozen. $500 a pop to replace them with used parts. The exhaust pipe tips were $80 each. Remember these are 1983 prices!

72 Vette rear

72 Vette rear view

Vette's are great cars when well taken care of. I spent most of my time rebuilding everything on a vehicle that I thought was in good shape when I bought it ($10,000). Little did I know!

Here's a list of things that I replaced and repaired during the 2 years that I owned it:

  • New clutch ($500)
  • New tires ($500 - which were stolen and replaced)
  • New stereo ($200)
  • New stainless steel brake cylinders ($1000 - old ones failed in the rockies!)
  • Used seats (traded other vette stuff for)
  • Headers and exhaust ($500)
  • Rebuilt rear diff and housing which cracked ($1000)
  • Plus a ton of other stuff at $50 a shot.
  • Hours detailing all the chrome and trim like painting the side vents and front grills.
  • Chrome detailing under hood

I sold it for $9800, couldn't get a decent price because it had been in an accident, had the wrong color of paint (it was gold and the VIN indicated that it should be silver) and the engine numbers didn't match. It pays to research collector's vehicles before you buy them!


Vettes and Accidents

The Vette was always a little squirrely when going through bumpy corners at speed. I finally figured out why when I sold it. It had been in an accident in the right rear quarter panel. It looked like the rear suspension had been bent just a bit. Not enough to stop it from aligning but enough that the wheel would not go up and down straight - just enough twisting in the movement to feel squirrely. I had it aligned 3 times in 2 years trying to sort it out.

How do you know if a Vette was in an accident? Run your fingers around the wheelwells. If there is a seam present its been in an accident. There was a seam on the passenger side rear wheelwell and you could see a slight bend in one of the trailing arms.

When a vette gets in an accident, the complete fiberglass body flexes. Not like a metal body where the damage is local. Hairline fractures appear everywhere. In my vette, the roofline just above the rear window had hairline fractures.

I went off the road twice with it because of my own stupidity. The first time was when I was showing a friend how well it handled. I was driving through a reducing radius corner and realized that I was starting to slide sideways, so rather than roll, I chose to drive it off the road, through the air and into a farmer's field of barley When we stopped with barley and mud on the hood and roof, I turned to my friend and said "Well, what do you think?". He was more impressed that I could drive out of the muddy field and back on to the road. I figure this was were I broke the rear leaf spring mount.

The second time was when I hit black ice with no rear brakes. The rear end started fishtailing and everytime I touched the brakes, it would fishtail more. Finally, I spun about 3 times across the oncoming lanes, threw my hands up in the air and hit the ditch. Thought I was a goner, stopped about 2 feet from a fence pole and had to drive about 1/4 mile in the ditch before I could get out. Minor damage to the front spoiler.

Another time, I was driving about 70 mph in the Rockies just before the barley incident, a herd of cows was crossing the road. A farmer was flagging vehicles down about 1 mile before the crossing. I touched the brakes and whoops! no brakes. After franatic pumping, hand brake on full and downshifting with the engine revving at 5 grand. I stopped about 10 feet from the nearest cow. The farmer and ranchhands were fit to be tied, they thought I was trying to stampede the herd! When I got out shaking and told them what happened, they were in a kinder mood. Anyways, I bled the brakes and drove another 500 miles to complete my vacation.


Performance cars and brakes

This applies to any car not just Vettes. When you store a vehicle during the winter and/or drive it occasionally, moisture builds up in the brake lines and brake cylinders. In my case, the interior of the brake cylinders rusted and pitted. During the heavy braking in the Rockies, the cylinders heated up enough that brake pressure was able to be released through the pits. I went and installed stainless steel brake cylinders on all 4 corners at $250 a corner. The other option is to frequently replace the brake fluid if you have good brake cylinders at the wheels.


Vettes and Rust

I assumed that since the body was fiberglass, vettes wouldn't rust. Sorry, the frame rusts. In my case, it was the windshield frame and the transmission crossmember. Everytime I hit a hard bump, a sprinkle of rust would fall from the top of the windshield. Manual transmission crossmembers are welded in and mine was rusting through. Surprisingly, automatic transmissions are bolted in. The rear luggage rack was rusted in place and I couldn't get the bolts out to remove it and repair it without major damage to the fiberglass.

I always wondered for years after if I should have keeped the vette (I really liked it but my pocketbook didn't). I saw it about 5 years later, the new owner lived 2 blocks away and I got to chat with him. He had rebuilt the engine, the brakes, the clutch, and rear end - all the work I did 5 years earlier. The seats were ripped and the interior was trashed, someone had broken in and stolen the stereo by using a crowbar. Pretty well, everything that I did needed to be redone and more.

The chrome bumpers had rusted holes in them 3" in diameter! The car badly needed new paint and the headlights were stuck in the up position. Seeing the car in this state of disrepair made me feel thankful that I didn't keep it.


Conclusion

I loved that Vette and have seriously considered buying another one, now that I know what to look for and what to expect. Even though it was expensive to keep, totally impractical as your primary ride, cost a fortune to drive and upkeep, and had a bone jarring ride, I still miss it 20 years later. I've pretty well written about the problems that I had with it but man could it handle through the Rockies.

I remember driving through the Rockies at about 70-75 mph (my normal road speed) and some guy in a Datsun or something trying to keep up. Here I was just cruising along staying in my lane and this guy was serving across two lanes on the corners and flooring it on the straight sections. After about 15 minutes of this, I waved and took off. Never saw him again.

I had the car in tip top shape at the end and passing other vehicles going at 65 mph was a breeze. You'd hit the gas and bang you were beside him, easily hitting 90 mph, just like that. The seats were incredibly comfortable and I appreciated that as I was doing a lot of long driving (6-8 hour stretches). You would not feel fatigued at all.

One of the things that I really liked was the removable rear window. It unclipped and fit in a storage shelf behind the seats. Man was that a good idea. Even if it was cold out, you could remove the rear window, pump up the heat and you would have fresh air with minimum noise and wind - excellent.

A lot of my friends had stock late 60s and early 70s muscle cars and my Vette would blow them away! These were 70s Mustangs, Firebirds, etc.. I remember pulling away from traffic lights, just taking it very easy and seeing the rest of the traffic still half a block behind.

The T-tops were okay but I hardly used them. There was too much noise and basically a cyclone around your head. All of the girls that I took for a ride, said "take off the t-tops" and once they were off, were pretty unhappy about how messed up their hair ended up. There wasn't any place really to store them except on the trunk rack. Oh well...

The driving position with the placement of the gauges, shifter, steering column, everything was excellent! I loved that shifter. I'm glad that I took these pictures to remind me of my dream car. I think that everyone should have the opportunity to own their dream car at least once in their lifetime.

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Copyright May 2011 Eugene Blanchard