- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

Denney Keys was in elementary school in Cinnaminson, N.J., four decades ago when his great-uncle, John Denney, came to visit.
His uncle, an Air Force officer stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, drove a Corvette Sting Ray convertible that thoroughly captivated his great-nephew.
Mr. Keys remembers telling his relative, "If you ever sell this car, you have to sell it to me." The fact that he was years away from obtaining a driver's license and had no income was irrelevant.
Fortunately, Mr. Keys did not get that car. It was wrecked three times before it was sold.
During that same time, however, Robert Firestone, of Connellsville, Pa., went to the Yenko Chevrolet dealership in Cannonsburg, Pa., on March 9, 1966, to take delivery of a new Corvette.
A total of 27,720 Corvettes were produced in 1966. Mr. Firestone selected one of the 17,762 convertible models, which had a base price of $4,084.
The eight optional extras on this Corvette include:
427 cid 425 hp V-8…..$312.85.
Auxiliary hardtop…….231.75.
AM-FM radio………..199.10.
4-speed transmission…184.35.
Transistorized ignition ….73.75.
Goldline nylon tires…….46.55.
Positraction rear axle…..42.15.
Soft Ray windshield…….10.55.
All these goodies pushed the price up to $5,185, about the base price of an entry-level Cadillac.
The original owner selected the very popular Nassau blue exterior color, which came with a bright blue vinyl interior.
An unconfirmed report has the original owner removing the powerful engine before selling the car. He supposedly installed his favorite engine, the 427-cubic-inch V-8, in a powerboat.
The Corvette passed through owners two, three and four before it was once again put up for sale in 2000.
That's when Mr. Keys, now living in Mitchellville and looking for a project, was searching for the Sting Ray his great-uncle never sold to him. Man and car came together.
Despite the fact that the big-block engine had been replaced with a 327-cubic-inch small-block engine and the original fiberglass left rear quarter panel had been damaged and patched in a third-rate manner, Mr. Keys was impressed with the potential of the car.
He agreed to buy the automobile at the asking price and believed it was a fair deal.
The seller accepted his deal then said he had to fetch all the extra parts. The seller had owned the Corvette for several years, but never drove the car. During that time, however, he had purchased parts for the eventual restoration, which he never accomplished.
Hard-to-find trim parts and replated chrome pieces were boxed up and became part of a good deal that quickly became a great deal.
Mr. Keys trailered his car and parts from Southern Maryland to his home, where, he said, "I took it completely apart, down to the bare frame."
That is when Mr. Keys discovered the botched repair on the left quarter panel. A search began that culminated in what he believes is the last original 1966 Corvette left quarter panel in existence.
Everything fiberglass has been put back in like-new condition and the electric motors have been rebuilt that operate the rotating headlights, the antenna and the overlapping wipers.
The original 7.75x15-inch spare tire still nestles in its cavity. Mr. Keys has replaced the tires with modern radials, but adorned with gold lines.
In the 14 months during renovating the Corvette he replaced the small-block V-8 engine with a new 454-cubic-inch, 425-horsepower V-8 engine. "An original big-block V-8 car should have a big-block V-8 engine," Mr. Keys explains. He says he'll put an original type engine in the car if he ever finds one. His guess is that this is the fourth engine that has been in the car.
Fourteen months after acquiring the Corvette, Mr. Keys had the restored car back on the road.
On the occasional perfect weather day he will drive his Corvette to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
Even there he steers his vehicle with its three-spoke steering wheel to the far reaches of the parking lot before he parks and pulls on the knob to release the door.
The 3,005-pound Corvette on a 98-inch wheelbase is made for spirited driving. "It goes gangbusters," Mr. Keys affirms.


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