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50 Years of Fun

Gary Hemphill

I am no different that most of the people in the Kansas City Corvette Association (KCCA), I have always loved cars – especially CORVETTES. In 1963 my brother-in-law, Steve, called to say that his father had gotten a 1962 “fuelie” (black with red interior) on his car lot. See, we always remember those kinds of details. Steve picked me up and we went down to look at it – then Steve’s dad let him take it for a drive and of course I went along for the ride. I know it was my first time in a Corvette and maybe Steve’s also. That started me looking for my first Corvette. I was lucky to be able to attend the first showing of a 1963 coupe at a local Chevrolet dealer. I felt that the design of the “cockpit” dash was the perfect set up of gauges, and I still do. The exterior C2 (mid-year) body style is the ultimate Corvette. At the time I had a 1962 Impala convertible and a pregnant wife. In 1966 we had another baby, but I still wanted to own a Corvette. In the mean time I purchased the first year GTO in 1964 – it was a convertible and it was hot but it was not a CORVETTE. My wife’s “family” car was a 4-door Impala. I finally found a 1964 Corvette coupe the same color as my GTO – Saddle Tan. So in 1967 I owned my first CORVETTE. But you know, it was only a small block, 250 horse, power glide, which the GTO I traded in would have run circles around. When I contacted my insurance agent to tell him about my new purchase, of course he said my rates would go up. But he also told me it did not make any difference in the rates between small block and big block. The search for the perfect CORVETTE didn’t stop with the 1964. Little did I know that Rick Andrews from Raytown, Missouri where I was from (who I would meet years later) was also “into” CORVETTEs. After he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, he spotted a pair of 1966 big block coupes – one Nassau Blue with white interior the other Silver in and out. He made the Silver coupe his. Shortly after purchasing the car, he loaded everything he owned and came back to the Kansas City area. It was his only transportation, daily driver, grocery getter, etc. But he also took it to many Time-Speed-Distance Rallies. By the way it was also a great chick magnet! Since “back then” it was just a car, he went out to lunch one day in November 1969 and came back with a 1970 Gran Prix Pontiac. He left the VETTE at Miller Pontiac sitting behind the service department. In November 1969 I was driving down Main Street (Kansas City, Missouri) by Miller Pontiac and spotted a 1966 silver big block coupe. I drove the car and they drove mine and we traded for $900. The big block needed paint, but I also knew my 1964 Vette had a transmission problem, so we both came out on the deal. I still have this car. It has been painted twice now and I have driven it almost 200,000 miles. For many years it was my daily driver also, even having snow tires on it for several winters. Long before required seat belts and child car seats, I toted 3 kids to school in the back. My daughter sat in the middle of the 2 boys because she was the tallest. I also hauled 7 teenage girls to get pizza once, and the people watching us could not believe how many climbed out of the car. The longest trip this car has been on was 4500 miles to Canada through the Black Hills and back through Yellowstone National Park and Colorado, averaging 16+ miles per gallon with the A/C on in August 1972. Fast forward several years. I moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma with wife number two and started by own business. That took up a lot of time, but occasionally I was able to go to a few Corvette events in Tulsa and Enid. At that time I just went to look and enjoy seeing lots of Corvettes at one time. As things happen, I found myself divorced and decided to move back home since I am originally from Raytown and my kids and grandkids live here. I returned home with a 1964 Corvair and a 1972 Nova that were my mom’s cars. My dad just kind of kept her cars. After getting settled here I came across information on a Corvair Club and joined them first. They were a nice bunch of people but didn’t think too highly of Corvette owners, which is kind of ironic if you know any history of General Motors and the evolution of these cars – oh well. I saw an item in the newspaper about an event at the Kansas Agricultural Hall of fame with a name and number to call for info. I called the guy and he enthusiastically invited me along. I joined the Kansas City Corvette Association shortly after that. This car club was way different than the last one I had been too. Also, I didn't know there would be another big event coming up! Ginny had been a friend and neighbor or Kay and Wayne Carlile for many years. She had been involved with them during their hot rod years with Wayne’s 1941 Chevy and the start of their “Corvette Career”. Ginny had met many of the Corvette wives through Kay. They mentioned there might be a guy in the club she would be interested in. Well Ginny did call, we went out and rest is sort of history. One year to the day from our “blind date” January 19, 2001 we were married January 19, 2002, with Kay as maid of honor. Ginny worked with another KCCA member, Sheila Crabb. Sheila’s minister husband Doug performed the ceremony – it was a great party! During our year of dating we had many “small world” events happen. I had already made plans to have my 1966 Corvette in World of Wheels that year. The daughter of a long time friend of Ginny’s saw us at the show and Angela really wanted to sit in my car. During Ginny’s explanation of who Angela was, we discovered I used to work with Angela’s grandfather when I cut meat at the Gambles store in North Kansas City, MO. In March of 2001 I saw an ad in the paper for a 1996 Collector Edition for sale in St. Joseph, MO. Wayne saw the same ad and asked if I had seen it. I went to see it and found out I would be the third owner on this car also and that the original owner of this car had been a doctor the same as my 1966. Kay took us, so Ginny could ride back with me when we purchased the car. Through conversation with the owner, who was in the trucking business, he and Kay knew several people in common. Just when we think the “connections” are over, something else turns up – like meeting Rick and Maggie Andrews in Belton, Missouri at a car cruise. We mostly take 1966 CORVETTE to local shows and cruises. At one such cruise in Belton, Missouri, in September 2004, as we were unloading the car a man was really checking out the car. He was persistent and returned to the cruise hoping we would too in September. He said he thought this was a car he had owned. But since this has happened many times before, I was skeptical at first. But Rick “ knew” things about the car and he could recite the VIN! After more discussion and comparison on details: when/where he traded it, I realized he really was the second owner. The first owner had been a doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that is where Rick purchased the car and brought it to Kansas City. Rick and his wife Maggie have joined the Kansas City Corvette Association (Ginny was the membership officer) and has inquired if the car is for sale – no way! I hope you picked out all the “small world – coincidences” with people and locations that have happened to me just because I own a Corvette! But the most important is that we are all one big CORVETTE family.

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