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They say that patience is a virtue. Sure, we can see that. Sometimes you just need to stick it out and wait, to persevere and finally obtain your goal. For those who believe in forging out and fulfilling your own destiny through persistence, this next story is for you. It’s a tale of fortitude, and having the wherewithal to be patient, to collect the prize you’ve had your eye on since your youth.
Tom Tallman of Oakhurst, New Jersey has been hunting down cool rides since his teens, searching his Jersey Shore home turf for forgotten muscle cars and hot rods to call his own. He was one of those many young-gun “car aficionados in training” that fell under the spell of GM muscle at an early age and has nobly continued that trend of faithfulness to the present day.
Tallman has a soft spot for Chevy’s fiberglass sports car and had dreamed of owning one since his teens. Imagine his teenage level of bliss when he spotted an interesting example parked right there in his own neighborhood. “I first discovered my ‘69 Corvette back in 1987. It had been parked in a backyard behind a garage in Oakhurst, NJ along the railroad tracks. I had just gotten my driver’s license and bought my first car, a 1971 Camaro SS350. All I knew was Camaros and Firebirds at that time, but for some reason the bright yellow and orange fender sticking out behind that garage grabbed my attention every time I drove past that house”.
This Corvette was put to pasture back in the 1980s in the owner’s backyard. Mother Nature soon took over, camouflaging the hot rod by not only surrounding it with dense vegetation, but by also coating the Chevy with a layer of moss.
So, Tallman inquired about the car. The apparent owner of the Corvette quickly rebuffed his query and told him it was not for sale. However, over time, he did get the low-down on the Chevy. The current owner had bought back in 1980. He had the Turbo 400 transmission rebuilt and reinstalled and then drove it for a short period of time. That suddenly came to an end when he enlisted in the military. His father instructed him to park the car out back, jack it up and put it on blocks, and then fill the engine with oil through the carburetor. And that’s exactly what he did. The car would then sit in that spot for the foreseeable future.
The ’69 Corvette is one of the most hallowed years for the GM’s tried and true sports car. After a total revamp for ’68, the Corvette came out swinging in every conceivable way, and in ’69, it only got better. Sales were up, with over 10,000 more units sold that model year compared to the previous; around a 30% increase. Muscle cars were hot, and the Corvette was right in the thick of it.
Engine options for the ‘69 model year were plentiful and add in the great looks of the current C3 body style, and well, you had a winner in every conceivable way. You could get your Vette with the power to suit your needs; from the standard 350/300hp fully capable small block to the performance “king of the hill” 427/435hp tri-power goliath. Any way you sliced it, this model Corvette was ready to show the world that Detroit was the performance capital of the world.
Tallman hacked away for over 10 hours, hoping to free the bogged down Corvette. With help of good friend Rob Feasel, some heavy equipment, and some calamine lotion for the poison ivy, the car was freed and taken away.
The Corvette never moved while Tallman had his eyes on it. And that was for over three decades. However, one day, his wife Roseanna spotted something that finally brought a glimmer of hope to the GM enthusiast. “One day my wife discovered a for sale sign out in front of the house and a dumpster in the driveway. The owner’s mother and father had both passed away and the house was being sold to the neighbor,” states Tallman. With that Tallman made a play for the Corvette. “The new owner didn’t want that jalopy out back, so I made an offer that was accepted. Then good friend Rob Feasel and I went to extract the car”.
It wasn’t as easy as you would think. The car had been taken over by mother nature; covered in moss and heavily guarded by overgrowth. It was seriously buried by greenery; so much so that the car was nearly hidden from sight. “Ten hours and two cases of poison ivy later, sweltering in 90-degree heat, the car was now mine”.
Originally this Corvette came with the RPO L36 427ci big block, which was good for 390 hp. When Tallman finally got his hands on what he had been chasing most of his life, he soon found that the original motor was long gone, replaced with an equally stout ’70 LS5 454. New owner Tom Tallman has plans to put a period correct 427 back in when he restores the car.
However, there were some surprises when he finally got to see what he had bought. “After closer examination I found out that the original L36, four-barrel, 390 horse, 427ci mill was long gone. In its place was a ’70 454 LS5. This mill is no slouch by any means, but unfortunately it’s not the original engine.” The plusses include the fact that basically the rest of the car was untouched, and the body shell was in reasonably good shape. It’s also a factory Monaco Orange car built with the N14 side pipe option. A nice set of Ansen mags give it a '70s street-tough look.
The 454 LS5 was one of the performance oriented big blocks offered in 1970 from Chevrolet. Though they were nowhere near as potent as their big bro’, the LS6, the LS5 was certainly no slouch. With 390 horses at the ready, this four-barrel carbureted muscle mill was certainly at home between the rails of Chevy’s A-body.
The Corvette’s paint is pretty interesting. It’s a factory Monaco Orange car. However, after looking at the flanks closely, the orange paint covers the yellow. Did someone strip the car bare, then repaint it yellow, and then later, go back to orange? Or was it done in the factory? We will probably never know.
The car was rolled into Tallman’s shop in Wall Township, New Jersey, still wearing her old blue NJ plates. She’s now been cleaned up the best that the new owner could do, but there are bigger plans down the pipeline for this Corvette. “It’s awaiting its total restoration, which will include a period correct 427. I have acquired a nice donor car for the frame and birdcage, since these pieces were in poor shape after their long slumber in the backyard.
Right now, the project is on hold while life and other projects stand in the way, states Tallman. But this Corvette will once again cruise down the old neighborhood streets. He won’t let this current nap last too long.
This Corvette was optioned with factory sidepipes, RPO N14. The years have taken their toll, and they are both past restoration but will be replaced with new ones. Proof that the sidepipes are factory units can be found at the rear valance, which does not sport exhaust cutouts. The frame and "birdcage" of the Corvette, along with the door frames, are completely shot. Tallman has all the parts needed for the restoration after purchasing a 1970 parts car.