Out in the Open

Freed from long-term storage, this '75 Corvette gets to show off its colors.

December 16, 2011

Also from Issue 71

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KEVIN SMITH HADN’T PLANNED ON BUYING A CORVETTE—the opportunity just kind of fell on his lap. He’d been living in Linden, New Jersey for about five years and had befriended his neighbor Joseph Camasta, who had a green ’75 Corvette in his garage. But it wasn’t driven very often and was never left out on the driveway, so Smith rarely thought about the car. That is, until the day Camasta offered to sell it to him.

In 1974, Camasta’s 21-year-old son, Joseph, Jr., had bought the ’75 Corvette new. He’d just landed a job with the Newark, New Jersey fire department and bought the sports car as a way of celebrating. As a fire chief in Linden, Joseph, Sr. was certainly proud to see his son follow in his footsteps. A few years later, this heart-warming picture was shattered by cancer. In 1978, at just 25 years of age, Joseph, Jr. succumbed to Hodgkin’s disease.

For the next 21 years, Joseph, Sr. kept the Corvette in his garage, driving it only to keep the battery charged and the fluids circulating. Other than the oil, nothing was changed on the car—including the tires. When Camasta offered to sell the Corvette to Smith, it had just 9,000 miles on the odometer. He had wanted to pass the car on to someone he knew, preferably a friend; Smith fit the bill.

As it had come out of the blue, Smith was a bit stunned by the offer, and he didn’t immediately have an answer for Camasta—he also didn’t have the cash. Smith did, however, have a Harley-Davidson Sportster he could sell to help raise the necessary funds; within a week, he had found a buyer for the bike. He went over to Camasta’s and declared, “Joe, I’ll take the car.” Without any money having changed hands, Camasta immediately drove the Corvette across the street to its new home and handed Smith the keys.

Smith had owned several Chevies before, but never a Corvette. Back in the ’70s, he had a ’63 Chevy sedan, then moved up to a ’63 coupe in which he installed a 327-cubic-inch V8. “It was my hot rod,” he recalls. Even hotter was the Camaro big block he later owned. Naturally, he was attracted to Corvettes, but he never thought he could afford one—certainly not a new model. But then the modern machinery doesn’t appeal to Smith, he much prefers older cars.

SMITH WAS FLABBERGASTED BY THE CORVETTE’S ORIGINALITY. Absolutely nothing had been changed mechanically. The ’75 model was the first Corvette to have a catalytic converter. The setup was a power robber mostly because the exhaust manifolds fed into a single cat before separating back out into dual exhaust tips. As a result, the base L48 engine produced just 165 horsepower—the lowest output of any Corvette V8. Not surprisingly, the stock exhaust system was usually one of the first things to go on mid-’70s Corvettes. The same was true of the air pump, a belt-driven device that directed air into the exhaust manifolds in order to reduce tailpipe emissions. Both of these parts were present and accounted for on Smith’s ’75.

An automatic transmission-equipped coupe, this Corvette has a fairly long list of options, including air-conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering column, power steering, power brakes and an AM/FM radio. Joseph Camasta, Jr. certainly didn’t skimp when it came to ordering his Corvette. He also chose to go with a bright color—literally, Bright Green. Not all that many other customers went down this path; just 1,664 ’75 Corvettes (out of 38,465) were painted this one-year-only color.