‘OLRED’… a 1962 Corvette

Words by Bob Sblendorio, photos by Chris Penree.

Chronic car enthusiast’s affliction” is a serious condition I recently read about in an article by Don Sherman in Corvette Magazine.  It’s a life-long affliction with no known cure.  The symptoms can be treated though, but it’s expensive and usually involves buying more cars.  Diagnosis is relatively easy, and one of the first clues to look for is:  Does the owner have a name for the car?  Tom Wagner, owner of OLRED — a beautiful 1962 Corvette — has had this affliction since high school!

Over the years, Tom has owned many classic cars, drag racing cars, and a few modern sports cars too.  The other cars have been bought and sold, but not the 1962 Corvette.  He has owned it for the past 36 years, since 1983 to be exact.

The name OLRED came from an article in a car magazine that Tom read years ago.  In the article, there was a head-to-head comparison between a 1962 Corvette and a 1982 Corvette.  The author referred to the 1962 (painted red) as OLRED— and that name just  stuck with Tom.  After he finally bought his 1962 Corvette and had it painted Honduras Maroon — his favorite color — it was meant to be and it was the perfect name. In addition to the personalized license plates, OLRED of course, it’s also part of his email address, serving as a pleasant reminder.

The car was purchased from a co-worker, who had purchased it from the plant manager where Tom worked.  Both previous owners were not exactly skilled mechanics and were lacking in the finer points of maintaining and restoring the car…and it showed.  It needed major work!

Tom was up to the challenge, and had the fortitude and mechanical aptitude to perform a total restoration himself.  The work included rebuilding the engine, transmission, and the rear end (all numbers-matching).  During the engine rebuild, the intake manifold and carb were upgraded.  A “mild” cam and a new exhaust system were also installed.  The goal was improved performance — and it worked out nicely — with a great sound too.  The horsepower has been increased to about 300 hp, from the original stock horsepower of 250 hp.  Additionally, Tom reupholstered the seats, installed new carpeting, replaced the dashboard, and installed new glass. The only exception was painting, which was done by a local shop.  All the work was completed in just under a year.

After the restoration was complete, Tom’s high school dream car was a reality: A Corvette painted in his favorite color, and OLRED has been part of the family ever since!

Personal:   Tom retired several years back as the Engineering Manager from Homogeneous Metals, Inc. (HMI) in Clayville, NY.  HMI is a world leader in the manufacture of structural super-alloy metals that are used in today’s commercial, military, and space engines.

He stays active volunteering for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, his church, and other civic organizations.  He enjoys going to local car shows and cruise-ins, and has won numerous trophies over the years.  Oh yeah, there are ten grandkids that keep him going too…and he’s loving it all!

Specs for Tom Wagner’s car:

Engine 327 ci V-8, roughly 300 hp, with upgraded cam, carb, intake manifold & exhaust
Exterior color Honduras Maroon (Corvette color), the original color was Fawn Beige.  (Note: 2-tone was not a factory option for 1962.)
Interior color Fawn Beige
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheels Aftermarket wheels 15” x 5.5”
Mileage 72k miles

History-1953-1962 Chevrolet Corvette (C1)

The Chevrolet Corvette has been one of the most iconic and enduring American sports cars ever.  It’s admired and respected by car aficionados in the United States and around the world.  It is considered the first American sports car, hitting the market even before the Ford Thunderbird (1955).

It was first introduced in 1953, and that first production year saw a variety of growing pains in terms of quality and performance.  Among the shortcomings were problems with the fit-and-finish of the fiberglass body panels.  The engine was a 236 ci inline 6-cyl, with a paltry 150 hp.  The expectations were high, but the positive reviews were lacking.  Only 300 cars were produced that first year, far short of the estimates.  The program was almost cancelled, but fortunately the management at Chevrolet decided to stay the course and continued to push forward.  Despite the initial difficulties, improvements were being made, and slowly the Corvette was gaining acceptance and growing in popularity.

The first generation of the Chevrolet Corvette is known as the C1 generation.  They are sometimes referred to as the “solid-axle generation,” because it was the only generation to use a standard solid axle.  Starting in 1963 (C2 Corvette), Chevrolet went to independent rear suspension.  The C1 generation of cars were produced from 1953-1962.

In 1955 Chevrolet rolled-out the V-8, a 265 ci small-block with 195hp.  By 1957, the displacement increased to 283 ci, and that engine was used through the 1961 model year.  The 1962 model, like Wagner’s car, was the last year for the C1 generation of Corvette.  One of the biggest changes in 1962 was the engine, with the displacement increased again, this time to 327 ci.  That engine was carried forward and used in the next generation, the C2, starting with the 1963 Corvette.

There were four configurations of engines available in 1962 (see table).  All were 327 ci small-block V-8s.  All were carbureted except the top-performer, which was fuel injected.  The fuel injected engine had 360 hp at 6,000 rpm, which is a very respectable 1.1 hp per cubic inch of displacement.

After nine years in production, the Corvette (C1) had emerged as both a stylish and performance sports car, and was well on its way to becoming a true American classic.

Factory Specs-1962 Chevrolet Corvette (C1)

Production 14,531 cars manufactured
Configuration Convertible, with available hard-top option
Transmissions: 3-available: 3-speed manual (std); 4-speed manual (opt); 2-speed Powerglide automatic (opt)
Brakes Drum all-around
Exterior colors available in 1962 Almond Beige, Ermine White, Fawn Beige, Honduras Maroon, Roman Red, Sateen Silver, Tuxedo Black
Weight 3,065 lbs
Cost new $4,038
Engines: 4-available, all small-block V-8s with 327ci
           250 hp @ 4,400 rpm, Carter 4-barrel, 10.5:1, hydraulic-lifters
           300 hp @ 5,000 rpm, Carter 4-barrel, 10.5:1, hydraulic-lifters
           340 hp @ 6,000 rpm, Carter 4-barrel, 11.25:1, solid-lifters
           360 hp @ 6,000 rpm, Rochester fuel injection, 11.25:1, solid-lifters

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