One of the ironies of restoring classic cars is that they often come out far better than the day they rolled off the assembly line. Since these vintage collectibles are invariably worth much more than they were when new, it’s easy to assume that restoring every aspect of them to the highest possible standard is the logical approach. But in reality, organizations like the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) deduct points for over-restoration.
Dedicated restorers who prize originality as much as quality put a lot of effort into emulating the build process that these cars originally went through, right down to paint overspray in select areas to sloppily applied glue on soft parts like rubber trim and window felt. It’s easy to forget that even cars as special as a Corvette Sting Ray were mass-produced—put together by workers who needed to complete their tasks quickly. Such assembly line manufacturing is a far cry from the unhurried attention a restorer can lavish on a single car.
“There is a lot to know when it comes down to restoring a car to the same standards as a 1960s UAW worker,” notes Rick Jones of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who restored the ’67 427 coupe pictured here. “There is a fair amount of sloppiness and poor fit that went into the assembly and building of these cars.” The word “sloppy” and the phrase “poor fit” seem odd after seeing Jones’ car in person, since by most definitions it looks perfect: The shut lines are uniform, the interior looks nearly brand new and the engine is so clean you could practically eat off of it.
When I look closer, though, particularly through the revealing lens of my Nikon, I see what Jones is talking about. In the engine bay, for example, there’s a bit of orange overspray on a coolant hose. The glue on the weather stripping for the doors is unevenly applied—again on purpose to match, rather than exceed, the original build quality. It’s such touches that make this Corvette so correct in the eyes of NCRS judges.
Like most Corvette enthusiasts, Jones tracked a predictable course when it came to his love of the model. “When I was a junior in high school in 1979, I dreamed of owning a 1968 or 1969 Corvette,” he says. It was, however, a dream that had to wait—until 1988. By that time, Jones had been working for many years as a mechanic. He wrenched on a variety of different makes and models, but focused mostly on GM products.
His first Corvette was a minimally optioned ’74 convertible painted Mille Miglia Red with a black leather interior. “It needed a lot of work and I was a mechanic, so it was a perfect match,” he says. After that initial purchase, Jones went on to own many more Corvettes from just about every generation, including a 2006 C6. “I would have to say the total number of them I have owned is near 30 by now.”
But of all the various iterations he’s owned, Jones has a particularly soft spot for the Larry Shinoda-designed second gen. “They may not have the handling capabilities of the later Corvettes,” he explains, “but they have style. And of all the mid-years, I think the 1967 has the best ergonomics and refinements, which is probably why it is the most popular year for Corvette enthusiasts.”