The Last Corvette


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

THE LAST CORVETTE
Bound For Barrett-Jackson

By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel.com Detroit Bureau

In the quaint little northern Ohio town of Napoleon we found a nondescript gathering of warehouses with a small sign out front that says “Pro Team.” Dedicated Corvette folks will know that business as the largest Corvette dealer in the country by far, with an average inventory of between 200 and 300 Corvettes. One lonely ’67 Caprice hides in the back corner of the last building. Pro Team specializes in first and second generation cars, from 1953 to 1972. They have a few later Vettes, but very few.

Within the plain, windowless buildings are rows and rows of pristine restored cars, ragged originals, cars with jaded histories and cars with distinguished backgrounds – Corvettes of every description and condition. A room in the second building is dedicated to cars just coming into inventory. A “due diligence” process assesses each car’s condition and potential. Some may be worthy of full restoration, some may be resold as-is and others may be worked over and dressed up to varying levels of repair. Prices range from 25-grand to a million bucks, but one will outshine them all. That’s the one we’ve come to see.

Terry Michaelis, Pro Team owner and Corvette expert, has dubbed this car “The Last Corvette.” He even trademarked that name. He says, “Sure they made Corvettes after 1967, but who really cares?” The Last is a 1967, Pearl Silver, big-block (427, L36, 390 hp) coupe, with posi-traction, close-ratio 4-speed, AM/FM radio, tinted glass, red stripe tires, side pipes, factory AC, power steering and telescopic steering wheel. That’s pretty loaded for 1967.

“The Last” began life at the St. Louis plant on July 12, 1967 and was delivered to Richardson Chevrolet in Houston. Michaelis bought the car from Corvette collector, Bill Mock, in June of 2005, though he had toyed with the idea of acquiring the car nearly 10 years earlier. The original tank sticker - or build sheet - was intact and confirmed the car’s identity. The Pro Team is in the process of researching the cars history between birth and Mock.

Being such a special car Michaelis and his team enlisted the help of more than two dozen suppliers including the most prestigious Corvette shop in the country, Naber’s Motors in Houston, to complete the “rotisserie” restoration. It was finished in January of 2006 and almost immediately embarked on an unprecedented year-long tour of shows and exhibitions to prepare it, and its potential suitors, for the moment when it will cross the block at the prestigious Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction next January. Michaelis will be donating up to $40,000 of the proceeds to the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation to help fight the rare disease, called Amyloidosis, that took Miller from his family and the Corvette community.

Before introducing us to “The Last” Pro Team manager, Brian Topp, gave Joe and me the grand tour of the shop and storage buildings, describing in detail how the business operates. Joe has owned Corvettes in the past and he began breathing hard as we browsed. The lust was building. Finding the right cars, negotiating their purchase, then preparing and marketing these cars require a great deal of Corvette-specific knowledge as well as the integration of the 20 Pro Team employees. Of course, being the largest Corvette dealer in the country means that Pro Team has a great deal of influence on the market at all levels.

Finally, there it sat, in its own corner spot already surrounded by trophies and accolades earned on its first few outings into the Corvette world. It will be crucial for The Last Corvette to earn all the awards and certifications possible before being presented for sale less than eight months from now in Scottsdale. Already it has acquired the “Top Flight” certification from the National Corvette Restorers Society at the Kissimmee, Florida regional event last January.

Joe and I spent some time admiring and photographing the special Vette. Its pearl silver paint sparkled in the harsh indoor lights. The side pipes, red line tires and simple wheels reminded me vividly of that late 60s time of my life. The “427” emblem on the bulge in the hood bears witness to the power within. It’s easy to imagine how some fellow my age with a big line of credit might get carried away bidding on this car.

So, how much will it bring at Barrett-Jackson next January? Well, think about it this way. The previous owner, collector Bill Mock, bought the car for an amount equal to the VIN number of 22940, that is, $22,940. Terry Michaelis got it for exactly 10-times that amount, or $229,400. Remember, this was a car in need of a complete restoration. Everyone expects it to be a 7-figure car at Barrett-Jackson, to be sure, so perhaps a figure to shoot for might be $2.294 million. I’m thinking, that might be a stretch . . . but have you been paying attention to auction prices lately?

Watch for this historic pure American sports car at Corvette events around the country this summer and be thinking about how much you can afford to pay for it before you head for Barrett-Jackson next January.

Check out The “Last” Corvette and the Pro Team inventory at www.proteam-corvette.com. Or check out all the wonderful Vettes in person (by appointment) by calling the Pro Team at 419-592-5086.

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