‘Punkin’ Leaves the Patch

Bellevue man’s ’72 Corvette emerges from restoration

By Jeff Barnes

It’s been a long time since John Hover’s seen his 1972 Chevy Corvette, but with fall in the air and the changing of the colors, he’s ready to enjoy a bountiful harvest.

The Ontario Orange ‘Vette – appropriately nicknamed “Punkin” by Hover – has been in restoration for 45 months. That’s nearly four years, or about a tenth of the forty years he’s owned the car.

The Bellevue man – a retired field rep for John Deere – dropped it off on Halloween 2011 at Ron’s Automotive Repair in Papillion to get some minor work done.

“It never started as a complete redo – it just sort of happened,” Hover laughed. “But it’s now a mechanically new ’72, with engine, driveline, transmission, and cooling system out – either refurbished or replaced.”

The numbers-matching car now features a modified 350 small block engine, originally cranking out 200 HP and somewhere over 300 now. Hover said the engine is “preserved,” meaning the parts needing replacement were replaced. “I wouldn’t want a ‘survivor’ mechanical car – who wants 40-year-old belts?” he jokes.

He’s more than happy with his “survivor” body and interior, though. “The vast majority of the paint is original – we just polished and waxed the body,” he said.

This isn’t Hover’s first turn with a sports car. After his graduation from the University of Nebraska, he bought himself a Porsche. “As a friend of mine once said ‘They’re great, but close the door and you can listen to them rust.’ I got rid of it in 1973 when 55 miles per hour went into effect – all of a sudden it wasn’t fun to drive a Porsche anymore.”

He always wanted a Corvette, though. “I still remember when I was a boy in Benson,” he said, “and I remember walking down to Hulac Chevrolet in the fall to see the new Corvette. I grew up with friends driving Corvettes, fraternity brothers with Corvettes, neighbors having Corvettes – I was living in St. Louis where Corvettes were made. I had it bad.”

Hover bought the car for $5,000 in October 1975. “I’m the second owner – the previous was a woman living in Florida who’d moved to St. Louis to follow a guy.”

He never took it out in the snow or ice there, nor during the rare instance of that weather in Dallas after he was transferred there. Hover later was given a choice of Omaha or Des Moines for a final transfer and he returned to his hometown.

The car is a definite “guy magnet.” Hover pulled it out of the garage for the first time since the restoration and drove it down his cul-de-sac for photos; soon enough, two neighbors emerged from their homes to admire and talk Corvette with their friend.

dsc_0028Hover plans to share it for other comments as well, planning trips to a show in Bennington, the All Nebraska Corvette Show in Lincoln, and Kansas City Corvette Show. “It’s not been judged anywhere yet,” he said. “I have my greatest chance against contemporary Corvettes C-3 (’68-’82).”

Of course, the Corvette is worth much more than the original price paid, especially after the restoration. He said he’s fortunate that he’s whole on the car, based on the market value. “It’s insured for what I have in it. I’d be devastated if it was wrecked or stolen, but I wouldn’t be out anything.”

Perish that thought, though. For now, Hover’s just happy that Punkin’s rolling once more.

(Originally printed in the Omaha World-Herald, October 3, 2015)

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