When he finally finished his dream garage, a 14′ by 26′ space with Lynchburg epoxy floors, it was the perfect addition to his small post-war Levitt house. Tom Sugar knew it was time to go out and find some American muscle to fill the parking space behind the new 10-foot door. Even though his first car was a MOPAR, a hand-me-down grocery-getter Plymouth Valiant wagon, he has always had a soft spot for Corvettes. From his first ride in the Hertz Corvette strollers at the ’64 World’s Fair, straight through to the final speech for his high school public speaking class entitled, “This is a Corvette,” the iconic American sports car held a special place in his heart.
Nowadays, it didn’t hurt that two of his pals at work (he’s been an elementary music teacher and administrator for almost 30 years), the head custodian and the IT computer guy, both had 1970 sharks to cruise to the beach for the weekend meets. So, to begin the search for a suitable ride, it became clear that he would need someone who could expertly evaluate whatever candidates might surface for his one-car garage.
1970 LT-1 and ZR-1 Corvette Blueprint is a piece of digital artwork by K Scott Teeters
Through his friend who owns a restaurant in town, he was introduced to Kevin MacKay, from Valley Stream, New York. Kevin had held the year-end client appreciation event for his Corvette Repair, Inc. there until it outgrew the venue. One phone call, one visit to Kevin’s home garage, and exactly fifteen seconds of ‘negotiating’ were all it took for Tom to find the perfect ride to complete the C3 Musketeers’ convoy.
Tom didn’t know then that the purchase would set off a dizzying year with a new caretaker’s responsibility and continuing education in all things Vette. It would prove to be filled with what, for him, would surely be many once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
His SURVYVR (they are only original once) is a 1968 Corvette Coupe delivered to Eugene Rambler at Jay Chevrolet in Haddonfield, NJ, on July 31st, 1968. Rally Red with a Black Leather interior, it is powered by the venerable 327/350 HP L79 through the M20 4 speed, 355 Posi Rear, and Off-road Exhaust. Notably optioned, including AM/FM Stereo Radio, Tinted Glass, Rear Window Defroster, Telescopic Steering Wheel, Speed Warning Indicator, and Full Transistor Ignition, and wrestled from the personal collection of Kevin Mackay, this four-owner, mostly original all lacquer coupe’s time capsule condition belies its 55,000+ Northeast miles. It still rides on OEM Goodyear red striped tires and proudly sports a stunning set of ‘68 only PO1 Full Wheel Covers (original rims, rubber, and P01s for judging; radial repos and P02s for runs). During the past year and within a whirlwind three-month span (has to be a record), It earned an NCRS Top Flight, Bloomington SURVIVOR, Gold and Benchmark, and the MCACN Concours Gold and Triple Diamond Awards.
Though it began life as a daily driver, it was always well cared for and appreciated for its originality by the subsequent owners. Divorce played a significant role in transferring the car more than once and eventually ended up with Ray Zisa at his Corvette Center in Connecticut. When Ray called his friend, Kevin MacKay, with the thought that Kevin might enjoy the car for himself, he jumped at the chance. Fast forward fourteen years when Tom called Kevin to evaluate a potential purchase. He happened to ask about a survivor ’68 small-block coupe that was advertised on his site. Well, it turns out that the stored car was his daily driver years back and also exactly what Tom was looking for; an authentic, honest, highly original chrome bumper C3 with provenance. Unlike many of the cars that Tom had looked at during his search, this was no Frankenstein. By the time the handshake sealing the deal was over, Kevin had already put Tom to work. His apprenticeship had begun.
“Before I even drove it home, Kevin gave me my first assignment. Try to locate and contact the original owner. Imagine that, ‘The Corvette Hunter’ asking me to be a Vette detective.”
Well, Tom eventually did track him down. Mr. Rambler, still wonderfully active in the hobby, owns and drives a ’58 and is a regular at Corvettes at Carlisle. “It’s a shame that health concerns and the pandemic prevented our face-to-face meeting when the car was one of Chip’s Choices this year, but we keep in touch regularly. That helped me bring him along for the ride as we took his first Vette everywhere from Charlotte to Chicago. My experiences with the judging and evaluation process of the NCRS, Bloomington Gold, and MCACN organizations have been incredible.”
So, what’s next for Tom and his SURVYVR now that the car has been judged, confirmed, and recognized? When we asked him, he said, “Drive it,” but his wife and daughters might give you a different answer. You see, they all want to come along, and there’s one thing that the car doesn’t have…a back seat.
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