Corvette restoration is costly, time consuming and fun endeavor

WARREN — Those who dream of owning a pristine vintage Corvette — the kind that can win awards — better have time and money.

Carl Carbon, who specializes in Corvette restorations at his Midyear Dreams LLC shop in Poland, said, “You better be prepared to spend $100,000” and put in 1,000 hours of labor to win the highest rating at Bloomington Gold Corvettes, the longest-running all-Corvette event in the country.

Two vehicles certified gold in Bloomington that were restored by Carbon are on display at the National Packard Museum as part of its “Corvettes of the Valley” exhibition, and Carbon talked about the process during a Coffee & Donut Educational Seminar on Saturday in conjunction with the show.

His first tip for would-be collectors was, “Start with the best car you can buy,” he said. “It will end up costing you 10 times more if you start with a bad car.”

The two cars on display — a 1957 Corvette owned by Jason Delatore of Poland and a 1963 Corvette Coupe with a “split window” design owned by Anthony J. Ricci Jr. of Boardman — had very different histories. Ricci’s coupe was in pretty good shape when he acquired the vehicle in 1993. Delatore’s ‘Vette had been in the family since 1971. It was in poor shape, and there had been several changes and modifications to the vehicle over the years.

Carbon said he discouraged Delatore from restoring the car.

“I expect him to say, ‘Wow, this is great,'” Delatore said. “Instead it was, ‘This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.’ I just felt my heart beating.”

But for Delatore, the motivation was sentimental.

“I grew up with that car,” he said. “I don’t have any memories of the car not being there.”

His father promised it to him, and Delatore said he looks forward to passing it down to his own children.

Those kind of stories appeal to Carbon.

“I’d rather do it for people who are going to keep them (instead of resell them),” Carbon said.

Ricci also credited his father with instilling in him a love of cars.

“I’ve loved this car, the 1963 Corvette, since I was a little kid,” he said. “My dad was a car guy. He wasn’t a Corvette guy, he liked all cars, but I remember riding in one of his old Fords and seeing one of these on the street and thinking, ‘One of these days, I’m going to own one of those.'”

Those who want a car they can drive around and impress at local car shows can get away with a less-expensive renovation, Carbon said. Shock absorbers for a vintage Corvette can be found for $75. The kind of shock absorbers required for someone pursuing gold in Bloomington cost about $750.

Carbon passed around a judging manual for Bloomington that was about two inches thick. A team of judges analyze every element of the vehicle, and a car only can afford to lose a few hundred points out of a possible score of 12,000 and still win the gold.

“It’s an all-day process,” Carbon said.