Cars in general, and Corvettes in particular, have long been a part of John and Brenda Cianciolo’s life. They own a pristine 1967 and a 1958 that is the process of being restored, but they have also owned a 1961, a 1965, a 1967 and a 1972. Must be some fiberglass and V-8 juice in their blood.
By TOM STRONGMAN
John’s first project was a 1953 five-window GMC pickup. The second restoration project, in 1978, was a 1966 Pontiac GTO like the one Brenda drove in high school.
“We had just bought a house, and because I wanted to put as much down as I could, we had $312 left in the bank,” John said. “A friend called and said he knew about a ’66 GTO convertible that had been tapped in the back and needed some work. He said we could get the car for $300. I thought, ‘How can I tell my wife about it when we only have $312 in the bank?’
“The next night we went to dinner and I told her about the car. She perked up and said, ‘Here’s how I look at it. Whether we have $312 or $12, we’re broke anyway, so just buy the car.’
“We fixed up the GTO and sold it for about four times what we had in it. That gave us the money to buy the ’58 Corvette.”
That was in 1981, and the car was in boxes.
The ’58 is a fairly rare 290-horsepower, fuel-injected model ordered with the radio and heater deleted. It is a work in progress.
“I do so much of the work myself and I’m disappointed that I don’t have it finished,” he said, “but we’ve had so many vehicles, and I coached our two daughters’ basketball and softball teams all the way through college. My wife and I built three houses, and we had an electrical contracting business for 12 years before I sold it.”
John said he hopes to finish the restoration in time for the National Corvette Restorers Society convention in Kansas City in 2014.
Four years ago, John and Brenda bought a black 1967 convertible that had been through a complete frame-off restoration. It received a Top Flight Award by the NCRS in 2002. Top Flight is the highest NCRS award, and it means the car scored 94 percent or better of 4,500 available points
The original order sheet attached to the gas tank indicated the car was built on Sept. 30, 1966, at the plant in St. Louis. Only 815 were painted black, and very few had the saddle tan interior. After production, the car was shipped to the Chevrolet Engineering Division in Warren, Mich., for research and development. John surmises the car’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel was added by engineers in Warren as a way to work out the bugs for future 1967 models.
John said their black car has its original factory drivetrain, and it has been driven about 4,000 miles since the restoration.
“We’ve always liked sports cars,” he said.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is email@example.com. To read other Gallery stories, go to tomstrongman.com.