Kristi’s Clayson’s 1961 Jewel Blue Corvette Memory Machine
In the November 2023 issue of Vette Vues Magazine, the captivating story of Kristi Clayson’s 1961 Jewel Blue Corvette takes center stage, penned by automotive writer K. Scott Teeters. At the heart of Vette Vues, we’ve always celebrated the myriad tales that orbit around Chevrolet’s iconic “plastic fantastic” – from the thunderous race cars to the pristine showpieces and the engine marvels. Yet, sometimes, the most endearing Corvette stories lie in the connection between a driver and their cherished machine, transcending generations and leaving indelible marks. In this poignant article, Kristi Clayson shares the heartfelt saga of her 1961 Corvette, a family heirloom that has woven timeless memories and evokes the spirit of a devoted father, Gregg Tschida. Inherited from her dad, this Jewel Blue beauty encapsulates over five decades of history, embodying the passion and legacy of Corvette aficionados through the years. This is a story that resonates with the essence of what makes Corvette ownership so special, uniting enthusiasts and bridging generations with the enduring love for these iconic American sports cars.
The Passion for Corvettes
There are many different kinds of Corvette stories that we present here in Vette Vues Magazine. Topics range from wild and powerful production Corvettes, famous Corvette race cars, Corvette engines, concept Corvettes, show car Corvettes, Corvette history, and more. Obviously, we all are passionate about Chevy’s “plastic fantastic”! “Passion” is the defining word.
The Journey of a Lifelong Connection
More often than we probably realize, otherwise, ordinary driver Corvettes make lifelong connections with owners and their children. A Corvette friend told me that when he sold his custom ’63 Split-Window Coupe (for a great price back then), his daughter was “SO MAD” at him; she hardly spoke to him for weeks. When she was a little girl, she loved to lay in the back of her Dad’s Coupe and watch clouds float by through the rear window.
“Sweet”, I know. That’s the kind of thing that some children never forget. That’s why we Corvette owners must do our best to involve our children and grandchildren in our passion for Corvette. That’s how it rubs off and gets transferred to the next generation. This is one such story, and it has heart.
Kristi Clayson from Otsego, Minnesota, owns the C1 1961 Corvette featured in this story. Kristi is the third owner, and her Dad, Gregg Tschida, is the second owner. The original owner wanted a nice driver Corvette for his daughter and not a rip-snorting street machine. Under the hood lives the base model 283/230-horsepower engine, mated to the $199 optional two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The only options on the car are the Auxiliary Hardtop for $236, the $102 Heater, the $31 Whitewall Tires, and the $137 Wonderbar AM Signal-Seeking Radio. Also, the car was ordered without a convertible softtop. Wanting a little gearing advantage, the owner ordered his Corvette with 3.55:1 gearing.
A Rare 1961 Jewel Blue Corvette Beauty
The owner was taken with the new Jewel Blue paint that was only available in 1961. By the numbers, Jewel Blue was the second least-ordered color, with only 855 such cars made. Sateen Silver was the least-ordered color 1961, with only 747 such cars ordered. Optional side cover colors had been available since 1957, and the owner chose to have the coves painted Jewel Blue for $16. His interior color choice was, you guessed it, blue.
Kristi fills in some production number details. “She is one of a very low number of Jewel Blue ’61s with uni-color coves, blue interior, AND automatic Powerglide transmission. We have gathered that less than 100 were made with that specific option combination. I always thought it was weird for a car from Southern California to have a heater, but I sure am glad we have it on those chilly fall nights in Minnesota.”
To learn more about the options of the ’61 Vette you can check out this article: The Legendary 1961 Chevrolet Corvette: A Complete Guide to Specs and Options
The Story Behind Kristi’s 1961 Jewel Blue Corvette Ownership
Kristi inherited the car in 2018 when her Dad passed. Dad bought the car in 1970, so as of this year, Kristi’s 1961 Corvette has been in the family for fifty-three years! While going through “Dad’s things,” Kristi found a document her father wrote about his ownership of the Corvette. It wasn’t dated, so the family has no way of knowing when Dad wrote it. Here’s what Dad (Gregg Tschida) wrote;
“In 1970, I was working at my dream job at Southview Chevrolet in South St. Paul as a parts man. I was the Corvette and high-performance guy who would not run away when you asked for something odd. I also got to roam the parts books and order anything I wanted, which made it like Christmas when cool things came in from GM.
I planned my vacation to California in May 1970 to coincide with the delivery of my brand new 1970 Chevy Short box Pickup (I paid $2475.00 for it). My trip to California was for two reasons: My brother lives in San Diego, and I was picking up a 1932 Ford Roadster body for my growing collection of Model A’s. Disneyland and the sights were also on the agenda. The trip was uneventful but was fun because, in those days, you could drive 70-80 all day, and it was a fine way to break in the truck.
With three days left before I had to start heading back to Minnesota, I saw this blue 1961 Corvette driven by my brother’s apartment, which, of course, I had to know more about. My brother, who owned a 1960 Corvette, told me that the ’61 was just up the street.
I went to look for the ’61 and found it parked in a driveway. I went to the door, and a lady answered and asked what I wanted. I told her that I wanted to buy her car, and she said it was not for sale. I left and came back the next day and got the same answer. Then I came back the following day and got serious because I had to leave the next morning.
She was the original owner and told me her daddy bought it for her when she graduated from college; I thought that was fine, but how much? She called her daddy, and he said if she wanted to sell it, go ahead, but the price was $1,400.00. I told her no and paid her $1,075.00 instead and drove the car away. I think she still might be in shock. I had to rent a tow bar to get home, and the funny thing was, on the way home, the truck that cruised at 70 to 80 was now cruising 80 to 90 and 100 in Utah. Man, those Corvettes are fast.
The ’61 has been in the St Croix Valley Corvette Association since the club started and was raced around cones at Minnesota drag-ways. On the street, she has chased, caught, and passed on the left, right, and through the middlemost Corvettes in the club. I was just along for the ride. The ’61 C1 is retired now and only comes out twice a year. If you ever see it parked, stop and say “Hi!”. I think the ’61 is the 2nd oldest Corvette in our club. Believe me, the ’61 needs a well-deserved pat on the back, along with its owner.” – Gregg Tschida – MSRA member #1992.
Thanks to Gregg’s record keeping, Kristi knows the backstory of the original owner, Darlene Hemming. Kristi explains, “She was purchased by Darlene Hemming from Fletcher Jones Chevrolet in Los Angeles, CA on 7/10/1961. It was a graduation gift from her father. We still have the fleet paperwork from the dealership, the original glove compartment paperwork, the original owner’s registration, and the paperwork from when my Dad registered it. My Dad bought it from Darlene in San Diego on 6/7/1970. He brought it back to Minnesota, where he owned it for 48 years until his passing in 2018, then it was passed down to me.”
Unveiling the Journey to Survivor and Top Flight Awards
Kristi’s ’61 Corvette has earned a 2022 Bloomington Gold Survivor award. The car is even wearing its original Jewel Blue lacquer paint! When Kristi’s father was regularly driving the car, as the years went by, when various parts wore out, he replaced them with what fit. So, when she inherited the car, while “complete,” not all parts were year-correct.
Kristi explains how she used the NCRS Top Flight judging to sort out what needed to be corrected on her ’61. “Dad was a member of the NCRS for a while but never put the car through the judging process. My husband and I were new to that club and weren’t sure what to expect, but we decided to put her through flight judging at the North Central Chapter event in 2019 to see how she would do because we had always been told she was all original.”
“She earned a second flight award with a respectable 89.1 score, earning almost 90% of the originality points available. We learned a TON about the car in the process. For instance, we had no idea that Dad swapped out some parts from a ’62 that he had onto the ’61. We also learned that he had other parts replaced in the early ’70s shortly after buying the car that wasn’t year correct..” (No one was thinking about originality pre-NCRS days.)
“Thankfully, in the process of continuing to clean out his house, we found many of the original parts he had swapped out and were able to get them re-installed on the ’61. Since then, we have continued to work on her, and she earned a Top Flight award at the North Central chapter meet in the Spring of 2021 (95.1) and a Bloomington Gold Survivor award in 2022. In 2023, she earned a Top Flight award (94.6) at the North Central NCRS Regional. “
“We are thinking about bringing her to MCACN in 2024 to try for the Triple Diamond award, but haven’t finalized that yet. Mostly, we love bringing her out to local car shows to share her with the community and other car enthusiasts. We love seeing the eyes of children light up when they see the car and the miniature version of the car spinning on the air cleaner. We invite them to sit in the car for photos. Hoping to spark an interest in cars for the younger generations.”
Typically, the number one question people ask is, “How many miles?” followed by, “What’s under the hood?” Here’s how Kristi answers the “miles” question. “I don’t know what the mileage was when my Dad bought the car from the original owner, but she had just over 97,225 miles on the odometer when I inherited her. Dad wrote down the mileage when he “retired” her in 1999. At that time, the odometer read 94,118, so Dad only put about 3000 miles on it in the last 19 years he was around. Since I took ownership in 2018, I have put more miles on it. She now sits at just over 109,000 miles.”
The Special Connection and Memories
When Corvettes become “family members,” they can create memories that last a lifetime. Kristi shared some of her memories of the car she fell in love with when she was five. “I fell in love with this car at a young age. I told Dad when I was five years old that I wanted it, and if he ever sold it, I would kill him! She has always been a part of the family. My Dad was the quintessential “Vette guy,” having bought and sold roughly 20-to-25 Corvettes over the years, but he never considered selling this one.”
“We lived in a small town along the St. Croix River (Afton, MN), so there was no traffic. Just gravel roads. The family would always be cruising up and down the back roads of Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin on color runs with the club or just to go fast.”
“Believe it or not, we could fit four people in the car when I was a kid! I would ride on mom’s lap, and my big sister would sit on the hump between the seats. There are so many stories surrounding this car. Once, we heard from one of my Dad’s friends that back in the day, Dad had the car up in Duluth, MN, and was doing donuts! So much so that the cab filled with tire smoke while my mom just sat in the passenger seat, puffing on a cigarette, silently seething!”
“One of my favorite memories was from when I was about eight years old. Dad wanted to open it up to show me what she could really do. I saw the speedometer go up to about 110 mph down our street, which happened to be a rural wooded area with a gravel road at the time. A deer could have popped out at any moment! My fingerprints are STILL on the grab bar from holding on so tight. All he said to me after that speedy adventure was, “Don’t tell your mother.”
Kristi did not anticipate that her Dad’s Corvette was well-known to the locals. She relates, “The first time I brought it out to a show, a man came up and was talking to me about the car and asking a bunch of questions. He said, “I tried to buy a car just like this from a guy in town about ten years ago. He kept telling me it wasn’t for sale. He was holding onto it for his daughter. Do you happen to know Gregg Tschida?” I said, “I do, he was my dad, and the car is STILL not for sale!” I have seen this guy at several other shows since then, still eyeballing Gigi, but he hasn’t asked to buy it since that first meeting. Kristi calls her Dad’s Corvette “Gigi” in memory of her Dad, “Gregg” with two g’s.
Restoring the ’61 Jewel Blue Corvette
When I started bringing the car back out in 2018, people would stare at it, look at the name on the placard, and then stare back at the car with confused looks on their faces. They recognized the car but not the name. That’s because my Dad never called me by my name. He always called me “Spank”. He had nicknames for everyone. I would just peek around from behind the car, wave, and go, “Hey, it’s me, Spank!” My husband eventually had a sign made out of old cut-up license plates that read “Spank’s 61″ to help jog memories.”
Kristi describes her Dad as “… the quintessential Vette guy. He owned a ’61, ‘62, ‘63, ‘65, ‘67, ‘79, ‘81, ‘84, 2-91’s (base convertible and a ZR-1), and a ’06 Z06. Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head or found pictures of. He also had four Model A’s. When I was little, I would help Dad tinker on them.” Is it any wonder Kristi is a “Corvette Gal”? Kristi and her husband Ryan also own a 1964 Olds F85 that they are in the process of getting back on the road.
For many reasons, people who own classic cars to preserve them usually don’t drive them very often. That hasn’t been Kristi and Ryan’s experience. They believe that Corvettes must be looked at AND driven to appreciate them truly. Since 2018, they have added nearly 16,000 miles on Dad’s old ’61 Corvette. Zora Arkus-Duntov wanted his customers (Zora always called Corvette buyers “his” customers) to drive and enjoy their Corvette. Gregg Tschida understood that and instilled that attitude into his daughter.
Perhaps the sweetest takeaway from Kristi’s experience is this. We asked, “When you sit behind the wheel of this car, what are your immediate thoughts?” Kristi shared, “I feel my Dad’s presence. The air about the car and the smell of the interior all remind me of him and all of the memories we shared. It’s very calming and soothing.“
It doesn’t get any better than that, folks!
1961 Corvette Vintage Ads
If you’ve been moved by Kristi Clayson’s heartfelt journey with her 1961 Jewel Blue Corvette, consider becoming a part of the Vette Vues community. Our magazine celebrates the enduring legacy of Corvette, and by subscribing, you’ll gain access to many more stories like Kristi’s that encapsulate the passion, history, and memories that make these cars so special. And if you’re interested in exploring past issues or prefer a digital experience, remember that you can purchase back issues online and access our digital issues. Join us in the world of Corvettes – where every turn of the page unfolds a new adventure, and every story, a testament to the enduring allure of America’s beloved sports car. Subscribe to Vette Vues today and continue your Corvette journey with us.
Stay updated with our newsletter for regular updates and exciting features; you can sign up here for free. Plus, don’t forget to explore our online store, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of Corvette books, t-shirts, hats/caps, bags, and coolers adorned with Corvette logos. By subscribing and shopping with us, you not only stay plugged into the Corvette community but also support the rich heritage of these legendary vehicles. Join us in celebrating all things Corvette!
- Unique And Affordable Corvette Gift Ideas for the HolidaysExplore our curated selection of top Corvette Christmas gifts, from Vette Vues Magazine subscriptions to stylish bags, hats, and collector books. Unwrap unique and festive presents for automotive enthusiasts.
- 2024 Corvette ZO6 Specifications – Chevrolet Press ReleaseDiscover the 2024 Corvette Z06 with its powerful LT6 5.5L DOHC V8 engine, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and advanced safety features. Explore specifications, performance, and more.
- December 2023 Digital Issue Vette Vues MagazineDecember 2023 Digital Issue Vette Vues Magazine
- See the Mother Road in your Corvette without having to plan a thingExperience the iconic Route 66 in your Corvette hassle-free with Two Lane America’s expertly-guided 13-day car caravans. Let the road unveil its wonders as you journey from Chicago to Santa Monica, exploring vintage filling stations, roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch, and hidden gems. Enjoy all-inclusive packages featuring hotels, meals, and daily itineraries. Meet Route 66 personalities and forge lifelong connections on this unforgettable adventure. Don’t miss the chance—join the 2024 tours at 2LaneAmerica.com!
- Welcome to the December 2023 Issue of Vette Vues Magazine!Dive into a world where passion meets innovation. In our December issue, witness the transformation of a 2016 Corvette Z06 in ‘Leather and Lace,’ discover the allure of classic models, relive racing triumphs, and explore exclusive features that ignite the Corvette enthusiast in you. Get ready for a riveting journey through the exhilarating pages of Vette Vues Magazine!