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NOTE: Just when you thought there couldn't be any more barn finds to be found this appears. What is in your garage or your neighbor's garage...what does grandpa have? Text by Jerry Heasley and photos by Hotrod.
Forty-one years passed.
“Get that Corvette
running,” “Get it out,” “Let’s get it going,” everybody kept telling Jay
Wisler. Finally, in 2015, with his friend Mike LaRocca’s prodding, Wisler
unearthed this ’57 Vette, still with the original drivetrain and paint,
interior rotted, but also “untouched” since new. Beside the ’57, Wisler had
also stored another “keeper:” a ’55, yellow with green interior; this one not
From 1968 until 1975, Jay
Wisler owned a shop repairing and restoring Vettes in Tampa, Florida. In 1974,
a friend mentioned a ’57 for sale about 45 minutes north in Leesburg. The price
in 1974 was $5,200, not exactly cheap even 40-plus years ago. However, Wisler
remembers in the early 1970s when everything “1957 Chevy” was hot: two-door
hardtops, Nomads, convertibles and Corvettes. Wisler paid more for the ’57 due
to its “untouched” status, very difficult to find even in the early 1970s.
Also, the ’57 Vette was a 245-horsepower dual-quad 283 for sale by the original
owner, a Colonel Edward Wright James, an Air Force veteran of three wars: World
War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The ’55 Vette was
much cheaper at $1,500, but it had no engine or transmission. “I bought the ’55
from an old friend of mine that needed the money to buy two Corvair Spyders
that he thought were a better investment.”
More than one person has
wanted to buy these two old Vettes over the years. Most recently, the TV showPickersexpressed an interest to do a shoot in
Jay’s garage. Wisler killed the proposed deal because a prerequisite was
selling them one or both of the Vettes. Jay’s plan is to build the ’55 for his
daughter and keep the ’57 for fun driving and car showing.
LaRocca is Jay’s very
talented friend of a half century. “We pulled the cars out. We took the ’57 to
Mike’s place. He went ahead and changed the oil, rebuilt the carburetors and we
got the thing running.”
“The dealer told
Colonel James if he would wait two more weeks, Chevrolet was coming out with a
new four-speed, all synchronized where you don’t have to stop to go into First
gear. He said he didn’t want one more gear to worry about shifting.” James
lived in Tucson, Arizona, in 1957 when he went looking for a new Corvette. He
found 20 or 21 on the lot of City Chevrolet in Los Angeles, but none in the
specific color he wanted: Aztec Copper. Colonel James felt Aztec Copper would
camouflage the desert’s red dirt.
The car got plenty dirty
when James raced at El Mirage, probably about 1957 or 1958. “He raced it one
time at El Mirage in California. He made a flying mile and got a plaque. He
told me he decoupaged that plaque into a wooden coffee table with several other
items from his military service.”
The Colonel passed away in 1981, but his wife, Betsy, 15 years
younger, is still alive. She has no knowledge of the table, but married the
Colonel three years after he bought the Corvette.
Wisler recalls James
quoted his top speed in the flying mile at 154 mph, a figure Wisler believes is
not possible with a stock three-speed and a set of 3.55s in a 245-horse
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