People often like to use the term “survivor” to describe a classic car that has managed to make it through decades of potential hazards at the hands of their former owners, as well as the ravages of nature with the original equipment still intact. Calling a car a survivor implies that it has seen hardships and dangers and somehow managed to live to tell about it, while others of its kind weren’t quite so lucky. There are indeed genuine “survivors” out there, but sometimes a really, really nice numbers-matching car didn’t merely survive, but instead it was just very well taken care of.
According to the definitive Y-body reference, the Corvette Black Book, there were exactly 14,531 Corvettes built in 1962, the very last year for the C1's. In the 50 year time span since it was built, Phil Perry's Roman Red '62 Two-Top Corvette has managed to not only survive, but thrive.
That’s exactly the case with Phil Perry’s Two-Top 1962 Corvette. This Roman Red C1 wasn’t tucked away safe from mischievous hands and the dangers of nature somewhere in a barn, only to be discovered 40 years later under 3 inches of chicken poo. No; it didn’t make it to 2012 with its original engine, transmission, and rear end still intact by hiding out. It made it here because its owners were wise enough to know exactly what they had, and were smart enough to take good care of it.
If red is the Corvette's signature color, then Perry's '62 is a "Corvette's Corvette," with Roman Red as far as the eye can see.
Not Just Surviving – Thriving
When I met up with Perry in the quaint little town of Caldwell, Texas, to shoot the pictures for this feature, I couldn’t help but refer to the Corvette as a “survivor” myself. But, during our discussion of the car, Perry told me, “It’s not so much that it is a ‘survivor’ – it’s more like it has ‘lived an easy life.’”
In 1962, a similarly optioned Corvette would have sold new for around $4,800. In today's money, that would be just over $36,000. That actually seems like a pretty good deal, don't you think?
For me, it’s not about showing it off. For me it’s just about owning it and knowing it’s mine.
Ironically, not much is known about the previous owners of the car, and the only owner that Perry has had any contact with was the gent whom he bought the car from over a year ago. Unfortunately, the previous owner passed away shortly after Perry bought the car, making it even more difficult to track down any information on the Corvette’s history. But that hasn’t stopped Perry from trying.
He may or may not ever be able to track down the owners from the car’s 50 years of existence, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of clues to the car’s history right there in the car itself. Perry was able to determine through the car’s serial number that it was built on April 7th, 1962, and was one of 55 Corvettes that were built that day. The interesting thing about that particular date is that it would have been a Saturday. Perry says, “When I first looked up the build date and saw that it was a Saturday, I thought that there must be some kind of mistake. But after I did some research, sure enough, the factory did operate on Saturdays back then.”
Even 50 years later, the Corvette still has it's original carbureted 300 horsepower 327 small block resting between the fenders. 1962 was the very first year for the 327 small block in the Corvette, and in addition to the 300 horsepower version there were also 250 horsepower, 340 horsepower, and a high-output fuel injected version that made 360 horsepower.
The Corvette is still powered by the very same 300 horsepower 327 small block that it left the factory with in 1962, and the same goes for the 4-speed transmission and 3.08 geared Positraction rear end. As a Two-Top car, the Corvette also has a black soft top in addition to the red hard top it was wearing the day of our photo shoot. In 2007 the car had a complete frame-on restoration performed and was thoroughly gone-through. The car was still in good enough shape that a full rotisserie resto wasn’t even necessary.
An interesting fact about C1's is that they don't have any kind of trim tag that tells what the original paint color was. However, some cars had the color they were supposed to be painted written in grease pencil behind the seats. Unless you are lucky enough to have the dealer invoice, checking for the grease pencil marking is about the only way to determine if your C1 is the original color.
The One that Didn’t Get Away
For some reason that red Corvette always stuck with me…
Perry has only owned the Corvette for a little over a year now, but he has had a good bit of history with Roman Red ’62 Vettes. Perry tells us, “Back in the mid-70’s my wife and I were living in Houston, and I found a red-on-red ’62 Corvette for sale in the paper. I ended up trading a motorcycle for it straight across and my wife and I really loved that car. One day we were out driving around Houston, when we passed a guy in a really nice ’32 Ford. He flagged us down and we both pulled over in a parking lot and started talking. It turns out the guy was a doctor who had had a Corvette just like ours back when he was in college. He asked if we would be willing to sell it, and since I didn’t have much in it, I let it go for only $1,800. But for some reason that red Corvette always stuck with me. So when I had the chance to get this one, I knew I didn’t want to pass it up.”
The true test of how well a car has been cared for is as simple as taking a look in the most neglected area of any car; the trunk. As you can see, this '62 passes with flying colors.
Now, all things considered it’s not 100%, perfect and it’s not 100% correct; however it is a solid 95% of the way there. And at the same time, it’s not just a garage queen that spends its life in a plastic bubble. Perry’s Roman Red C1 is every bit of a high-end driver, and a great example of a numbers-matching early Corvette that still sees plenty of street use. So, here it is in the year 2012, exactly half of a century after it was built, as a rolling testament to the fact that some things in life can last forever with a little TLC.
This little red Corvette is a cruiser, not a dolled up show queen. Perry tells us, “For me, it’s not about showing it off. For me it’s just about owning it and knowing it’s mine.”