Steve VandenBerg's

1958 Chevrolet 290 HP Fuel Injected Corvette

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December 2007

     A year or so ago, I submitted my barn find stories and a bunch of pictures of my Corvettes to Corvette Fever Magazine. The editor (Alan Colvin) called me a few months back and told me he wanted to run my story and pictures as an article in the January 2008 issue. Well, my 1958 Corvette Fuelie made it and is now immortalized internationally. He did talk about running Jan, Feb, and March issues, one on each of my barn find Corvettes. I don’t hold my breath on things, but the first issue story title line has “Part 1” in it. Will this be a two or three part series of my barn finds? I’ll keep you up to date. Here is the PDF of the January 2008 article.H

Very cool! ~ Congrats! ~ Editor

10 April 2006

From Steve: 

          Back around 1970, my buddy Tom was in California riding his Harley and enjoying his lifestyle. He ran into this kid with a Corvette that he wanted to sell. Tom worked out a trade for his Harley and now was driving a Corvette home. The motor was burning oil but it ran pretty good yet. Tom started his trek home to Minnesota. Tom was scoffed at by a couple of guys with '57 Vettes along the way telling him what a mistake he made because the '58s were "junk and undesirable." Apparently, the factory added some more chrome and a washboard hood that made the car with a lot of "one year only" pieces. Tom started thinking that he had made a mistake. I think those guys were a little biased.

          He got home about 25 quarts of oil later. He drove it around for the summer (maybe a little longer) before parking it in his shed and thinking of working on the motor and fixing it up a little.

          Around 1977 or so ( I still didn’t know Tom all that well and I was just a “hang around”), I stopped by Tom’s house and while in his shop, I drooled over the Corvette. It was so cool to me as a teenager. I don’t think I had ever been up close to one at that point in my life and Tom was allowing me to climb in and take a look. What a dream!

          Tom, like so many of us, had a million projects to take care of. The Corvette got put under a canvas tarp and put to the side. Over the years, I visited Tom now and then and we became good friends. I would always look at the exposed rear fender of the Corvette, but we didn’t talk about it much. Tom had promised to give some of his best friends first option to buy it if it did go up for sale. He had told me that several times. I just figured that the Corvette was out of reach for me. I knew that it was not for sale -- and I didn’t have the money to buy it anyway.

          Around 1991, I told Tom I would help him get it on the road if he wanted but he declined. He was too busy with other projects at the time and couldn’t swing extra money for the Corvette.

          In 2004, I had gotten the Corvette fever with a 1969 Corvette I found in Carlsbad, CA that had been on blocks in a gal’s garage for 18 years. I flew down there and got it running and drove it home. That was one of those lifetime experiences that turned into a great and fun education. A couple of months later, I was checking out a barn fresh 1963 Corvette that I happened upon. I offered the guy way too much money for it the way it was, and he wanted another 6 or 7 grand yet. I wonder if he ever got someone to buy it.

          A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004, I happened to be in town and stopped by to see Tom. He had just bought a farm and was in the process of moving all of his stuff out there. While in his shop, I saw that the Corvette was uncovered. I just had to take a closer look. It had been 20 some years since I had seen it uncovered. I checked it out and asked Tom if he would ever sell it. He replied that he would if someone ever offered him the right money for it.

          Now, many people had tried to buy his Corvette over the years, but they apparently were never serious enough. I remember asking how much he wanted for the car years earlier and the price was way out of line. He told me that he would keep it until he got that price.

          I asked him how much it would take to buy the Corvette. He replied with the price he had placed on it years ago. I asked him, “Would you really let it go if someone gave you that much?” He replied that he probably would. I just left it at that and we went about normal conversations and then I went home.

          When I got home, I did a little research on the car and called my Uncle Carl. Uncle Carl has been building cars for a long time and I consider him a person to be reliable and to bring me back in check when I get “feverish” about cars I find. I called Tom that night after checking my availability to cash in my bank accounts.

          “Hey Tom, done working for the night?” “No, I’m still at it. I have a lot to do.” “Tom, I want to buy the Corvette from you.” “Well, I thought about it after you left and I don’t think I will sell it.” “I’m talking cash tomorrow.” Long pause………. “Tom, are you still there?” Long pause. "Yes, I’m here. I’m just thinking about it.” “I have cash and I’m definitely willing to make the deal.” “I think I’ll just sleep on it and give it some thought first. I’m not really interested in parting with it.” “OK Tom, just let me know if you change your mind.” “I’ll call you tomorrow and let me know one way or the other.” “All right Tom. Later."

          I hung up the phone disappointed. I should have known that Tom wouldn’t sell the car. The next day around 3 pm, I checked my cell phone messages and Tom had called. I figured that Tom was just calling, like he said he would, to tell me he would keep the car. I knew he couldn’t separate himself from that car. I was wrong!

          Tom’s somber message went like this: “Hey Steve. Tom here. I’ve been thinking and decided that I would sell the Corvette. You have more time to work on it than I do and a better place to work on it. I guess I’ve had it long enough. Later. Bye.”

          I called Tom back and told him I wanted to get the car that night. He replied that he wouldn’t be able to get the car out of where it was that quickly. I just told him that I would help him. It would be fun to work along Tom to dig out the Corvette.

          I had 15 minutes left of work and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I ran to the bank and got cash. I ran home and got the truck and trailer and went to Tom’s house which was about an hour away.

          When I got there, Tom already had the car dug out and pushed into the yard back in the alley. We shook hands and went into his house to make the deal. Tom had the original California title, Minnesota title and all paperwork to the car. He had the previous owner's name, address and phone number, and every piece of paper that belonged to the car. I counted out the bills to Tom and told him to recount them. He didn’t count the money and told me that he knew me well enough to know that it was all there. We talked for about an hour and made out a proper receipt and signed it over.

          We got outside and got the trailer ready. I was surprised at how light that car was when we pushed it onto the trailer. We got it winched down and we stood there looking at it. I think both of us were near tears. I was amazed that Tom sold it to me, and Tom was amazed that the car now belonged to someone else. We stood there looking at it with arms on each others shoulders. I asked Tom why he decided to sell it to me instead of one of his best friends. Tom said, “We’ve known each other for a long time, Steve. I’m glad the Corvette is going to a home where I know it will be appreciated instead of some collector who will put it in his climate-controlled living room to look at it. I know you will take care of it and drive it. This should also tell you that we might be closer friends than you think.” I just looked at Tom and felt a bond that felt amazing.

          I hated to leave and wanted to just hang out with Tom but it was getting late. I had to get back to work and I wanted to make sure the car was secured right away that night. Now, Tom nor I are the kind of guys who hug other guys, but we did -- and it was right man!

          I called my brother Merle and told him I needed to put a car I bought in his garage for the night and that I was stopping by his house. When I got there, he about fell down when he saw Tom’s Corvette on the trailer. "Did you buy it? Why did he sell it to you, I’ve known him longer than you?" "I guess you just had to be there, Merle. I don’t think it was about the money."

1958 Corvette, 290HP Fuel Injected, 4 speed w/posi rear end and both tops. One of 1007 made.

Steve VandenBerg
Bolter #6449
Sioux Falls, South Dakota [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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