My Corvette Story
Everyone has a Corvette Story Here I’s Mine
My love affair with Corvettes began in early 1970, I was working part time after School at my Dad’s Sinclair Gas station (Child Labor laws were not enforced in the 70’s). Back then they were called Service Stations, since we would run out to your car greet you with a smile and ask how much gas you wanted. Regular gas was 24.9 cents a gallon. While the gas was pumping, I would wash your windows, check the air in your tires and ask to check your oil, we were called Pump Jockeys back then. Sometimes all for just a Dollar. After all, the Sinclair motto was Drive With Care and Buy Sinclair. Remember that company mascot, Dino the Dinosaur? We would give out S & H green stamps, dinosaur antenna balls, plastic cup sets. It was a great time to grow up in a small town in the midwest. There were American muscle cars all over the place, Hemi Cudas, Z 28 Camaros and of course Corvettes.
I will never forget the first time I saw a Stingray. I was working in one of the repair bays and I heard the bell ring, signaling that someone had pulled up to the pumps. I turned and started to run out to the gas pumps, I looked up and saw a 1969 Corvette Convertible. It was silver with a black interior the top was down and a pretty young blonde woman was driving it. Believe it or not I was more taken by the curves of that shark body than the woman driving it. I could not take my eyes off the car. It was basically a new car with a 427 4 speed transmission and factory side exhaust. I was in love! I chatted her up to find out more about the car and took my time filling up her tank with 100 octane Premium gas available at the pump. It was pink and had a unique smell. It was my lucky day when she asked me if we did oil changes. I said yes we do! We were not very busy that day so we were able to get her in the bay immediately. The sad part of this story is I was to young to have a driver’s license so all I could do was watch my dad drive that classy corvette onto the rack. He did let me do the oil change and I was in corvette heaven. I took my time and was extremely careful leaning over the car fenders, putting towels on them to protect the paint. After my Dad backed it out, it was then that I knew someday, somehow I would own a 1969 Stingray Corvette convertible. Little did I know that day would come within the year.
I was working on a car in the bay when the driveway bell let me know someone was at the pumps. I ran out and saw a red 4 speed 350HP 350 stingray coupe. The driver was a young man who wanted 5 bucks worth of gas. While I was pumping the gas he asked me if I knew anyone who would like to buy his Corvette. I said maybe. I asked him how much and he said $2,500 I asked if he would take $2000 he said yes and I bought my first corvette! Keep in mind, I still did not have a driver’s license but I grew up on a farm so I knew how to drive; I just wasn’t old enough yet. My dad let me keep the car at the gas station so I could work on it. I parked it by the main street so I could gaze at it while I pumped gas for customers. One day a customer asked me who owned the red Corvette and I said I did. He asked me if it was for sale. My Grandfather always taught me anything is for sale for the right price. He looked it over took it for a test spin, offering me $3500. I asked if he could do 4,000.00 and he said yes. So I had just bought and sold my first car before I had a driver’s license. I continued buying and selling cars mostly corvettes because they were my passion. Finally, I got my driver’s license and by now my dad was starting to get a little upset with me for taking up all his business parking with my cars for sale. I offered to rent 2 spaces closest to main street for 50 bucks a month which he agreed to. He thought I would run out of money paying his rent and have to stop selling cars. Well to make a long story short, I continued my passion working on C-3 Corvettes, learning how to restore them, parting corvettes to restore other cars and selling left over parts (mainly from the corvettes I wrecked) it took me a little while to figure out that just because you’re driving a car that can go 130 mph+; sometimes you shouldn’t especially if you are approaching a sharp curve. I was a slow learner but I did finally figure it out and my cars lasted longer. You have to remember this was the 70’s, no radar guns, no internet and speed limit signs were just suggestions. It really was a great time to grow up. I left Indiana in 1978 to join the Navy but during my 30 years of service I never lost my love of the stingray sharks. Over time I continued buying, selling and restoring corvettes between my sea duty and shore duty rotations. I built a customer base as I transferred from duty station to duty station. In 1990, the Navy brought me to San Diego and I never left. I settled in and started SoCalVettes sometime in the late 90’s and it was more of a social club - a bunch of guys hanging out in my garage, drinking beer working on corvettes both theirs and mine. We called it the Corvette Drivers Car Club. No garage queens for us; we built them and drove them. Sometimes we would drive a car in my driveway and have it fully parted down to the bare frame in one day! We had a pretty good crew of about 8 guys and those were the fun days!
Sometime in 2014 I got serious and started a real shop in El Cajon Ca. We have moved a couple times which allowed us to really get organized and find those rare corvette parts like factory side exhaust, big block exhaust manifolds and date coded rally wheels. Now it looks like we have finally found a home at 549 Raleigh Ave El Cajon Ca. We have been able to continue our parts sales, custom interiors and the customer service you have come to expect. We love what we do and it shows in our feedback. That’s my Corvette Story what’s yours?
Steve Allen Owner SoCalVettes aka CorvetteSteve