Corvette Funfest 2011: One-Of-A-Kind ’74 ‘Vette GM Field Project Car
Be it for the genuine love of the styling and mechanical intricacies of the automobile or simply a look-at-me tool for attracting females, the idea of owning a self-prescribed dream car is what bore the birth of the hot rodding movement and has sustained and flourished the car hobby for more than half a century and multiple generations of automotive enthusiasts.
For Glenn Watson, the lifelong fascination with and desire to own America’s homegrown super car – the Chevrolet Corvette – was one that remained illusive for much of his life. But in 1997, after years of searching for just the right car, Watson became the proud owner of his very first Corvette; thus fulfilling the dream that millions of young men had all but lived for from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.
Watson had located a truly (and documented) one-of-a-kind Corvette: a 1974 GM Field Project Performance Car, previously belonging to GM engineer Steve Seltveit. Like many employees of ‘The General’ in the 1970’s, Seltveit utilized his own personal vehicle as a testbed for future Corvette developments, with the approval and assistance of the GM brass.
The goal of Seltveit’s project was to deliver a small block-powered Corvette capable of competing with the big blocks, with improved handling and performance capable of competing with the Mark V8 option. Once completed, this third-gen featured several enhancements over a factory ’74 model, with a larger camshaft, a new four-barrel Holley 780 CFM high flow carburetor, a reworked Turbo Hydramatic THM-400 reworked for full manual or automatic shifting, Hooker headers with side exit exhaust pipes, Gymkhana springs, wider tires for improved traction and cornering ability, and a host of other adjustments.
Some of the finer details to this unique GM field testbed were in the engine, where former GM engineer Steve Seltveit aimed to produce Mark V8 option power that could rival the big blocks with a 40-inch small block.
Selveit had purchased the car brand new from a dealership before performing all of the field testing changes on his own, with some help from the folks at GM. Among the then-one-off parts acquired through the fields test were the 1976 model years wheels, which Seltveit was given by GM and installed in his vehicle two years prior to their unveiling.
The unique one-owner Corvette was finally sold to Watson after more than thirty years his possession, having barely been driven. Sadly, Watson’s enjoyment of his prized new possession lasted only a few short years before passing away in 2003.
However, knowing that his late father would want him to carry on his legacy, son Tyler has made sure that his father’s dream lives on. With mother Brenda – now the owner of the prized Corvette – and wife Richann in tow, the second-generation Corvette enthusiast has meticulously maintained the car down to the last detail just as his father had; thus honoring his legacy.
Having this car is like having a piece of him around,” explained the Watson’s. “This car has so much sentimental value to us as a family.”
Nearly 40 years old, this classic Corvette has just 16,103 miles on the odometer, and according to Tyler, has been garage-kept above 50 degrees for its entire life and has only been wet once. The interior and much of the car remains completely original just as it was purchased, making this one car that truly stands out in the crowd here at Funfest.
And all of those enhancements that Seltveit outfitted this car with all those years ago have proven themselves adequately over the years.
“It’s been in some autocross events before, and they put it in the big block class and it beat every last one of them,” Tyler explained.