Life’s too short for boring sheet metal
My coworkers often ask me what it was like to grow up in the olden days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, before the internet and cell phones. Especially for young adults at the time, those “pre-leash” days in the 100% actual world were really a different era. Your ticket to new experiences was not staring into a little plastic box. Your ticket to enjoying good times with your friends, to doing fun things in fun places…was parked in your driveway.
Growing up, my family was a “Chevy” family. Our neighbors wouldn’t drive anything but a Ford. Several of my friends drove Mopars. One of the biggest events in the life of a kid, was getting their first car. My first car was a blue 1968 Chevelle. We kept our cars immaculate, constantly washing them, vacuuming the interior, and tuning the engine. No matter what kind of car we drove, they were our worlds, and we made them to be the best that they could be.
As a little kid, my real interest in cars started with my Uncle Mike. My Uncle Mike was just out of the Navy, and just like James Dean, he was the definition of “cool.” He had a cool job working as a mechanic in the big city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he drove a totally cool car…a 1958 Corvette. While the streets were full of fast cars in those days, with the cool styling of their fiberglass bodies and their big engines, Corvettes were just different in a special and exciting way. One of our favorite TV shows was Route 66, with its ‘61 Corvette. For a kid growing up on a farm out in the sticks, it was the stuff that dreams were made of.
In the 1960s, Corvettes evolved into the Stingrays that included the 1963 Split-Window Coupe, and later, the Mako Shark body style. Around that time, my Uncle Mike traded in the ‘59 for a 1969 Corvette that sported the big-block engine and a 4-speed transmission. Wherever that car went, it totally owned the road.
As the years went by, my Uncle Mike left the area, moving to Denver. I left too, taking an engineering job in Minneapolis. Driving a Chevy Nova SS by then, I lived in an apartment building that had an underground parking garage. One day I got a new neighbor, who in the parking stall next to my Nova, parked his 1976 Corvette. All those memories of my Uncle Mike’s Corvette started coming back.
Now, by 1976, Corvettes had changed a lot from 1969. And even though it didn’t have the horsepower that the ‘69 Vette had, back in the day, it was still one cool car.
It was in March 1979, that I finally had enough money saved up for a down payment on what was then the new ‘79 Corvette. And so began a 40-year odyssey of parking my daily driver out on the driveway in the rain and snow (and now, blazing sun), so I could keep the Corvette in the garage. Next to the wife’s car, of course.
There were the incredibly fun years of driving that car as a young single guy. There were the years driving around as I dated my future wife. There were the cross-country trips where every cubic inch of the storage space behind those two seats was stuffed with camping gear. There were the years with a child’s car seat in the only passenger seat, as I struggled to keep the car while the kids were growing up. There were the years using the car in local parades either to carry dignitaries, or pull Boy Scout Floats. There was teaching my kids to drive in the Corvette, so they would always remember that particular car as the first car that they ever drove. There was my son, after growing up in the car, borrowing it to take his date to their senior prom.
So, here it is, 2019. And while I have a lot more life in the rear view mirror than out the windshield, the old ‘79 Vette and I are still together. Every Saturday morning, I drive it over to a local coffee shop on 4th Avenue and 24th Street to talk about cars with several other Corvette owners, including several folks that also work out here at YPG. In addition to road trips and cruising around town, we also enjoy taking part in the Yuma parades.
And to all you folks out there driving today’s Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, 300s, and any other car foreign or domestic that you’re proud of, I just want to let you know that the same little coffee shop where our Vette club meets on Saturdays, also hosts a meeting for all car folks every Sunday. Whether your car is stock, has headers or a juice-can muffler, or you drive a new electric car that doesn’t even have a muffler, you’ll find a whole bunch of folks out there that share your enthusiasm for your ride.
Yep, life’s too short for boring sheet metal. By the way, back to my Uncle Mike. He just turned 80 years old. He’s still living in Denver, where both he and his son Wade, are still cruising around town in their Corvettes.
The proud original owner of a 1979 Corvette, David Horn gives the vehicle exercise at events such as the Silver Spur Rodeo Parade. (Photo by Mark Schauer)