1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Second-Chance '61
Do you believe in second chances? Robert McNerney does. A few years back, he went to the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction in hopes of finding a C1 that he could buy as a weekend driver and occasional show car. "I was looking at '58s and '59s, but when I saw this car, the color grabbed my eye right away," he says from his Mahwah, New Jersey, home. "And the condition-it was impeccable."
What he'd found was a Fawn Beige Metallic with Ermine White coves '61 set to cross the auction block, originally sold in New York, meticulously maintained and in great condition. Unfortunately, when the hammer came down, the auctioneer didn't point to Robert. "I was outbid on it," he recalls. "The car went back to the auction the subsequent year, and I bought it off the second owner. He was trying to sell it there, but he didn't. I'd left my number with him, and he called me, and we ended up making the deal. I wasn't going to miss it the second time!"
Not only did Robert buy a distinctive-looking C1, but he also bought a late-production car built in July 1961, the last month of model-year-'61 production (per its VIN number and Mike Antonick's Corvette Black Book) with some fairly rare factory options. There's the two-tone paint, which-in these colors-was only applied to 358 of the nearly 11,000 '61 Corvettes built. Underneath is an RPO 469, highlighted by dual Carter AVS four-barrel carburetors atop the hydraulic-lifter-cammed, 245hp 283-an option which only 1,175 Vettes received that year.
Being a '61, there are plenty of "firsts" and "lasts" on the car. It was the first year for the Sting Ray-influenced rear styling with four taillights, a horizontal-pattern grille up front minus the chrome "teeth" that had been a Corvette hallmark, a narrower transmission tunnel atop an aluminum-cased Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed (with an aluminum case for Powerglide on its way for '62), and an all-new aluminum crossflow radiator from GM's Harrison Radiator Division that appeared early in the model run. Also, formerly optional items such as windshield washers, sun shades, a parking-brake warning light, and a temperature-controlled radiator fan were now standard equipment. Meanwhile, 1961 was the last year for the 283 in its five carbureted and fuel-injected versions, as well as for the two-tone paint and wide whitewall tires-replaced, respectively, by the 327 (with one high-output carbureted and one fuelie variation optional), single-color paint, and 1-inch-wide whitewalls.
Robert's '61 now has about 76,000 miles on it, and it's an eye-grabber everywhere it goes. "It's unbelievable, the attention," he says. "You pull up, and you have two, maybe three people asking you about the car." What's it like to drive? Robert puts it simply: "It's pretty powerful!"
When asked if he plans to seek NCRS Top Flight certification for it, Robert replies, "I did have an NCRS judge look at it, and he gave me a breakdown of what I had to do," he says. "Again, it's not something that I'm pursuing, but it wouldn't take very much to do it. I'm just enjoying it at this point."
That enjoyment includes showing it locally with his son, Ryan. "He loves it, as well. We've been to several car shows with it, and we've won trophies with it. It's something we do together." Does that show-going-and subsequent highway beautification-include trips to events like Corvettes at Carlisle in the future? Robert says that showing at Carlisle isn't in his plans, for now, and selling it is definitely out of the question. "I have a couple friends who are really into restoring cars, and they're trying to talk me into selling it, but I told them, 'I waited too long for this one, I'm not selling it.'" With this late-production '61 filled with firsts-and-lasts, who can blame him?

Photo Gallery: 1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Corvette Fever Magazine

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