Once back in Southern California, Jeffrey immediately put the area’s relatively traffic-free highways to good use. She drove her new Corvette up and down the nearby Pacific Coast Highway, from Huntington Beach up to Long Beach. “I was the terror of PCH,” says Jeffrey. Even less traffic was encountered when she ventured east towards the inland deserts. She recalls hitting 160 mph during one of these forays.
Based on the recommendation of a friend who told her that big blocks were delivered in a detuned state, Jeffrey had a local Corvette specialist do some work on the engine. Bill Thomas of Santa Ana blueprinted the motor to the tune of 550 horsepower. Jeffrey says the first time she goosed the reworked V8’s throttle, the car immediately went sideways; she couldn’t believe how much more power the 427 was putting out.
Jettisoning the stock bias-ply tires and installing a set of new Pirelli radials helped tame the Corvette’s wayward tail, as did more delicate gas-pedal work. Armed with Positraction and the improved rubber, Jeffrey’s Corvette could beat just about anything she came up against at a stoplight, save for a Shelby Cobra. A guy she knew had a 289 model equipped with a 4:11 rear end. “He could get me off the line,” says Jeffrey, “but I could get him down the line.”
Jeffrey didn’t reserve her Corvette driving for hot-rodding: The car was her daily driver, and continued to be for more than a decade. She raised a lot of eyebrows during that time, especially in the first few years, and not just because of the novelty of a woman driving such a serious sports car. “There weren’t a lot of Corvettes around at the time,” says Jeffrey. She admits the car’s clutch was stiff, that her feet would get hot while stuck in traffic and parking it could be a workout, but says she happily put up with such compromises in exchange for the speed.
Eventually, Jeffrey started driving the car less. First came a move to Virginia, where she was forced to store the Corvette during the snowy winter months. The ’66 also accompanied her upon her return to California, but beginning in 1980 it had to share the stable with a ’66 Mustang, which became Jeffrey’s commuter car. As the decade wore on, outings in the Corvette were more about keeping it exercised than wringing it out. Ever-increasing traffic had made the latter more difficult, as did the car’s thirst for jet fuel, which she added to compensate for no-longer-available leaded gasoline.
Finally, Jeffrey’s longtime mechanic told her that the car had reached the point where it needed a lot of work, especially the engine. She had had the ’66 repainted once and a new set of springs had been fitted, but the suggested work was going to be an order of magnitude more expensive. It was with much dread that she sold the car in 1991, to a small used-car shop in Costa Mesa, California called Corvette Lady. “I never wanted to sell it, but the car was going to cost me a fortune to restore,” says Jeffrey.
In 2005, Dave Farrell tracked down just the car he was looking for: a Sunfire Yellow ’66 Big Block. He bought it from Corvette Lady’s Sonya Keith. After purchasing the Corvette from Jeffrey, Keith had kept the car for a while herself, then sold it. She ended up buying it back a few years later, and keeping it for another stretch. With just 55,000 miles on the odometer, the car had yet to be restored when Farrell bought it. All the body panels were original, as was the interior, including the carpet and gauges. None of the glass had been replaced, either. Though the car had been well-maintained, it was far from pristine. “It was tired,” says Farrell. “The engine had never been out of the car, and it looked it.” To prove its originality, the Corvette came with a tall stack of records. It also came with a high price tag, as C2 big blocks were experiencing a real run-up in value in 2005.