- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

A funny thing happened on the way to Larry Wyte's retirement.
As a civil engineer for ExxonMobil with retirement looming in his future, Mr. Wyte began planning for the life after work.
Reflecting upon that time almost a decade ago, Mr. Wyte recalls thinking, "When I retire someday, I'll buy an old Corvette." He thought he would while away his "golden years" restoring one of the fiberglass two-seaters.
Because he was planning to restore the car to like-new condition, his requirements were somewhat different from the typical shopper for used Corvettes. All that Mr. Wyte required was a Corvette with a solid frame, a fiberglass body he could work with and an original engine with matching numbers.
Eventually, after much searching, a 1957 Corvette was found in Maryland in 1992. It was in sad condition, with Mr. Wyte estimating that the car had been passed through the hands of about 20 owners before him.
It probably survived all those owners over 35 years because of it's rarity. Only 6,339 Corvettes were built in 1957, and, of those, just 240 less than 4 percent were equipped with the new-for-1957 optional Ramjet fuel injection with a high-lift cam.
Mr. Wyte could envision the beat-up hulk as it once was and bought the Corvette. The owner agreed to haul the 2,730-pound car on a trailer to Mr. Wyte's Vienna home.
Once the car was nestled in its new garage home, nothing much happened for a while … quite a while. Mr. Wyte knew which parts would require restoration and spent several months collecting them before tackling the restoration project.
The day finally came when Mr. Wyte rolled the Corvette to the center of the garage on its 102-inch wheelbase and methodically took it apart, down to the last nut and bolt. He knew it was supposed to be his retirement project but he couldn't wait. From the 13-tooth grille in the front to the thin bumpers protecting the bustle at the rear, Mr. Wyte rebuilt the car as it was when it left the factory in 1957.
When new, the base price of a 1957 Corvette was $3,465. To that figure was added all the accessories, which include:
Fuel injection…………..$484.20.
Auxiliary hardtop………215.20.
Wonderbar AM radio….199.60.
4-speed transmission…188.30.
Heater………………………..118.40.
Positraction rear end……48.45.
White sidewall tires……..31.60.
Two-tone paint……………..19.40.
Courtesy lights………………8.68.
Parking brake alarm………5.40.
An unknown price is what was charged for seat belts, a dealer-installed option.
Sanding and stripping his way through several coats of paint, Mr. Wyte at last came to the original colors, which he faithfully reproduced. The body is coated with cascade green while the trademark Corvette coves are painted shoreline beige.
Mr. Wyte painted the Corvette in his basement, going through about 10 coats of primer and three coats of color, each one consisting of three coats.
The three-spoke steering wheel each spoke perforated with three holes and 140 mph speedometer were easily restored, as were all the instruments that are aligned across the bottom of the dashboard.
Mr. Wyte ordered a complete upholstery kit for the interior, which came through to his satisfaction. The problem came during installation, when he was uncertain on how to proceed. He called the supplier in Texas, who put him on the telephone with the person who had made up the order.
That person spoke only Spanish. After tedious translation the questions were answered, and the interior now looks like it did in 1957, down to the unusual knobs to open the doors.
In 1957, a fuelie Corvette was clocked 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds and 0 to 100 in 16.8 seconds. It ran through the standing * mile in 14.3 seconds at 96 mph and topped out at 132 mph. So the 140 mph speedometer wasn't necessary.
General Motors tests reportedly showed the 283-cubic-inch fuel injected engine rated at 290 horsepower. Since there was no public relations magic in 290 horsepower, the powers that be reduced the claimed horsepower rating to 283 one horsepower per cubic inch an unbelievable achievement back then.
"It's an absolute monster," Mr. Wyte said respectfully.
After about 2,000 hours of labor, the Corvette looked better than new. A majority of those hours Mr. Wyte considers as relaxation, since he enjoys what he is doing.
Any time you rebuild a car from nothing, Mr. Wyte explains, there is a certain amount of debugging that is necessary. He had to drive his new/old Corvette 44 miles to get rid of all the bugs.
"I enjoy driving the car," he said. "It has tremendous power but no suspension," Mr. Wyte said. That's probably the reason most Corvettes of this vintage have front-end damage.
As far as Mr. Wyte is concerned the only problem is that the restoration of his Corvette is complete and he only retired a couple of months ago.
Now what is he going to have for a retirement project?


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