Omahan endures bumps along the way for one sweet ’74 Corvette
By Jeff Barnes
Pete Stoll has had plenty of fun with his own hot rods and one day asked his wife Brianna what she wanted.
“I told him I wanted a Chevelle but what I REALLY wanted was a C3 Corvette,” she said. Pete made some calls looking for the third-generation ‘Vette and in October 2013 found one – a two-toned silver-on-charcoal ’74 highlighted by a sweet tangerine stripe.
The car was going to need some work, however, pretty much a complete overhauling of the suspension system. Stoll turned the car over to a mechanic who identified himself as “the best in the world.”
“We put it in on February 18 (2015) and he said it would be done in a week,” he said. “By May 1, it was still in the shop. He had it up on a rack – I said ‘If you’re not going to fix it, I will.’ I brought in my tools and spent over 100 hours just getting it out of there.”
Stoll found some bad surprises upon getting the car back, such as grinding in the brakes, damage to the front corner of the hood, and a rear strut getting as bent as a horseshoe. There was a new radiator to replace the original that was punctured while the mechanic was working around it.
“Basically every time he touched something, he screwed it up,” Stoll scowled. “But we completely redid the suspension from the front to the rear – every bushing, every ball joint, everything had to be replaced. It was a total mess but now it drives like a dream.”
There was a great surprise found during the restoration – this was a numbers-matching ’74 Corvette. Stoll was stunned to find the car in that state, adding that the previous owner certainly didn’t know it. “It’s got a double-roller chain and gears for timing, and that wasn’t stock,” he said, “and it only has 76-thousand miles on it which is not bad for a 40-year-old car.”
The Stolls had one more hassle to contend with for the car. After Brianna stepped in to replace the taillight lenses, they found they the gas gauge didn’t work. The thinking was that a wire above the gas tank wasn’t in, so for the next few weeks they had to measure the fuel level with a dipstick while waiting for the tank to empty enough to drop it and get to the wire.
While Stoll went off on a camping trip, Brianna decided to take another look at the wiring and found that a tankectomy wasn’t needed. “It took me ten minutes to find the problem, ten minutes to find the tools, and ten minutes to fix it,” she laughed. “I tossed him the keys when he got home and said ‘Fixed the gauge’.”
From the VIN, Stoll was able to get a copy of the original sticker for the ‘Vette and now knows that it was “born” on March 29, 1974, was loaded with every option available to it and was shipped from its final assembly in St. Louis to a Chevrolet dealer in East Detroit. He thinks he and his wife are the third owners.
The Stolls have shown the car six times and won five trophies, and they only show where there’s a cause to support. She’s an accountant for the Council Bluffs Public Schools, so last year they entered the car in the Thomas Jefferson Orchestra and Band fundraiser, where they took best of class, including more than fifty cars from the ‘70s and ‘80s. They’ll be back for this year’s on August 27.
Anything learned after the three-year adventure? “Don’t buy another Corvette!” laughs Stoll. “This is our first and last. But it is a blast to drive.”