Though he kept his economical commuter car for going back and forth to work in inclement weather, Martino managed to rack up the miles on his new Corvette. Whether just cruising around town or hitting the highway, the driving experience was every bit as joyous as he anticipated. “I made many trips up and down the Garden State Parkway to the Jersey shore in the warmer months and spent a lot of time just cruising around northern New Jersey,” says Martino. “I even commuted with it now and then if the weather was mild, but almost all of the miles I put on it were recreational.”
Around 1998, with the odometer showing about 60,000 miles, Martino began driving his Corvette less and less frequently. Sometimes several months would pass without the Corvette turning a wheel. Then he’d uncover it, reconnect the battery and give his old friend a little bit of exercise. There was no master plan to keep the miles down in order to preserve the car. Instead, Martino just got busy with other things and didn’t feel a burning passion to drive the car all the time. That is, until 2010, when he experienced what he calls “a rebirth of interest.”
Probably as much from lack of use as anything else, a few areas of the car needed attention. One of the headlight motors quit, so he had both motors rebuilt. For safety’s sake he went through the entire braking system. To cure a small power-steering fluid leak that had developed he installed a new steering rack. The cooling system was flushed and refilled, the oil was changed and a complete tune-up was performed.
After the mechanicals were renewed as needed, Martino decided to do something he’d never done before: “I always cleaned and hand-waxed the paint myself,” he explains, “but after so many years under a cover in the garage I thought it best to have it professionally detailed, including the engine, so it would be like new.”
When he got behind the wheel, Martino says his attitude toward the car completely changed. “At this point, the car looked, functioned and ran great,” he says. “In a nice way it felt almost like it was new all over again. I now enjoy driving it on clear days and evenings and also took it back down the shore a couple of times recently, something I had not done with the car in about ten years. I’ve even taken it to a few local cruise-night car shows over the last couple of years, which I have never done before, and really enjoyed it. I also keep a few cassettes in the car from the late 1980s: Guns N’ Roses, Lita Ford and some freestyle club mixes among others. They can really bring you back in time and still sound pretty good pumping out of the Bose system.”
Looking back over 25 years and about 75,000 miles, Martino is very pleased with his Corvette’s reliability and cost to own and operate. “All in all, including standard maintenance, which I may have stretched out longer then I should have on occasion, repairs and operating costs on this vehicle have really been minimal,” he tells us. “Even the futuristic digital dashboard or the Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission, which in the earlier C4s sometimes needed repairs, have never given me any issues over the years. I actually find the 4+3 overdrive convenient in some driving situations where I do not need to change gears as often as a five- or six-speed may have required.”
During the decade or so that he rarely used the Corvette, Martino did occasionally contemplate selling it, but is now grateful he did not follow through: “At this point, I am still very happy with my car and now I have no plans to sell it. Although the newer Corvettes are now obviously more advanced and have more speed, I don’t think they would really offer me anymore enjoyment than I already have and have had over the last 25 years with my black ’88!”