Terry Muniz of Pittsburg, poses with the 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray belonging
to her husband Guillermo Muniz in Pittsburg, Calif. (Photo by David Krumboltz)
By David Krumboltz as republished from ContraCostaTimes.com
Beloved Corvette StingRay has several lives
Dateline 11.18.15: The Chevrolet Corvette has an interesting history. It started as a concept car for the 1953 GM Motorama Auto Show in New York. GM management thought Chevrolet needed a model that would put some pizzazz in the line. The original idea was to produce a sporty car using off-the-shelf parts to keep the cost around $2,000 (about $17,600 in today’s dollars).
A fiberglass body would be used to help keep the expenses low. The first Corvette would have a slightly beefed-up, straight-six-cylinder Chevy engine used in the sedans with a two-speed Powerglide transmission, not a real high-performance combination. Corvette, the name of small and highly maneuverable naval ships, was chosen as the spiffy name needed for the image of the car. The Corvette didn’t get a V-8 engine until 1955, when all Chevrolets had that option.
Ten years after the first Corvette was introduced, a completely new, second generation of Corvettes hit the market. The series, often referred to as “C2” or “The Stingray,” was produced from 1963 to 1967. This issue’s 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray belongs to Guillermo Muniz who, with his wife, Terry, own the popular New Mecca Café in Pittsburg. Guillermo is now living in an assisted-living facility, so it was Terry who told me the history of her husband’s favorite car.
“He bought it in 1977 and became the second owner. I thought it was perfect, but Guillermo wanted it ‘perfecter.’ It was this color (maroon), but he had someone paint it white for some reason, and he didn’t do a good job with the paint. Then there was a kid in high school that was nice to my husband and told him of different things he could do to make the car perfect. My husband didn’t know anything about mechanics, but he believes in people and he believed this kid was going to do everything he said. So he gave him the car in 1981.”
Of course the idea was that the kid was going to make Guillermo’s Corvette perfect, but as it turns out, the day the kid got the car was one of best days of his life. He was still in high school and drove the car as his own. He was mechanically inclined and actually opened a body shop upon graduating from high school. The story gets a little foggy here, but the kid had the Corvette for 17 years, from 1981 to 1998, and started, but never completed, the restoration. The Muniz family finally had had enough and their son picked up the Corvette, now in pieces, and stored it in his garage for more than 10 years.
By then Guillermo was living in an assisted-living facility and Terry didn’t drive a stick shift. They needed help. If this was a story from the Old West and the Corvette was the homesteaded ranch that was about to be foreclosed on by a villain, it was time for the Lone Ranger to gallop up on his white stallion and save the day. The Lone Ranger doesn’t live in Pittsburg, but Frank De Rosa does.
“De Rosa and his dad are an institution around Pittsburg,” Terry said.
De Rosa and his father have received national honors for custom-car building, as well as their automotive restoration work. They also are regular customers at the New Mecca Café.
“One day Frank came into the restaurant for lunch and asked me if we still had the Corvette,” Terry said. “I acknowledged that we did and that it had been in storage for many years and not in running condition. He offered to restore it, and I accepted.”
“The body was all apart,” Frank recalled. “What made it harder was that someone else tore it apart. The parts were not labeled and just placed in boxes. Plus, there were a lot of parts missing.”
Apparently, it was sort of a Humpty Dumpty project, seeing if Frank De Rosa could do what all the king’s horses and men couldn’t do and put Guillermo’s Corvette back together again. De Rosa did a complete restoration from the frame up.
“We did the whole body, redid the suspension, lined up the doors and the hood. The whole restoration took a little less than a year.”
Guillermo’s Corvette now looks as good or better than it did the day it was built. Was it worth the $55,000 it cost to complete the job? Business-wise, probably so, as the estimated market value of the again-maroon Corvette is about $75,000. But there is one more important measurement — satisfaction to the owner.
A year ago last Mother’s Day, Terry Muniz, with family and friends, took the restored Corvette to the facility where Guillermo resides. When he saw his favorite car, he was greatly pleased, and tears of joy flowed freely.