Article and photography by Richard Butschi
The current owner of this particular ‘65 Corvette is Lori Brendes, of NW CR, who purchased it in early summer of 2018 from Mike Neleman, a Benton County resident - a very adept mechanic, body man and car collector. Neleman owned it for 4 years with the original intention of keeping it in his permanent collection. He purchased it from a man in Illinois who owned it for 30 years and never drove it the last 11 of those years. So far, pretty typical.
Neleman heard about the Vette from his brother-in-law who met the owner at a flea market in Illinois. Mike called the owner frequently for about a year, who finally let him come see the car. With the trailer in tow, Neleman pulled into the driveway cluttered with trash that had covered the Vette for years. A deal was made and the ‘65 was pushed onto the trailer. Leaving the drive, Mike checked the rearview mirror and saw the owner standing there... crying – a serious case of seller’s remorse. It didn’t take Neleman long to get the car on the road, eventually becoming his daily driver. This made him a bit of a celebrity at Rockwell-Collins. In fact, he was asked to “star” with the Vette in a company video on parking etiquette. He was the “bad example”, showing the ‘65 taking up two spaces.
One of the first changes to the car was the engine. While checking out the ‘65 in Rockford, IL, Mike discovered that the engine was a 1969 327. Wanting to keep it in relatively stock condition, he found a correct-versioned ‘65 327 with a forged steel crankshaft in Des Moines for $900. Most everything else is “numbers matching” including the M-20 wide ratio Muncie 4-speed transmission. The 327 was machined and balanced by D&R Engines, Marion, and assembled by Neleman and good friend Steve Knapp of Good News Garage, Center Point. They installed a new Comp Cam, rods, pistons, rocker arms and topped off with an Edelbrock intake and 670cfm carburetor. Mike chose to keep the original exhaust manifold rather than headers. Horsepower is estimated at 325.
With the intent of keeping the Vette, Neleman went through the ‘65 with a fine-toothed comb. A new aluminum radiator and expansion tank were added, as well as a new composite rear monospring, new tires with 4-wheel alignment, KYB shocks, new calipers, master cylinder, wheel cylinders and brake lines. The dash was freshened with aluminum inserts and paint. Neleman rebuilt the clock and made sure all the gauges worked. The ‘65 came with a removeable hardtop and the car had been repainted a lemon yellow many years ago - a dramatic change from the original Milano Maroon. But it was too much yellow for Neleman. He found and painted a 1967 Corvette big block “Stinger” hood, with a black scoop that changed the Vette, as he put it, “from a giant lemondrop to a race car”.
Neleman was pretty impressed with Brendes’ handling of the 4-speed during the test drive, and felt she was a good match for the car. Now in her hands, more improvements are being made. A minor traffic incident proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing for a new coat of 2014 Corvette Velocity Yellow applied by Jamie Lockwood and Dan McMurrin at D&D Auto, Alburnett, along with new LED taillights and a few other adjustments. A new black canvas convertible top was installed recently at Jordan’s Custom Stitching, Amana, where he repainted the frame and added new weatherstripping.
Brendes had success showing her “1FUNYLO” Vette in 2018 even before the major cosmetic changes of paint and convertible top. She placed 2nd in her class at the “Sweet Rides For Charity” ADM show in September, and a few weeks later received a Top 60 award at the Swisher Men’s Club Show. Although trophies are not her thing, imagine what may result after all those hands have touched the “group project”.