Forty-four years after buying his first Corvette, a terminally ill enthusiast finds allies in a race against time to take delivery of his last.
“My other car is a Corvette,” Larry told the girl as he opened the passenger door and ushered her inside. “Well, it’s on order, anyway.” Her response was a sustained giggle, followed by open laughter, and who could have blamed her? The old Datsun was clearly on its last legs, with a wooden 2×4 propping up a collapsed driver’s seatback. Larry was telling the truth, but there was no way to prove it; his order for a mahogany ‘76 would end up sitting at the factory for quite a while. “I wanted a four-speed manual,” he recalls, “and they were only shipping automatics.” After six months or so, his dealer called and told him his ship had come in. In the meantime, Larry had closed a very different sort of deal: that laughing girl in the passenger seat of a worn-out sedan had agreed to be his wife, modest personal transportation notwithstanding.
He lost her six years ago, to an aneurysm which struck without warning and left him alone in his Tacoma-area home, a hundred miles from the Pacific Coast. Over time, he made his peace with it, starting a new relationship and making new plans. One of those plans: to buy a new eighth-generation Corvette, once his local dealer could make room for him on the waiting list. There was an available color which seemed pretty close to the ‘76 he’d sold years ago, but he was in no particular hurry to take delivery. Until he was.
They told him the cancer was “aggressive”. The surgery might get it all — but then it didn’t. With enough radiation, he might outlive the tumors; one-third of people with his diagnosis get five years or more. But there would be no way to know in advance. There was no way to control the situation. So Larry focused on what he could control. He would go ahead and get in line for that C8 ‘Vette. He wouldn’t worry about the money, because he wouldn’t need it in the future.
Larry called dealers. A lot of dealers. They told him that he wasn’t the only fellow looking to take delivery in a hurry. The waiting lists were long and they were mortared solid with five-figure deposit checks. One afternoon, he sat down and wrote a letter to the editorial team at Hagerty on the subject. We used it as the subject of an article on C8 dealer markups and advised Larry to bide his time, not knowing that he couldn’t. Larry responded shortly afterwards, telling us his story and noting that, “I’m being selfish in my desire to own a C8 ASAP, but… there’s a bit of justification.”
We wanted to help Larry, but how? As fate would have it, we’d just heard from a fellow who claimed to know of a dealer with a few open C8 slots. Tony Hull, an Atlanta-area businessman and fast-Chevy enthusiast with a recently-acquired ZL1 1LE. “I’ve lost a few friends to cancer over the years,” he said, “and it would be an honor to help make this dream come true.” Tony put us in touch with Jim Frageau at Blasius Chevrolet-Cadillac in Waterbury, CT, who indicated that he might be able to get Larry on the front end of a waiting list, courtesy of a customer who had decided he’d rather wait for the upcoming Corvette convertible. “Additional dealer markup?” he laughed. “We don’t play those games. Let’s get the man a car before it’s too late.”
At the same time, we were speaking directly to Chevrolet representatives. There were strong sentimental reason for GM to help us, but there was also the potential that they’d be taking a car away from a potential repeat buyer in favor of a fellow who wouldn’t be returning to a showroom again. We needn’t have worried. The word came down from Detroit: “Let’s make this dream come true for a loyal customer”.
Jack Baruth from Hagerty
Photo credit: Evan Griffey
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