Classic Cars

7 Years Ago I Bought My Dream Car – Here’s Why I Just Sold It

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I’ve wanted a 1970 Corvette since I was eight, but owning one made me completely rethink my life.

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When I was the malleable age of eight, I was presented with a heavy book that contained a photo of every American car ever produced from 1900 to 2000. As the dog-eared pages will attest, I spent hours looking those chrome machines and imagine what it would be like to drive one. From these pages, a favorite emerged: a yellow 1970 Corvette, sitting proudly on a dusty highway in the California desert. And I swore then that I would have one.

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To me, the 1970 Corvette existed on a higher level than any other car. I had the engine horsepower and order codes, chapter and verse memorized, and I was able to tell you the names of all the factory colors, from Tuxedo Black to Can Am White.

When I bought my very first car at 16, I had $2,000 to spend, which wasn’t enough to buy the worst Corvette C3 at the time. I ended up getting a Datsun 280ZX almost as a consolation prize. Its long hood and curved rear fenders reminded me of the C3 Corvette I was craving.

And then, seven years ago, by dint of settling down, I finally bought the car of my dreams. I was very picky about his purchase. It was to be a pre-emissions first car, and it was to be a four-speed manual. I had spent years saving money, dreaming and buying one before I found a 70s Corvette that I could call my own. It was the realization of a dream some 17 years in the making.

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And yesterday I sold it.

Clayton's 1970 Corvette shortly after purchase.
Clayton’s 1970 Corvette shortly after purchase. Photo by via Clayton Seams

Until yesterday, I could tell people that I had a 1970 Corvette Stingray in the garage. They were nodding their heads in approval for owning such a “cool” car and asking me what color it was. Then I should explain that mine wasn’t exactly a pleasant one, and it was actually multiple colors of primer, faded paint, and mismatched body panels.

My Corvette was everything conventional advice tells people not to buy. It had previous collision damage, was missing its ID tag, was not powered by its original transmission, and it was someone else’s unfinished project. Readers, I didn’t care at all. It was mine!

I took in this scruffy Corvette like a stray kitten and started caring for it the best way I know how. With the generous help of friends, I transformed what was once just someone else’s project car; in someone else’s project car who ran and drove! I was driving a Corvette!

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Sure, it was still missing small details like windshield wipers, horn, turn signals, mufflers and all semblance of interior, but who cared!? I went ahead and drove like this for two years, and was lucky enough to meet many members of the Ontario police force who were very amused by my contraption. One simply told me to “make better life choices”. I should have listened.

Eventually, all the things that make a car a real car were fixed, installed, and running. The Corvette legally passed an Ontario safety inspection and I didn’t even have to cheat. I racked up thousands of miles in a car that most people were afraid to get into. I’ve dyno’d it, autocrossed it, shuttled it, jumped, slid on gravel roads and tripped it on weekends at the cottage.

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In the summer of 2019, I embarked on a 700 mile (1,125 km) road trip from Toronto to the northern edge of Kentucky through the mountainous spine of the Appalachians. I had a perfectly functional normal vehicle that I could have taken, but I chose the Corvette instead. Heater core exploded while queuing for US customs; he bankrupted me at every gas pump; the heat of the feet melted the glue on my shoes; and I acquired a permanent ringing in my ears from listening to the side pipes for hours. I lost weight from all the sweating and my relationship with my co-pilot was strained at best. I was no longer having fun.

Clayton Seams driving his 1970 Chevrolet Corvette
Clayton Seams driving his 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Photo by Nicolas Maronese

In addition to the personal toll this trip had on my health, bank account, and mental well-being, the Corvette started burning oil. Many. Approximately one liter every 100 miles, or one liter every two hours at highway speeds. In March 2020, when the world was falling apart, I thought I had found the perfect time to rebuild the Corvette’s engine, when everything else was on hold.

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I swore the Corvette would get the best of everything. I jumped for thousands of new parts like aluminum heads and a complete roller valve train, and had the Muncie transmission completely rebuilt at an exorbitant cost. I took the engine out, had the block mechanically done, stacked boxes of new parts and then – nothing.

Clayton Seams' 1970 Chevrolet Corvette
Clayton Seams’ 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Photo by Clayton Seams

The pandemic forced me to slow down my life. I had realized that I had to give up my bar habits three times a week, that I had to start preparing meals other than frozen pizzas, and that I just had to take five minutes, concentrate and think about what I was doing. As the pandemic progressed, the layer of dust on the Corvette thickened. It always seemed to need a more expensive part shipped from the US. In 2022, it had been over two years since I had last driven it, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to drive it again. My priorities had changed.

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I bought the Corvette to satisfy my childhood impulses. The Corvette looked beautiful in the pictures and I wanted to a. But along the way, I never stopped considering how I would actually use one, or what I wanted from a classic car.

I started to realize that without even more money pumped into the project, the Corvette was never going to be “nice”, and its rough edges were really starting to bother me. I wanted a car that I could drive with my partner for weekend trips and do not I have to wear earplugs. I wanted a car that did better than 10 mpg. Sorry to be boring, but I wanted a slightly more streamlined car.

About a month ago I put the car up for sale and within 5pm it had sold for the asking price. I don’t feel sad. I feel excited.

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