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The Lost and Found Corvette

Josh Gierke

Growing up, I had always been around Corvettes. Owning several myself, I bought my first one at age 16, and have continued to acquire them from there. But there was always one that got away from our family; the one car that I loved more than any car I had ever seen. That car was my dad’s 1978 Silver Anniversary.

It wasn’t your typical 1978 Corvette. The car was basically an 1982 Corvette with a 1978 body. It had everything an 1982 had, including the Crossfire injection motor, the 700r4 transmission and so much more. It was truly a unique car, but unfortunately tough times forced my dad to sell it. I never forgot about it, and wanted it back, so the hunt was on. The search started in 2003, when I was 16. The car was sold to a dealer in Springfield, OH, and they then turned and sold it at a Mecum Auction in Indiana. This was back in 1998. In 2003, I called Mecum to see if they had records of the sale. They told me I missed the throw away date for those records by just two weeks.

For years I would check places like Ebay, and all of the classic car trader websites for the car. I have always had the VIN number, so that was my main focus. In the summer of 2012, while looking online to see what I could dig up, I finally found a website called instavin.com. They specialize in records for older cars. I paid $2 and they told me the state in which the car was located in, as well as the last time it was registered, if it had been wrecked, totaled, etc. Unfortunately, they didn't have any private info.

I found out the car was last registered in Arkansas. For about a year, I had ads on Craigslist with info on the car. Several nice people offered to help me look, and some found cars that were very similar. One Sunday, I got a call from a guy in Arkansas who saw my ad. He was a bondsman there, and advised me that he has to do title checks for cars used as collateral. He was extremely kind. He took the VIN to the car, paid the $1 to run the registration and called me back with the info. I tried calling the owner, but the number was disconnected. I then wrote a letter to the gentleman, explaining my story. About 5 days after I sent it out, it came back non deliverable. At that point I started looking to see if he was deceased. I had no such luck finding anything (thankfully).

Two weeks later, I woke up Monday morning, with this weird feeling. For some reason I knew I was going to find this car soon. By the end of the day, I decided to look into a private investigator. I typed in "private investigator" into Yellowbook.com, and searched in Arkansas. From the list that came up, I randomly selected one. I called the guy, and ironically enough, he was from my area, and moved to Arkansas the year we sold our car. Also, he spent 10 years hunting down his father's 1955 Chevy. He was very nice, and wanted to help me. I offered to pay him and he declined. He contacted the owner of the car and called me back 20 minutes later. He advised that the owner had the car, he had some health issues and wanted to sell it. At this point, I honestly couldn't believe it. I then talked to the owner myself. I was honestly so nervous when I first called that I was shaking.

It turns out that the car was owned by an extremely nice family, who loved it and took very good care of it. The owner told me that the car had traded hands with people in Arkansas for several years, until it finally found a home with them 5 years ago. The guy's wife went the next day and took several pictures of the car for me. They were in the process of replacing the carpet, and rewiring the entire dash on it, when he became ill. I was tickled to death to see that the car looked relatively the same. There were a few cosmetic differences, and some major mechanical ones. First, the mirrored t-tops were gone, and had been replaced with the correct painted ones. The seats had also been replaced with correct 1978 seats. The biggest change, however, is under the hood. The crossfire injection motor was pulled, and replaced with a new ZZ4 crate motor.

After some negotiating, the gentleman agreed to sell me the car. In November of 2013, I made the journey from Ohio to Arkansas. After a 10 hour trip and a few times getting lost, we made it to Arkansas. The next morning everyone was up early, waiting outside of the hotel for the arrival of the car. We stood just outside of the lobby when I heard a slight rumbling sound, slowly getting louder and closer. I turned around to see a long lost and beautiful thing. Yes, she had a few more scratches, and paint chips than I remember, but I didn’t care. I finally found her!

The owners got out, we shook hands and talked for an hour like we knew each other our whole lives. Then we loaded up the car and headed back to Ohio. The day after I got home my dad came over, first thing, to see the car. He met me at my front door with an original set of keys saying, “We’ll see if it’s the right car, start it.” When I turned the key and fired it up, I watched a skeptical face completely go into shock. I then shut the car off and, for the next hour, my dad walked around, sat in the car, looking at every square inch of it. He read everything he could find in the glove box that could somehow give a clue to its history away from our family. A few short days later we drove it in to the DMV to have it inspected and get its plates. I let my dad drive it in and back. Needless to say, he put it through its paces. When we got home he got out, looked at it, held out his hand with the keys and, handing them to me, he said, “It’s yours now.”

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