You might expect to travel some distance to find a mid-'70s Corvette more original than the '75 Bahama Blue convertible belonging to Joe and Diane Ziomek. With 22,000 miles on the odometer, the car still has it's factory soft top, paint, silver leather interior, 350 four-barrel, and pretty much everything else it had when it left the St. Louis assembly plant-right down to the 30-year-old clutch.
But the well-preserved Vette isn't the most original in the Ziomek's South Florida neighborhood, or on their block, or even in the driveway. They also have a yellow '76 coupe with just 14,000 miles showing on the clock. It's so original it's almost scary. The battery and oil filter have been replaced-that's it. "If you were going to get the car judged in National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) survivor class, you'd probably want to go back and get a restored battery and an old oil filter-which they still make-to make it original," Joe says. "I didn't bother with that."
Even the Firestone 500 tires have been on the car since day one, despite a 1976 recall. "Know what they did with them when they got 'em back?" asks Joe. "They put them on hay wagons and farmer wagons." He ignored the recall notice and has heard of collectors paying $300-400 apiece for examples that didn't spend the rest of their days down on the farm.
Joe showed us a copy of the '76 recall notice. Curator of his own Corvette museum, Joe has volumes of paperwork for both cars, including owners' and parts manuals, promotional pieces, catalogs, window stickers, and virtually every other piece of documentation, including original build sheets.
Matching numbers? Match as many as you like.
The blue convertible is Joe's and the yellow coupe belongs to Diane-yellow is her favorite color. Its paint, along with the rest of it, has been used as a benchmark for training NCRS judges, who contacted the Ziomeks when they heard about the car.
"You teach judging by having an example car," explains Joe. "The master judge took all the other judges-four or five of them-around the car, pointing out what they should look for in an original car versus a restored car.
"When you start judging some of these NCRS restorations, they're just perfect. And the original car was never that way. We talked about the paint which has bubbles and runs; under the hood is a number 4 by the area where the brake booster is-nobody knows why, but it's there; the mask lines for the paint under the hood versus the paint of the finished body-the yellow versus the black underhood. All this was not perfect because the car was a production car."
Joe chuckles when he relates how a judge removed the broadcast sheet from the car. The broadcast sheet travels with the car through the assembly process, detailing exactly what goes into the car, step-by-step. "At the end of the line, they stick it on top of the gas tank," Joe says. "An original car, some of them have it and some of them don't because some have fallen off. When you buy a Corvette, you want to peek and see if it's still in there.
"So they're judging the car-the NCRS judges are bright guys, a little persnickety-and he's under the car, and he's looking up there, and he says, 'Now, if this is really an original car, it should have a broadcast sheet,' and I say, 'Well you have a problem, sir.' He asked what, and I said, 'It is an original car. If you take it out, it's not original anymore.' He looked at me like I was a smartass-and he was right, I was being a little smartass-but I say, 'I'll make you a deal. Let me photograph you removing the broadcast sheet. You're an NCRS judge, so if anybody asks why it isn't there, it's because you took it out.' So he said okay."
"I took it out, because it really should be preserved," Joe adds. "It'd been under there for 20 years."