Diesel Corvette returns to owner

Couple longed for rebuilt car that had been memorial to son

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An ice-blue 1978 diesel-powered Chevrolet Corvette has made its way home.

A 1978 diesel-powered Corvette was restored by Richard Sanson and his son in St. Albans, W.Va. Sanson and his wife, Jean, sold the car but were able to buy it back.  TOM HINDMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOM HINDMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A 1978 diesel-powered Corvette was restored by Richard Sanson and his son in St. Albans, W.Va. Sanson and his wife, Jean, sold the car but were able to buy it back.

“I’m just sort of excited,” said Jean Sanson, of St. Albans. “This car has made a full circle.”

The car had burned in 1981 before her husband, Richard, and their 17-year-old son, Ricky, turned it from a pile of charred wreckage into a rare vehicle. Her husband’s business involves overhauling old cars and selling them.

“They made a show car out of it,” Jean told the Charleston Daily Mail. “They turned it into diesel so it would not be a hot rod car but a family car.”

Father and son did some major work on the sleek car, which stole the limelight at major auto shows in Knoxville, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio.

They had thought for a good while about converting a Corvette from gasoline to diesel.

Then, in October 1981, a Corvette caught fire as it was being driven on Interstate 77 near Charleston. The front end was ruined and the interior gutted. Sanson paid $2,600 for little more than its frame. It was to be a car for Ricky to drive and show.

They installed a diesel engine and welded stronger body supports onto the frame to handle the bigger engine. The car was rewired. Other changes involved the exhaust system, drive shaft and fuel lines. Only the best parts were used.

In mid-March 1982 the Sansons took the car to a Corvette show in Knoxville that was held in conjunction with the World’s Fair. A dealer offered $18,000 for the car. A similar incident occurred in Columbus.

They were looking forward most of all to an April show that year in Key West, Fla., when Ricky died in an unusual accident. On March 28, 1982, he fell out the door of a pickup and broke his neck, his mother said.

Ricky’s grief-stricken parents kept the car as a memorial to their son.

After Jean’s diagnosis for terminal liver disease in 2009, the Corvette was sold to a man in North Carolina. Each time she walked through the garage, her heart ached a little to see it was no longer there.

Recently, the telephone rang and a woman said the man who purchased the car had died. She was his sister and had inherited the Corvette. She said she could use some money and asked whether the Sansons would be interested in buying it back.

Jean, now 72 and on medication and a special diet for her illness, and Richard, 73, talked it over. She learned he also had missed the car terribly.

Jean called the woman back.

“I said, ‘I want it.’ ”

On April 22, the car was back in St. Albans.

“I’ll drive it every day,” Jean said. “I drove wreckers for 30 years. I enjoy driving. I’ve driven tractor-trailers and big and small wreckers. I didn’t think I’d ever see that car again. It was the most wonderful feeling.”

$52,000 FOR 2014 CORVETTE

DETROIT — General Motors said a base model of the 2014 Corvette Stingray will start at just under $52,000 – $1,400 more than the 2013 model.

The 2014 Corvette goes on sale this summer. The latest version was completely redone, and shares only two parts with the current model, which is nine years old.

GM made the 2014 version lower and sleeker, saving weight by replacing the steel structure with aluminum. The hood is made of lightweight carbon fiber. The interior gets a more modern look with touch screens.

Under the hood, the car gets a 450-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that can go to four cylinders on the highway to save fuel. A seven-speed manual transmission is standard. Even the base model can go from zero to 60 mph in under 4 seconds, a few tenths of a second faster than the current model.

When pricing the Corvette, GM knew it had to avoid giving sticker shock to younger buyers, who should like all the new features. The average Corvette buyer is a male about 50 years old, said John Fitzpatrick, the marketing manager for Chevrolet performance cars.

The car’s gas mileage will be released later, but GM says it will do better than the current Corvette’s 26 mpg on the highway.

– Associated Press


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