Whether Emerson was flooring it or just cruising, the car was loud. As it turns out, one of the previous owners had removed the baffles from the car’s sidepipes. In conjunction with the Hooker headers that had also been fitted, these straight-through sidepipes amounted to a race-ready exhaust system. Emerson loved the roar; police officers were much less enamored of it and pulled him over repeatedly. One time they accused Emerson of racing another car, even though he was barely creeping along. “If I had wanted to race, I would have been long gone,” he says. Though he got out of this ticket and others, Emerson eventually elected to have the sidepipes rebuilt with baffles.
Still decades away from becoming the Corvette expert that he is today, Emerson had been convinced by fellow car enthusiasts to keep the car’s original Daytona Yellow paint job on account of its relative rarity. He learned a lot more about his Corvette when its engine spun a bearing at the 65,000-mile mark in 1982. The mechanic entrusted with the repair told Emerson he was impressed with the car’s LT1 engine. It was only then, four years into his ownership experience, that Emerson found out his car was equipped with this highly desirable option.
How could he not have known? First of all, the Corvette did not have an LT1 hood when Emerson bought it. While the LT1’s solid lifters and high compression ratio can definitely be felt, they cannot be seen. And finally, 350-horse L46 engines are no shrinking violets; Emerson just thought that his was particularly robust.
Though pleased to find out about the LT1, Emerson didn’t suddenly treat his Corvette as a collector car. He kept driving it regularly, the period modifications he had made to the engine bay—Edelbrock valve covers, various brightwork—remained, and he was in no hurry to track down a correct LT1 hood. Still spending a lot of time on two wheels—he was an active member of a Harley-Davidson club—Emerson didn’t have the time to immerse himself in the Corvette hobby.
It wasn’t until 2002 that he joined a Corvette club, the Northern California Corvette Association. By that point, his ’70 convertible was showing its age, especially the interior. Emerson elected to have it restored. Having been bitten by the originality bug, he decided to track down original, new-old-stock panels and pads as opposed to using aftermarket replacement parts. Though it was a time-consuming process, Emerson eventually found what he needed on eBay. He not only kept the cockpit its original black color, he chose not to change or upgrade anything; he didn’t have a more reliable quartz clock fitted nor did he have air-conditioning installed. That latter item would have come in handy on his next road trip, which involved driving from Hayward to Bowling Green.
The Northern California Corvette Association had organized a caravan to Kentucky to join in the nationwide celebration of the Corvette’s 50th anniversary. Naturally, Emerson wanted to join in—after all, the event coincided with his 50th birthday. Normally, he only drives his Corvette with the top down, but on this cross-country trip the weather proved so searingly hot that he was forced to seek the shade of his black soft top. Covering about 400 miles per day, the group reached their destination in four days.
Emerson had the second oldest car in his group—a ’65 was also along for the ride—which resulted in him being given preferential parking spots wherever he went during the event. Chrome-bumper LT1s always draw a crowd, and those that swarmed Emerson’s ’70 convertible were universally amazed by the fact that the car still wore its original paint. They were even more amazed to find out that Emerson had used a rather unorthodox cleaning product to prep his car: Comet. People simply couldn’t believe it.