Sunfire Yellow Fever!

(flickr.com)
(flickr.com)

By: Wayne Brown

By the time I graduated from college, I was suffering with the most horrible fever and it burned at my insides on a daily basis making me almost delusional with its effects.  I am not sure there was a scientific or medical term for it but I knew well what it was.  It was “Corvette Fever”, a quite expensive ailment for which there was seemingly only one cure.  I needed to own one and own it right now.  After all, I was a college graduate.  I had done my time.  I deserved a reward for my efforts.  My dad agreed and told me that I had his permission to buy it with my own money at any time I desired to do so.

 

I got the fever from my college roommate, Jake.  Jake had a 1966 model Stingray.  It was totally black with keystone wheels.  All the surface markings were shaved so one could only guess what was under the hood of that beautiful beast. Believe me, it was well-equipped with a 427 cubic inch block which had been bored out, a new crank and cam was added to up the muscle.  The engine had been balanced and blueprinted.  The transmission was a 4-speed feeding into a posi-traction differential.  This beast was turning out over 500 HP.  When Jake would get into it with me riding shotgun, I usually ended up getting thrown into the passenger floorboard and held hostage there by the acceleration G-forces. Seat belts were not very popular at the time.  Jake would let off the gas to allow me to get up and then he would laugh.  All the time my fever was rising.

 

Jake had way with the girls.  I think it was due in part to the Corvette.  But he was fearless too when it came to women.  One of our pastimes between classes was to sit on the ledges outside the student center and watch the skirts.  They were great skirts back in that day…mini-skirts.  It never seemed to fail that Jake would pick just the right moment when the wrong girl was emerging from the post office box section of the student center with her mail in hand.  Jake would yell to her, “Hey girl, what you doin’ this weekend?”  She would smile and answer back, “Nothin’”.  Jake would then point to me and say to her, “My roommate is doin’ nothin’ too, why don’t ya’ll hook up?”  At that point, I usually took off running to my next class.  Jake really enjoyed the sport.  Me and the homely girls hated it.  Eventually, Jake would hook me up using this technique but that is a story for another day and has little to do with the car fever that I was developing.

 

For two years, my junior and senior years, I shared living quarters with Jake and rode shotgun in the Corvette. Occasionally, I ended up behind the wheel and my fever shot to record heights.  Riding in this beauty was a great experience but sitting behind the wheel in control of all the muscle this baby had was beyond the scope of dreaming.  Jake knew what was happening to me because he too had suffered with the same malady years before and finally found just the car that would scratch his itch.  It was a one of a kind, something that was easy to see.

 

I finally gained my sheepskin and set out to create a legacy in life with diploma in hand.  Logically, I needed a car to drive myself to work.  I told my dad what I had in mind and surprisingly he went along with the idea.  At the time, I still had no obtained employment but I was working at a summer job and living at home would allow me to be able to pay for the Corvette if I was frugal.  I could look for a real job once I had the car I thought.

 

Dad and I went into the city to search around the car lots for my dream.  Just as luck with have it, these babies were not sitting on every corner waiting to be purchased.  A new one was a bit out of my price range and the body styling was not what I had in mind.  I was in love with the mid-60’s styling so popular even today.  We were about to give up when I decided to get a newspaper and check the classifieds.  I found two or three and we set out to check them out.  Fate was taking me by the hand and leading me to just the right spot.

 

On our second stop to look at a car, I spotted it.  There it sat on the driveway sporting a “For Sale” sign on the dashboard.  It was a 1967 Corvette Roadster Convertible in Sunfire Yellow color with black accent racing stripes highlighting the large hood scoop so prominent on the ’67 year model.  The engine was a 427 cubic inch sporting 435 horsepower. The transmission was a four-speed and the chrome shifter looked really good shining against the backdrop of the black interior.  The steering wheel was simulated wood grain.  The convertible top was black to match the accent stripes.  Two large shielded side-exhaust pipes further accented the beauty and the sound of this marvelous machine.  The guy who had it had a baby on the way and the wife wanted the car gone. He was sad; I was glad and fate worked its magic right there on the driveway. I was burning up with fever and totally in love with this machine.  I had to have it, and so the deal was struck all for the handy price tag of $3650.  A serious sum of money at the time.

 

For months, I prowled the streets around home in my new wheels.  My machine was the talk and the envy of the guys in my small hometown.  I was one happy dude cruising about with the top down listening to the warbling of those throaty side exhausts playing music in my ear.  Could life get any better?  Not really, at least from my perspective, but fate had other ideas.  Military service was rapidly becoming my only avenue for employment as Vietnam was still up and running.  No one wanted to hire a young Corvette driver sporting a sheepskin and a low draft lottery number.  I didn’t mind the idea of the military as long as it included my wheels in the picture.

 

I took steps to join the Air Force and become a flyer.  My Corvette sat under wraps for over three months as I was confined in OfficerTraining School in San Antonio, Texas.  Once I earned my officer bars, I was to head out to Sacramento, California and spend a years in flight school.  Now that I was out of the basic training phase of things, I had free access to my wheels and was more than ready to head for California.

 

I had found a friend in Officer Training.  We were both headed to California.  We laid out our route and headed west along the old Route 66 highway.  I had the top down on the ‘Vette and the winds blowing round my head.  Between the wind in my ear and the throaty exhaust of the 427, there was not much listening to the music on the radio.  I didn’t care.  My itch was getting scratched.  I was on cloud nine.

 

Arriving in California, I found that my precious machine was almost considered a violation of law just by the fact that it showed up within the borders of the state.  Even then, California had an environmentalist mentality all over the place.  My ‘Vette was looked upon as a violator of that precious environment.  I was told not to waste my time trying to register it for I could never pass the emission tests.  California State Highway Patrol units would sit beside me at traffic signals and I could feel their stare.  They were just hoping that I would step out of line just a little so they could nail me.  Never happened, but I did come close a few times.

 

After a few months, the big block 427 in the ‘Vette began to act like a spoiled child.  It seemed that it needed constant attention.  It began to foul spark plugs on one of the eight cylinders.  It was frustrating on the one hand having such a neat vehicle and on the other having to deal with running down the road only firing on seven of the eight cylinders.  My insurance rates had gone up after my agent back home figured out that he could not classify the car as a “family sedan” on the policy.  Gas was cheap but the big four-barrel Holley Dual-Line Carburetor really loved to suck it down, especially when I kept my foot in it. I kept my foot in it a lot, it wanted to run like a wild mustang galloping across the plains tossing its mane in the winds.

 

Finally, I awoke one morning in February 1972 and my fever had subsided.  I had lost my patience with the cantankerous 427.  I wanted serenity.  I was tired of changing spark plugs and paying high insurance premiums.  I headed down to the local Volkswagen dealership and made a deal of a far different kind in an attempt to calm my frustrations.

 

The Volkswagen was a “Super Beetle”.  The 1972 model was the last year of the flat windshield.  It was a deep forest green.  I had added chrome reverse deep-dish wheels, extra chrome accents and interior wood grain highlighted accessories.  The deal was made and I drove away in the Super Beetle never looking back once at the ‘Vette in my rear view mirror.  I was afraid to do that, honestly.

 

A lot of time has passed since then. I drove the Volkswagen throughout the remainder of my military service totaling just over six years.  Some 38 years later, I still own that little car.  For all the use that I got out of it, it still only has 76,000 miles on it.  It also has another special distinction in that it is a constant visual reminder of that Corvette and the fever that I suffered with it.  On that basis alone, the little VW has earned a special place in my heart.

 

In today’s world of money and collectors, that Corvette I once had is priced just a little different than when I bought it.  In some auctions today, that same vehicle is drawing bids in the six figure range.  Who woulda thunk it?  My step-son looks at the pictures and listens to the story about how I once had that Corvette and how I acquired the VW.  His only question to me is, “How could you be so stupid?”  I can only laugh and just shake my head.

 

Yes, I had the fever one time long ago and it burned.  My old roommate, Jake, and I are still in contact.  Neither one of us own a Corvette anymore.  We occasionally visit by phone and trade stories of our adventures in those wonderfully exciting machines that we both owned way back when.  We smile, laugh, and agree that we are glad those days are past.  No fever.  No regrets.

 

 

A salute to my friend, Tim Bryce, for giving me the inspiration to write this piece.  Thanks, Tim!

 

© Copyright WBrown2010. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Comments 11 comments

sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

I enjoyed reading this, only skipped through the engine details in some other language you threw in. Actually, though, I was surprised when you bought the green volkswagon. So did I, once. The previous owner had lady bug floor mats in it. Believe it or not, I'd listened to guys talk about speed shifting and how to do it, so I'd take my green bug out to practice, and I got pretty good at it.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, Sheila B...that 'Vette was exciting but that little green bug was a lot of fun in its own way. WB


lalesu profile image

lalesu 6 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

I am no car enthusiast, but I've had two corvettes in my life and I now have a bright yellow Nissan 350Z Roadster that I adore, and she turns me into Mario Andretti with a cape and an arsenal of superpowers, haha!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

"Mario Andretti With A Cape"...could that be the makings of another dirge. It sure rolls off the tongue real good. A hot blonde in a yellow Z-Car...stunning. As the old saying goes, 'it just don't get no better!' Charlie would write a poem about it, you know he would! WB


TimBryce 6 years ago

Wayne - Great car, but my personal favorite was the 1967 Corvette fastback painted fire-engine red. I knew a guy in our neighborhood in Chicago who had one. Awesome wheels.

I also had a friend in Cincinnati with a 67 VW Beetle. The floorboards rusted out and he would love to drive through puddles if I was in the passenger seat whereby I would get splashed.

All the Best,

Tim


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

It was one awesome ride, Tim! Your VW story is a hoot. I can see that water coming in now! Thanks for the read. WB


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Fun hub and fun car!! Could you wear the cowboy hat with the top down? How fun you still have the bug. I saved a Hi & Lois comic -- Chip asks, "Are you going to have your midlife crisis soon, Dad?" He answers, "What's the rush?" In the next frame -- "I want to drive your hot new sports car when I get my license."

I had an amazing car when I turned 16 -- MB450 SL. Perhaps I was a bit spoiled . . . maybe the subject of a hub.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Truckstop Sally...It was a fun car. Driving it all the way to California on old Route 66 was also a great experience as well. I do still have the VW...a one-owner with only 78,000 miles. Well of course every 16 yr. old had an MB450 SL...LOL! You'll have to tell us about it! The Corvette long preceded the cowboy hat. I could wear my flight cap though...even with the top up. WB


firstdoc 3 years ago

see this is little time worn but will make a comment anyway

Wayne you need to pick up a miata and have it painted yellow.

No,top end speed is not what the veette has but off the line (with a little work) it wil take the vette and in tight corners it will leave it setting

I was a studebaker man for years and still have my first one.It is weather beaten from years out side and really never thoughtanything would get me out of it.

Like you Vietnam made some changes for me and I came back to a pickup and drove an old 1973 for 30 years or so.

Never thought anything would get me out of a truck until my wife purchased a used miata I love it and I drive the truck very little

Your atricle did bring out some great memories and the times I had with my best friend Perry . He passed away sudddenly sereral years ago and could see him on the passanger side of that stude as I read your article


firstdoc 3 years ago

Lalesu,if you see this you should do some articles . I try to read what other write and your profile post if one can call it that leads me to believe you could write some very interesting articles from serius to amussing.

Wayne I undrestand if you delete this as it as nothing to do with your post


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 3 years ago from Texas Author

@firstdoc....My son had a Miata....I drove it a few times and had to be pried from it. My six foot and 225 lbs does not come out or go in one that easily. I think I'll just drop a four-speed into my Suburban! LOL! That will give me the same effect. Glad you enjoyed this one. PS: Lalesu (Laura) is not about much anymore. She keeps her site up and writes mostly poetry...some good ones too. Click her name link and it will take you to her site. Thanks much! ~WB

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