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Car of the Week: 1965 Chevrolet Corvette

Car of the Week: 1965 Chevrolet Corvette

This big-block ‘Vette was once a daily driver and has racked up well over 180,000 miles. It is still bringing the smiles!

Not a lot of guys get to brag about how many times they’ve gotten their Corvette stuck in the snow.

Herb Grube jokes that it’s happened to him so many times he’s lost count.

“When I came to Wisconsin I had snow tires for it. It didn’t do it any good. I got towed out of the snow so many times with this thing,” says Grube, gazing at his battle-tested white 1965 coupe. “Finally, my insurance company started to get mad at me … One time on [Wis. Hwy. 41] I went down into the median, and I had snow all the way up to my windshield!”

“The thing is, it’s got a really high gearing ratio so if you let your foot off the gas it’s like putting the brakes on. If you let your foot off the gas, you are going sideways instantly in the snow, so that’s how I’d wind up in the ditch all the time.”

The Greenville, Wis., resident used his Corvette as a daily driver for 18 years and rolled up most of its 180,000-plus miles driving back and forth to work and as his primary transportation. The car originally came from Pennsylvania, but has accompanied Grube and his family to stints in Georgia, Florida and Ohio before they wound up in Wisconsin.

Grube is still a little incredulous when he thinks about how long he’s owned the ’65 and all the memories he’s accumulated in it in the past 56 years. He guesses that perhaps the biggest reason he’s had it this long is that the car was his wife Violet’s idea in the first place.

“She was the reason I got it, quite frankly,” he says. “I had a black Pontiac Bonneville convertible, 421, 4-speed, buckets … but then I bought a GTO in 1966. Well, back then when you bought a car you put the minimum down, had big car payments and we were getting married and we looked at our budget and saw this big old car payment for the GTO and said it had to go. So I got rid of it and about a year later my wife noticed that every time a GTO or Corvette went by, I was still obviously in mourning. She finally said, ‘Well, why don’t you go out and get a car,’ and I said OK. Then she said, ‘Why don’t you get a Corvette?’ And after I picked myself up off the floor, I said, ‘Great, why?’ And she said ‘I really like that coupe styling. So why don’t you look at a Corvette?’”

This “Vette is packing heat with the big-block 396 cid V-8.

Violet didn’t have to ask twice, and soon Grube was out happily scouring the landscape for some hot new wheels around Philadelphia, where the couple lived. The catch was he was given a budget of $3,000.

“This was in summer of ’67 when we started looking. I went looking at car lots, and I was looking at ‘67s … In those days you could buy a car at a used car lot that 3 to 6 months old, it was very common. People would get a new one of these, drive it for a few months and decide they didn’t like it and bring it back. So I was looking at ‘67s and they were all $3,400 to $3,800, which was over my budget. Then I went to the newspaper ads … and I saw an ad for a ’65 and he wanted $3,300. I thought well, that’s a little closer.”

At first, Grube balked at the deal when the seller held firm on the price on the ‘65, which had 28,000 miles on the odometer at the time. After a couple of weeks had gone buy, Grube talked to the seller again and the pair eventually haggled out a price of $2,850 and Grube had his first Corvette.

For the next 18 years, Grube drove the wheels off his baby. Finally, in 1985, he says he put the Corvette into semi-retirement and quit driving it every day. He’s not sure exactly how many miles were on the car at the time because the odometer quit working back in 1969. He estimates it’s got 180,000-plus on it today.

1965: Full speed ahead

The 1965 Corvette was two years removed from its major restyling for 1963 and arguable the best version yet of the “Great American Sports Car.” The aesthetics were cleaned up slightly outside and the model year marked a a few big performance improvements. Chief among them were four-wheel disc brakes, and the mid-year introduction of the big-block 396-cid engine option. A new hood without indentations was standard, but cars with a new big-block used a special hood with a funnel-shaped “power blister” air scoop. Interior updates included instruments that were changed to a flat-dial, straight-needle design with an aircraft-type influence. The seats had improved support and one-piece molded inside door panels were introduced. Standard equipment included: tachometer; safety belts; heater and defroster; windshield washer; outside rearview mirror; dual exhaust; electric clock; carpeting; manually-operated top (convertible) and sun visors.

The four-wheel disc-brakes were standard, although drum brakes could be substituted for a $64.50 credit. Fuel injection was phased out at the end of the 1965 model year. A new tough-looking side exhaust set-up and telescoping steering wheel were among the coolest options on the menu.

That’s what 425 ponies look like.

The base engine was a 250-hp version of the 327-cid V-8. From there, buyers could go up the ladder for the 300-hp 327 (RPO L75), 350-hp 327 (RPO L79), 365-hp 327 (RPO L76), 375-hp 327 (RPO L84), or the new 425-hp 396.

A three-speed manual transmission was standard, but almost 90 percent of the 1965 Corvettes rolled out the door with a four-speed.

The new disc brakes and hot engine options made the 1965 ’Vettes plenty of new fans and seemed to further scare off competition as their were simply no other American two-seat sports cars being produced to offer a challenge. Road and Track magazine editors at the time were big fans of the 1965 model, noting in a review at the time that “in many ways, the Corvette is the original ‘build to suit’ sports car. There is a complete range of options that make it possible to satisfy almost any driver who might consider buying such a car. It can be had ‘mild’ with automatic transmission, power steering, power windows or you can have it ‘wild’ with everything up to and including the fuel-injected 375-bhp engine, heavy duty suspension, cerametallic competition brakes, fast steering, wide-base cast-alloy wheels and the whole biz.”

Car and Driver ran a story daring to compare the 1965 Corvette to the legendary Aston Martin DB-5 and Ferrari 250/GT, largely debunking any thinking that the Chevrolet didn’t stack up with Europe’s best sports cars. “Stop all that nonsense about the Corvette being as fast and as silent, as stable and as much in keeping with the grand touring concept as the other two,” the story said, sarcastically. “We don’t want to hear how it might be argued that the Corvette is equally sophisticated from an engineering standpoint or that it might even be as well made. More reliable than an Aston or a Ferrari? Is nothing sacred?”

Indeed, it was hard to argue that a base Corvette coupe was a lot of bang for your buck in ’65 with a base price of $2,947. The convertible was about $225 more and was the more popular version with 15,377 built, compared to 8,187 for the coupe.

‘A part of your persona’

Grube finally backed off the throttle in ’85 and began making his Corvette more of a joyride car, and in 2000 he decided the time had come to make it new again and give it a second life. He employed the help of a pair of Wisconsin shops to tackle the job and a little over a year later he was happily heading off to car shows in his little white steed.

“By 2000, it had a lot of issues,” he says. “It had stress cracks in the body … The interior was bleached almost colorless from the sun. It was worn out.”

“It turns out that it had a couple holes in frame, and four of the six body mounts were gone. They had to weld on all new body mounts, and of course we blasted and painted the frame.”

The ’65 still has its original 396-cid/425-hp V-8 and four-speed transmission. It’s still a very stock machine, but Grube has tweaked and added a few goodies over the years.

“This car could have been purchased exactly as it sits. Everything on it was an option. But as purchased it was slightly different. This has leather seats, but the original had vinyl. Secondly, it has the mahogany steering wheel, and the original had the plastic-synthetic wood steering wheel. Also, the other thing it did not have was side pipes. I put them on about four years after I bought the car. And the knock-off wheels are also not original. They are bolt-ons. I don’t want the wheels to precede me down the highway, and those real knock-offs are known to do that. These are ’67-type bolt-on wheels that the aftermarket sells.”

“The engine is stock and the rest is stock except for the radio, because it’s a radio-delete car. That’s the only regret that I have from the restoration is that I didn’t return it to a radio-delete car because with these side pipes you can’t hear the radio anyway, plus it would add to the mystique and whatever.”

Grube also added a back-up master brake cylinder as a safety precaution. He’s not too worried about a high-speed brake failure, but hey, you never know!

“I’ve always liked cars with lots of power. Everything that I’ve had is like that,” he jokes. “I’ve got a 2013 Corvette at home. That’s a Z06! Now there’s a flamethrower!”

“This car was sold originally by a dealership in Pennsylvania that was known for selling performance and race cars, and this was one of them. The [previous] owner obviously raced it, because when we changed the clutch we had three or four shovels full of gravel on the floor of the garage because he was road racing, apparently.”

After more than five decades together, Grube says there is zero chance the car will ever be for sale while he’s still around. He’s long been known to a lot of folks as “the guy with the white Corvette,” and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a family heirloom. It’s in my will,” he laughs. “A lot of people who know me, know me because of this. It becomes part of your persona. I’m 80 now and I’m going to hang onto it for a while, and then my kids want it.”

Grube and his “Vette

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