Starlite Cruisers' Car Club proudly features, great classic
vehicles, which belong to the good folks of Oklahoma.
This month’s Great Oklahoma Classic is truly
an American Classic, a first generation 1954 C1 Chevrolet Corvette that belongs
to Jim and Jo Lunsford of Stillwater Oklahoma. Jim found this classic C1 in
the June 1997
issue of Hemmings Motor News. The ad was short: “complete, runs, and
restorable.” This was the vehicle that Jim had been thinking about since he had
recently retired. After several phone conversations Jim bought the car in the
ad – sight unseen- (to his wife’s amazement) and had it shipped from California
to their home in Stillwater in July of 1997.
In 1954 Jim and Jo were high school juniors.
It was love at first sight for the girl and the car. Jim married Jo, his dream
girl, as soon as he could but had to wait 43 years before he had enough time
and money to by his dream car.
The first C1's were made in 1953 and only 300
were produced. This limited production
makes the 1953 Corvettes very expensive and very difficult to find if not
impossible. The 1955 Corvettes are also
very expensive due to the 700 total production run and the first Corvettes with
V8 motors. Jim says the 1954 Corvettes were much more obtainable due to the
3,640 production run and much less expensive. All of the 1954 Corvettes had the
235 cubic inch Blue Flame (inline 6) engine overhead valve that produced 150
horsepower. All of the 1954 Corvettes had a two speed power glide transmission
with floor shift.
The great adventure began when Jim and Jo met
the delivery driver east of Stillwater and watched the old C1 back down the
ramp. They were able to see the Corvette for the first time. Jo says it was an
eye full! The trunk was held in place with duct tape and the interior was a
mess! The driver sprayed a little ether into the carbs and the Blue Flame 6
started right up. It was very loud due to the missing exhaust system which was
long gone. The driver then aired up the tires and told them he had driven the car
onto the truck and that they should have no trouble driving it home. They had
not traveled far when a tire went
flat and they pulled to the side of the road near 19th Street and
Country Club Road. No top, no spare, no jack and 101 degree temperature! Jo
could not believe they were leaving their treasure on the side of the road to
go find a tire. What a beginning!
Jim spent the first full year of his
retirement restoring the car to this beautiful state. He did a body-off
complete restoration right in his garage, moving the Corvette in and out of the
garage for different phases of the restoration. He took a class in college to
learn about fiberglass repair, but says he learned a lot more in this first
year of working on the classic. He
enrolled in Auto Body and Paint at the local Vo-tech. Jim removed the body from
the frame and painted the car in his home garage.
BEFORE! Jo almost cried when she first saw the interior of the old Corvette.
beautiful interior of this classic was
restored by Kevin Collin of Stillwater.
When Jim began taking the engine apart it
appeared to not have any wear on the main bearings or the cylinders. He
contacted a previous owner and was told there had been a complete overhaul done
to the engine, transmission and brakes fifteen years ago and the car had only
been driven 300 miles since. This was a great day!
only reason Jim was able to talk to the owner that had overhauled the Corvette
was by sheer luck. While disassembling the car Jim found a very old gasoline
credit card under the seat. The date on
the credit card was 1972 and the name was E. B. Gardner from Oregon. Oh! Those
marvelous computers! Jim was able to contact the man on the card and ‘YES’ it
was a previous owner! Mr. Gardner was excited to hear about the car and that it
was being restored. Mr. Gardner had decided back in 1995 that he would not be
able to restore the car so he sold it to a dealer who put it in an auction and
it was sold to a Joe Calcagno, a Corvette enthusiast, who bought it to be saved
from being sold for parts. Mr. Calcagno was the one who listed the old Corvette
in the Hemmings Motor News.
The snap-in side windows are stored when the
top is off in a holder in the trunk.
The wide white wall tires on the classic are
670/15 Firestones mounted to the original red wheels with the stock Corvette
hub caps. What a classic look!
After the restoration Mr. Gardner was
able to come to Stillwater to visit and drive the now restored car. Mr. Gardner
died in 2008, but his son, Mathew, has also visited Jim and Jo and their
Corvette several times. Recently Mathew brought his fiance’ for some photos in
the car. In August of 2016 Mathew and Katherine were able to take a few
engagement photos to preserve those great old memories of his daddy’s “Vette”
Jim filling up the classic with a tankful of that premium grade fuel
DX SUPER BORON at the Cimarron Starlite Cruisers' club house in the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza.