Portrait of an Artist

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Grove was passionate about automobiles from an early age. “He was always interested in cars,” says his three-years younger brother Eric, a filmmaker who lives in Virginia. He explains that a neighbor who owned an old Packard took Grove under his wing and taught him how to work on cars. After that experience, says Eric, “David was all primed and ready.”

Grove’s interest in cars was also piqued by trips to visit an uncle in rural New Jersey. He noticed that the farm kids in the area were allowed to begin driving at a very early age, and he wanted in on the action. Grove coaxed his uncle into letting him drive his tractor, but soon he wanted to get behind the wheel of something a little faster—especially once he witnessed a friend drive a floor-shift Hudson on a neighboring farm. “David was fascinated by that Hudson,” declares Eric.

Just as soon as it was legal for him to be issued a driving permit, Grove convinced his dad to get him one. His enthusiasm for cars did not immediately translate into driving talent, says Eric—who concedes that his father was no Fangio, either—but that didn’t keep Grove from driving fast: “He drove every car like it was a sports car.”

Grove’s first car, a ’49 Ford, was decidedly not a sports car. By the time Grove was a senior in high school, however, he had upgraded to something with a little more spunk—a ’57 Plymouth Fury. He drove the Fury to college in the fall of 1958, but eventually it, too, was replaced—with a ’53 Corvette, which he purchased in upstate New York in 1961.

A freshly minted teenager at the time of the Corvette’s debut in 1953, Grove was drawn to Chevrolet’s sports car. No doubt, as an art student, he gained an even deeper appreciation for its design. According to Eric, it was a car’s styling that was most important to his brother; the ’53 purchase probably was not about performance. Although he was going from a four-place coupe to a two-seat roadster, Grove was also going from a 318-cubic-inch V8 engine with a healthy 290 horsepower to a 235-cubic-inch inline-6 with just 150 ponies. Style indeed.

Though Grove surely enjoyed having a sports car at school, he remained very much focused on his studies, as well as his position as editor of the campus magazine, the Syracuse 10. On top of all that, Grove was spending increasingly more time behind

the lens of a camera. Such ambition did not go unrecognized. In June of 1961, he

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