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This Project Needs A Name

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

I have owned this 2007 Machine Silver Metallic over Titanium Two-Tone Leather Corvette Z51 (with the 6-speed manual) for the last 11 years and 90,000 miles.

In my custody, it has been to every corner of the continental United States, fused the clutch to the flywheel chasing down Miatas and 911s in a late-afternoon summer track session, high-centered on railroad tracks in the desert outside Las Vegas in the rain past midnight, and been clocked at within 2 miles per hour of its factory certified top speed by friendly county highway officials in the actual middle of nowhere near Terlingua.

This car has been wrecked to damn near total write-off on two separate occasions. It has suffered catastrophic mechanical failure in multiple time zones. It has been down the Tail of the Dragon and overheated crossing the border on its way to Vancouver. It was a lifeboat during 100-hour weeks at work and an escape pod from everything ordinary and mundane. I taught my wife how to drive a manual transmission on this car on our first date.

I have written the classified ad for this car three times. I’ve talked with every sentient creature that has been within earshot about the prospect of selling this stupid thing. And I would like to take a moment to apologize to all of them in writing, as they got to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to sell the car years before I did.

Given the list of activities written above, the current state is about what you’d expect. The car was initially sidelined with an undiagnosed clutch issue and has been neglected on jack stands for the better part of two years. The undercarriage has become a refuge to approximately 100,000 spiders of various species, but mostly of the kind that you don’t notice until they’re an inch from your face as you’re inspecting the transaxle.

If you’ve ever been walking or driving through a neighborhood and caught a glimpse of a decrepit ghost of a car that hasn’t been used for anything but filling an otherwise empty void in a garage and asked yourself “how on earth did things get that bad?” well, allow me to be your tour guide down that spiral of despair.

I’m not proud of where this car is now. The volumes of excuses I’ve used to not work on this car could fill enough shelf space to merit its own entry in the Dewey Decimal System. I reckon this is familiar territory for anyone else that’s had something large and tangible in their life for a similar period of time. It’s been a part of my identity for a majority of my adult life, but, as Tori has eloquently put in the past, machines do not have a tendency to evolve in the same manner as living creatures.

If you’re still wondering why I keep it even as it continues to accrue issues and expenses, well, I’m not going to be able to give you a straight answer yet. I’ve already got one project - my little bonkers Miata - that I’m dearly in love with that violently extracts my breath when I drive it in the boost.

But even as the colonies of spiders begin to develop their own culture and oral traditions and other priorities keep clamoring for my attention, the memories this car evokes when the sunlight hits it right are still intoxicating. This car works as a four-hundred horsepower photo album with adventures bubbling to the surface right past the pitted paint and second-rate bodywork.

Each time I wrote the ad for this car, I listed the reason for selling that I’ve done everything that I could do with it. But as the car continues to invade my brain late at night and steal glances when I’m just out in the garage grabbing a beer, I’m slowly beginning to realize that our journey together isn’t complete.

This car has acted as an anchor for me in times when everything outside of it didn’t make a lick of sense. And now that the world seems to have completely rotated off its axis, the car seems to be calling back as a refuge, a place where I can convert my anger, and confusion, and frustration into mechanical harmony.

It’s going to take a bucket of learning. If my Miata project is any indication, it’ll likely incur a hefty error rate while I’m wrenching the bits off the car that have ceased to function as the factory intended. But to have a full-blown track car in the Miata and a capable grand touring Corvette that gets me to work and still sets off car alarms in parking lots just like it did the first time I fired it up after signing the title? There’s a high school version of me somewhere that’s looking up from an Initial D torrent and nodding in agreement.

I know it’s an uphill battle. The luster of newfound motivation gets dulled by reality pretty quick. Just as parked cars tend to accumulate projects at a linear rate, the undiagnosed clutch issue has spawned projects up and down the driveline. During the dismantling, the phrase “might as well” was weaponized and what began as an exploratory mission to figure out which clutch component failed now has tabs open in this browser for coilover conversions and a full cooling system overhaul.

Just where we go from here is still a mystery to me - there are a whole bunch of expensive decisions yet to be made and mistakes to be remedied and professionals to be consulted. But if there’s one thing this Corvette has taught me over these 11 years and 90,000 miles, not knowing where you’re going is just fine as long as you’re having an adventure getting there.

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