Kevin Livering’s Groovy ‘70s Custom 1969 Corvette Survivor

This 1970s custom Corvette is a Blast From the Past! “FAR OUT, Man!”

Dateline: 2.3.18 – Photos by Kevin Livering, writtten by K. Scott Teeters (This story was first published in the February 2018 issue of Vette Vues.)

While custom cars go all the way back to the early days of the automobile, it wasn’t until after WW-II when the emerging car culture took America by storm. Creative backyard mechanics started customizing their own cars and created the Custom Car Culture. The tricky thing about custom cars is that it is totally subjective. “Beauty” is truly in the “eye of the beholder.” One person’s “Dream Car” is another person’s nightmare. (What did you do THAT for???) In the 1950s car customizers emulated Detroit designers – restyling existing cars in the manor of how they thought the car should have rolled off the assembly line.

In the late 1950s Ed “Big Daddy” Roth helped usher in the “Kookie Krazy Kustom Kars Kraze” with his bubble top “Outlaw” roadster. Ed also launched a line of tee shirts called “Weirdo Shirts” with his lead character, the “Rat Fink”, Ed’s Anti-Mickey Mouse character. Car magazines such as Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, Hot Rod, and others inspired ten’s of thousands of guys to build, draw, or just admire custom creations that were light years away from the early days of the custom coachbuilder. 

The challenge within the custom car scene is that trends and tastes are constantly changing. What was “neat-o-cool” in 1962 wasn’t so “groovy” in 1972. While a few guys were still building traditional customs, the trend in the early 1970s was personalization customization and Pro Street cars. This was the era that Kevin Livering, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania grew up in.

Lebanon, Pa is located in the central portion of Pennsylvania, close to Pennsylvania Dutch Country and in the general area of Carlisle and Hershey. With a population of around 25,000, Lebanon was and still is, “Small Town, USA”, with a robust car culture. “Cruise’n the Circuit”, hanging out at the Dixie Drive-In and the McDonalds parking lot was the thing to do on weekend evenings. It was where young guys soaked up the car culture, the “older guys” did burnouts, and the girls were oh, so pretty! Think, “America Graffiti” and you’re there!

In 1980 Kevin was a junior in high school, but he had a pretty cool ride, a 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo, with Cragar mags, swivel bucket seats, a sunroof, and a smoke’n 8-track tape player! Kevin purchased his Monte Carlo from a local guy that had the Monte as part of a trade for a killer-looking custom 1969 Corvette. This was a full-out street custom with candy green metalflake paint with red and gold ribbons, mags, fat tires, flared fenders, Hooker header side pipes, an L88-style hood, and a tufted velvet interior with shag carpeting. Kevin knew the car and was awestruck. It was a ‘70s thing!

One day while Kevin was still a junior in high school, he got a call from the man he bought his Monte Carlo from. It seemed that the man’s girlfriend HATED his custom Corvette and wanted him to get the Monte Carlo back! So the guy says to Kevin, “I’ll let you have the car in trade for the Monte Carlo for $4,000.” (He REALLY wanted to please his lady!) Kevin said, “I’m really sorry, but I don’t have $4,000.” A short time later, the guy called back and said, “Would you give me $3,000 and the Monte for the Vette?” That was a lot of green for this fellow’s custom green machine and Kevin’s dad and mom were not willing to fund such a radical ride (understandable!). So, the answer was again, a no.

The man came back two more times, once with a $2,000 offer, then again with a $1,000 offer! Kevin wasn’t trying to hammer the man into a deal; he was only a junior in high school. Finally, the guy called back again with the ultimate offer. “Kevin, I HAVE TO have that Monte back, would you consider an even swap?” Now, like the paint or not, who could say no to an offer like that? But wait! There’s more!

The seller (or, “giver away” guy) had the Corvette at a local shop for some repairs for some time. When Kevin went to the shop to get the car, it was sitting in the shop’s side yard, covered in mud! Kevin said, “The owner was a nice guy, but he wasn’t very fastidious about the car, to him it was just a driver, even in the cold, snowy, salt-slushy Pennsylvania winters. The interior was in need of some serious cleaning! Fast food bags everywhere, mud, dirt, you name it. It was a real mess inside.”

After Kevin got the car started, he limped it home and started the clean up process. “The interior took A LOT of work to clean it up, but other than a few minor issues, the now 12-year old car was in decent shape. It cleaned up great and although I’ve gotten a lot of flack over the years for the paint, I like it and will never change it.”

As the years rolled on Kevin had the good fortune to meet the man that did the customizing work for the car’s original owner and was able to learn a lot about his car. The customizer was a local man named, “Stony” Galbach, from Manhein, PA, about 20 miles from Lebanon. When Kevin pulled up, Stony couldn’t believe his eyes! Stony was mostly known for his paintwork on local midget cars and occasionally he did some custom cars. Stony told Kevin that when he worked on the car in 1972, the owner paid him $12,000! (that’s $72,000 in 2017 dollars!) Many people had told Stony that the car was still around, but he hadn’t seen it since the early 1970s.

The car started out as a Fathom Green 350 small-block with a 4-speed transmission and not many options. Stony installed flared fenders and L88 hood (probably from either Motion Performance or Eckler), and 1973-style front fender vents. Air shocks raised the car up slightly, the header side pipes were added to the 350, and the deep-dish Cragar mags were shod with fat 60-series radials. The custom paint started with a silver base coat, multiple coats of heavy metalflake and candy green paint. The ribbons are painted on with candy colors (no vinyl decals) and the paint was finished with 25 coats of clear lacquer. Note that all of the factory Corvette badges are gone – another “custom” touch of the time. Stony had the crushed velvet and button tucked interior done locally.

Kevin doesn’t drive the car much, only a few hundred miles a year, but in the ‘70s it was a daily driver. Somewhere in the 70s the front suffered some minor damage that is barely noticeable. Once, while driving the car Kevin hit a bump that tore off the driver’s side rear fender flare. Thanks to his very talented friend and painter, Gary McGarvey, the flare and fender were repaired and repainted. Gary perfectly matched the metal flake and color.

Unfortunately, the first owner in Lebanon blew the car’s original engine. The replacement 350 engine, out of a 1972 Impala, was still in good shape by 2000, but getting a little tired. So Kevin decided to have the engine pulled and rebuilt. The engine was treated to a .30-over bore, 10.2:1 pistons, 2.02 aluminum heads, an Edelbrock aluminum intake with a 650 Holley double-pumper carb, new Hooker Header side pipes, and a newer, rebuilt Muncie 4-speed transmission. The drivetrain, brakes, and suspension were refreshed and the original 3.83 rear gears were replaced with 4.11 gears for a little extra scoot! Since Kevin never takes long trips and mainly cruises with the car, he wasn’t concerned about the 4.11’s effect on gas mileage.

Kudos to Kevin’s mechanic pals; Joe Wise, Mike Wolfe, and Mike Bleyer, for wrenching on the car. And a big SPECIAL THANKS to Kevin’s wife, Sherry for her parts and especially her patience!

People in the car scene don’t quickly forget a car like this. Several years ago, Kevin met a man at a local cruise that told him that he competed against Kevin’s car back in 1972 at the “World of Wheels Show” at the Harrisburg Farm Show. Later, the man gave Kevin an Instamatic photo of the car from the show. Amazingly, after all those years, the man still owned his customized 1963 Sting Ray that competed against Kevin’s Corvette at the show in 1972! Sometimes, it’s a small world, after all.

Former Hot Rod Magazine and Rod & Custom Magazine editor, Pat Ganahl published “Lost Hot Rods” and “Lost Hot Rods II” several years ago. If you like old hot rods and custom cars, these are really fun books because they show what too often happens to custom cars; they become derelicts and end up either in an old garage under a pile of junk, or worse yet, in a junk yard. And that’s what makes Kevin Livering’s 1970s custom 1969 Corvette so special; it has survived.

As we pointed out in the beginning of this story, when it comes to custom cars, people either love’m or hate’m. Had the second owner of this car not been willing to give a high school kid the car deal of a lifetime, this car could have ended up in the hands of someone that would have let it slowly rust into the ground.

Kevin told me this about his Corvette; I have done my best to preserve the car without making any changes to the work that was done in 1972. It survived the ‘70s custom car era! I never allowed the pressure or criticism to influence my love for the craftsmanship and work that was put into this car. Although the paint’s clear coat is cracking and showing signs of age, it still looks relatively good! I have found that most people either like it or they hate it. They usually let me know either way! No matter where I go, there is someone that has a story about the car or remembers the car from years gone by. I love hearing the stories and all the nostalgia. It makes me happy when I can bring a smile to people’s faces.” We love survivors! Still GROOVY!Scott

 This story was first published in the February 2018 issue of Vette Vues.

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