Full Circle

The restoration of a '66 big-block coupe brings an owner back to his automotive roots.

September 9, 2011
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More than any owner we’ve come across, Dave Farrell can say he restored his Corvette himself. The Omaha, Nebraska resident disassembled his ’66 big-block coupe without any outside assistance, including the task of separating the body from the chassis. Then he not only prepped and sanded the body, he painted it—in his home garage. While he sent out the car’s tired 427 for a rebuild, the frame for sandblasting and various trim pieces for replating, everything else was restored by his own two hands. On many levels, this laborious project was a way for the 55-year-old to get back to his roots.

When he was 19, Farrell bought his first Corvette—a ’66 coupe. “It was a basket case when I got it,” he says. He had already owned a few cars by that point, and had, out of necessity, learned to wrench. He tore apart the Corvette’s small-block engine and repaired its damaged body. The aim, however, was just to get it running, not create a show car. Farrell owned the ’66 for a couple of years, but it was just one of many American performance cars he owned at the time.“I was always buying and selling cars,” he says.

When he was 21, Farrell began working at an auto-body repair shop; soon, he had a shop of his own in Omaha. While working on other people’s cars was his bread and butter at first, Farrell found himself spending more and more time buying wrecked cars, repairing them and selling them. Once he discovered that it was more lucrative to sell parts from salvaged cars than entire vehicles, Farrell’s business began to head in a different direction. Before long, he was specializing in recycled Toyota parts, hiring employees and acquiring land on which to park his growing fleet of Japanese cars.

Farrell was also getting away from the hobby that had led him down the automotive path in the first place. “When I started the parts business, I stopped doing anything with muscle cars,” he says. “I didn’t want to lose my focus.” The strategy worked, and Farrell created a profitable company, one that caught the eye of some big players in the recycled original-equipment parts business. International behemoth LQK began merging with Farrell’s business in 1999, and Farrell began working less. Eventually, he had the time and money to pursue his passion for muscle cars. “I came back to my hobby,” says Farrell.

The car he wanted most was a ’66 Corvette, but not just any example would do. He wanted a 425-horsepower big block that was as original as possible, well documented and painted Sunfire Yellow. Many other cars were purchased before he found what he was looking for, including several Corvettes. He restored two of them, mostly by himself, and, wanting to do things right, he had a dedicated workshop complete with a four-point hydraulic lift built on his sprawling rural property. Farrell’s restoration skills were honed; now he just needed that yellow ’66.

Bonnie Jeffrey had no interest in adhering to societal norms as a youth. Considering the fact that she graduated from college in the mid-’60s, she was not alone. Instead of leaving Newport Beach, California for a commune in Oregon, however, Jeffrey marched into a Chevrolet dealership looking to buy a Corvette. And not just any Corvette, but a big-block coupe with four on the floor, no power assists of any kind and no air-conditioning—the ultimate “man’s car.” Hers was not an act of defiance, though; she just wanted to drive fast, and at the time she couldn’t do better than a four-and-a-quarter-horse Corvette. Her father supported the idea, but Jeffrey admits that there might have been some confusion on his part: He apparently thought she was getting a Corvair, not a Corvette.

Jeffrey’s local dealer didn’t have what she was looking for, but he quickly tracked down one that did. Unfortunately, that dealer was way out in Hays, Kansas, but this geographic hurdle didn’t scuttle the purchase. The dealer offered to meet Jeffrey halfway, in Denver, Colorado, and a deal was struck. A doctor friend of Jeffrey’s—she had studied nursing—accompanied her on the retrieval mission; he was buying a Corvette, too. The pair didn’t baby their new steeds on the journey home. “We had a lot of fun,” she recalls.

Also from Issue 69

  • 1997 Twin Turbo
  • Hennessey Grand Sport
  • Best $8K Buys
  • 1994 Brickyard Special
  • How-To: C3 Rust Repair
  • 1960 Restomod
  • 1968 L89 Big Block
  • Bloomington Gold
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