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Drive!|April 2021
The Evolution of a Chameleon Corvette
LOU LETO
Jerry Bentley could have taken an easy route to his next car. With a last name like his, he could have chosen his namesake vehicle, full of sophistication and elegance, a hand-built luxury machine equipped with ultra-fine appointments and high-tech refinements. It would have been a Bentley and no one would have dared raise a judgmental eyebrow. Or, given the fact that he recently retired from a successful career in the confectionery industry, his next ride could have been a detailed showpiece that was just as sweet. But, since he was immersed in the rich SoCal and Arizona car cultures, smooth and easy just weren’t the direction Jerry was headed in.

After owning a ’55 Chevy Gasser, a ’68 427 Corvette and a ’32 Ford roadster adorned with 3x2s, as well as being involved with his son’s ’69 Z/28, something soft and quiet or all show and no go wasn’t his style. Aside from these undeniable factors, his Arizona neighbor, the legendary drag racer John Loper, also influenced Jerry’s thirst for high horsepower. “I watched Loper build two Gassers,” Jerry said, his facing beaming. Instead, one might say the choice for his next project became channeling all of the above influences.

“The target of my next project was a numbers car,” Jerry admitted. In 1993, while combing through the Orange County California AutoTrader, he discovered and purchased a distressed ’62 Corvette. The rode hard and put away wet classic was represented as a “matching numbers” car, making it an intriguing purchase. While the cosmetics were ugly and the components worn, he was able to drive it across the desert to his home in Phoenix. “At the time, it was a two-top, Roman Red car with a black interior, 327 four-barrel carburetor engine and a four-speed tranny. “My plan was to do a complete restoration, top to bottom, and while I had been involved in building the earlier cars, this Corvette was my first big project,” Jerry confessed.

Restoring a period-correct Corvette from this era can be a painstaking process. Chasing authentic, matching-number parts and hardware is time-consuming and costly. Along the way, Jerry was so precise as he sought out new, original black interior components that it took him two years to finish the car. “I was proud that I was doing it correctly, as my plan was to enter serious shows so the vehicle could be judged.” As a sidebar: it’s ironic that later he was transferred and relocated his family to south Orange County (California) before the project was finished, so the Corvette was completed back in the same geographical area where it was found.

As Corvette history goes, 1962 was a very significant year with a combination of lasts and firsts. There were some typical model year changes, giving the last model of the first generation Corvettes (the 1953-62 models are referred to as C1s) a less busy look. Gone was the trim around the side coves and with it there were no two-tone paint options available; only monochromatic exterior paint color schemes. The rear-end of the car continued with the quad taillights introduced with the 1961 model, a design that was the signature element of Corvettes for many years to come. It was also the very last year that Corvette had a formal trunk, with a hinged, opening deck lid, that could be easily accessed for rear storage.

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