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A Family Jewel: 1962 Corvette Roadster

1962 represents the 10th and final year of the first generation of Corvette production, often referred to as “C1s” by Vette enthusiasts. Generational divisions are brought about by major styling and/or engineering changes, and some purists feel that the second generation should have ended with the introduction of the 1958 model. It sported dual headlights, as did most American made cars that year, which dramatically changed its styling. In this case, all C1s had“solid axle” suspension until 1963 when GM smoothed out the ride with independent rear suspension and the second generation was born.

The Corvette was the brainchild of GM styling guru Harley Earl, who noticed the influx of foreign sports cars brought home by soldiers from WWII in the late ‘40s. In 1951, Nash-Kelvinator Corp, an American company, debuted their high-end, European-flavored Nash-Healey. With that, Earl talked GM into producing a “moderately-priced” sports car. He produced 3 prototypes – the Corvette (roadster), the Corvair (a fastback, which never saw production) and a 2-door wagon which was later produced as the Nomad – another classic!

The Corvette debuted at GM’s Motorama in NYC in January of 1953 and a mere 300 units rolled off the assembly line 6 months later. The price listed around $3,500 – more costly than Earl envisioned. In ‘54, production increased to 3,640 units and the base price dropped to around $2,800. 1955 saw the introduction of the 265 V8, which saved the Corvette. By 1962, production was at 14,531 units with a price around $4,000. Engine size had increased to 283 (in ‘57) and then to 327 in ‘62. There were 4 power options: 250, 300 and 340hp, with new fuel-injected version making 360hp. Other 1962 model claims-to-fame included the last Corvette trunk until the ‘97 C5s arrived, along with the last fixed exposed headlights until 2005. It also had a cool, sinister-looking blacked-out grill with chrome grill surround and chrome rocker panels under the doors. The final version of a generation of any cool car is very desirable. Most all the bugs have been worked out, styling has been tweaked and it’s about as good as it can get without major changes. Jim and Laura McLaughlin, of Midway, have owned 5 Corvettes over the years, the earliest being a ‘67 coupe. A ‘62 has always been on their “to-own list”. Two years ago, they got the opportunity to add one to their stable - a very nice one with rare fuel-injection, aluminum heads, 4-speed tranny, good paint, flawless interior and removable hardtop. It’s also a California car with a rust-free chassis. The seller took great care of it for 33 years. The McLaughlins didn’t make a trip to San Jose, CA, to inspect the Vette up close, as one would expect, but felt they could trust the seller, Don Peterson. He is Jim’s cousin. Jim remembers seeing it in ‘89, when Don drove it back to Iowa for a class reunion in Des Moines.

Peterson is a self-proclaimed “backyard mechanic” who has owned and worked on many classic cars, including C1 and C2 Vettes, many ‘57 Chevies, a ‘55 Nomad, 6 to 8 El Caminos and currently owns a ‘51 Chevy 3100 pickup, a ‘57 Chevy with a 327 and 4-speed, a ‘67 383 El Camino, a ‘72 Olds Cutlass, a restored ‘65 Chevy C10 Suburban and a 2002 Corvette Z06. Don was also a charter member of The Outcasts, a car club in the San Jose area. He and other members would frequent the well-known drag strip at Sears Point, where a “Nifty ‘50s” night was set up for them to race. Don’s best time with this ‘62 was 13.75 secs at 99mph – pretty good for that era.

In the early ‘90s, Peterson treated the ‘62 to new paint and interior work. Since the sale, McLaughlin has given it new stock-sized 6.70 x 15” whitewall tires, factory hubcaps and a lot of detailing TLC. Jim and Laura are looking forward to many miles and smiles in their new addition to the family.

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