Until Sunday, it had been 30 years since Dick Webber had seen the 1954 Chevrolet Corvette he once owned.
Webber was reunited with the car – which was once displayed at General Motors' Bowling Green Assembly Plant after former Gov. John Y. Brown drove the first Bowling Green-built Corvette off the line in 1981 and parked it next to the '54 model – when current owners Scott and Elizabeth Rogers brought the Corvette to Bowling Green from North Aurora, Ill., to meet Webber and tour the National Corvette Museum.
"They cared enough to go through all the trouble of trailering that car all the way down here from Chicago just for me to enjoy, which just blows my mind," Webber said Monday, still ogling his old friend at the museum. "I drove it about 20 miles and it's fun. ... It's nice for it to be back."
When Webber bought the car for $400 in 1967, it had four flat tires, no brakes, a busted transmission and a 1963 Chevrolet 425 HP 409 engine. He traded the engine and transmission for the installation of a six-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission, and by summer 1967 it became his daily driver. By 1970, he had accumulated enough original parts to properly restore the engine and transmission.
"This is a very rare car ... and before the internet, (finding) parts really was a struggle," Webber said. "Everything about that car is just like a treasure hunt every time."
All the work was done by Webber until 1982, when he hired someone to do a two-year professional body restoration and repaint. He said one of the "magic moments" was when he only had three original hubcaps and he was on the search for the fourth. He went into Parrish Junkyard one day and after 10 minutes of searching through the pile of hubcaps, he found an original Corvette hubcap, which he said were almost impossible to find.
"So I take it up to Mr. Parrish ... I paid him the $2 and I was scared that he could hear my heartbeat and I went outside, (yelled) 'Yes!' and then I went back to work, but it's just one of the magic moments of owning that car because it's so hard to find stuff for it," Webber said.
Webber owned the Corvette for 19 years before selling it in March 1986 for $20,000 after a man approached him at a car show and repeatedly asked to buy it from him. He lost track of the car for 25 years because that man quickly resold the car. Webber said he always wondered about the car, and in 2010 he heard it was sold at an auction in Hershey, Pa. Shortly thereafter, someone told him the car was on eBay.
"I looked at and started to bid and I thought, nah, and that's when Scott bought it," Webber said. "We've been corresponding right along and I've sent him lots of pictures, but this was the first time I've met him and first time I've seen the car in 30 years."
Rogers said he and his father had been looking for years for a 1954 Corvette when he saw the car on eBay. He said Webber reached out to him and gave him the history of the car.
"It's been a blessing for Mr. Webber ... (and) his knowledge over the years, to give me the history of the car and what I need to do to it and (what) has been done and what hasn't been done," Rogers said. "I'm very happy to meet with Mr. Webber for all his knowledge, and like the old saying, it's about friendship."
Rogers wanted Webber's advice as Rogers performs his own restoration on the vehicle. In the future, he would like to pass the car along to his 10-year-old daughter, Mary Margaret, even though she's a Mustang fan, he said.
"I want it to be pink," Mary Margaret said. "It's old fashioned, so that's why it doesn't have buckles. I was concerned because I was so afraid that the police were going to come" she said about riding in the Corvette.
Elizabeth Rogers supports her husband's hobby because she knows he loves Corvettes.
"The nice thing about car enthusiasts is the friendships. We go to some of the local car shows and you see some of the same people there and my husband's a member of a Corvette club in our town and just the friendships and the knowledge you can get from it," she said. "This day and age of the internet, it's still nice to have those human connections."
— Follow faith/general assignments reporter Simone C. Payne on Twitter @SimonePayne or visit bgdailynews.com.