1961 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C2 TYPE 887 CONVERTIBLE WITH HARDTOP
Back in 1953, Chevrolet's launch of a two-seater sports car was a radical departure for a marque hitherto associated almost exclusively with sensible family transport. Based on the 1952 EX-122 show car, the Corvette made use of existing GM running gear and a shortened chassis frame, around which was wrapped striking Harley Earl-styled glassfibre coachwork. Motive power came from Chevrolet's 235.5ci (3.8-litre) overhead-valve straight six and, unusually for a sportscar, there was automatic transmission, a feature that attracted much adverse criticism at the time.
Intended as competition for the T-Series MG, the Corvette cost way above the target figure, ending up in Jaguar XK120 territory but with an inferior performance. Sales were sluggish initially and the model came close to being axed, surviving thanks to Chevrolet's need to compete with Ford's Thunderbird. A V8 engine for 1955 and a radical re-style for '56 consolidated the 'Vette's position in the market, the model going on to become the world's best-selling and longest-lived sports car.
This 1961 Chevrolet Corvette was delivered new via Établissements C F Wismeyer & Co in Brussels, the local importer for Chevrolet, and sold new to Mr Armand Blaton in Brussels. The Blaton family was already well known in the motor racing world, with the brothers Armand 'Blary' and Jean 'Beurlys' Blaton both being successful racers. This Corvette was ordered and registered in the name of Armand Blaton Sr. but mainly used by his sons Armand and Jean.
The car was delivered fitted with the 245hp V8 engine, and the original sales contract (on file) lists several desirable options: electric power windows; hardtop; four-speed manual gearbox; twin four-barrel carburettors; heavy duty brakes; safety belts; one exterior rear-view mirror; and a Positraction limited-slip differential. With 'taxe de luxe' of 13% applied, this was one very expensive motor car, costing Blaton 385,618 Belgian Francs.
The Corvette was first registered on 24th April 1961 as 'B1288', later 'B6277', and finally 'ABL-078', reflecting Armand Blaton's initials. The car was originally delivered with a speedometer calibrated miles per hour, which Blaton changed two months after delivery to one in kilometres (correspondence on file).
Unhappy about the brakes, Mr Blaton contacted the Girling company in August 1961 to inform them of this, stating that he wanted to fit 'Girling disc brake equipment' to his Corvette (correspondence on file). He even contacted Autostar-Bizzarrini & Co to get them to install their AC Dunlop patent disc brake system, though nothing came of these approaches.
Clearly Armand intended to do hill climbs with this Corvette, and there is correspondence on file with Ronald M Chazan of Corvettes Limited in California about the best competition equipment for such events.
In April 1962, Armand had a minor accident with the car, which was not his fault. Luckily only the right front wing, right front light, and front bumper were slightly damaged, as can be deduced from the detailed 'declaration d'accident' on file. In June of that same year there was more bad luck when the garage door struck the Corvette in the right rear quarter, blown by the wind. The minor repairs required were done at the supplying dealership, C F Wismeyer (invoice on file).
In August 1962, Armand Blaton wrote to his good friend Jacques Swaters, the Ferrari importer for Belgium, saying that he wanted to change the body of his Corvette for a special Bertone body (only one year after he bought the car). Jacques Swaters frequently travelled to Italy, and having had a meeting with Giotto Bizzarrini and Marcello Gandini, he informed Armand that Bizzarrini's plans for a Bertone-bodied Corvette had been completed. However, Armand decided not to commit to this venture as he feared that he would not get his car back in due time. There are plenty of other anecdotes concerning this Corvette, all contained in the fascinating history file. Clearly Blaton was keen to experiment with his car, wanting to change almost everything, and what happened is completely the opposite – it stayed beautifully original.
In 1966 another minor accident occurred in which the car was slightly damaged, and on this occasions it was repaired by the established coachbuilders, Vesters & Neirinck (invoice on file). In 2013 the car underwent some mechanical work including an oil change and attention to the brakes, carburettors, and electrical components. The last works were carried out were in 2014, since when car has hardly been driven. It has remained in the Blaton family for its entire life. The current odometer reading is just over 90,000 kilometres, which is correct.
The outstandingly comprehensive history file contains all documents from new (perusal highly recommended). The amazing amount of original paperwork includes a copy of the original sales invoice (dated April 1961); the original 'contrat de vente' listing all options requested by Mr Blaton (dated January 1961); a copy of the first Belgian registration papers in the name of Armand Blaton (dated 1961); and old Belgian registration documents in the name of Armand Blaton (dated 1992). In addition, the car comes with the original service book and owner's manual; a 1961 Corvette sales brochure; 'The Corvette Story'; old Contrôles Techniques and road tax documents; some period photographs; numerous service invoices; correspondence with Wismeyer, Brussels; and even the 'proces-verbal' when the owner received a fine for not parking the car properly!
Today, the Corvette is presented in highly original condition with a delightfully patinated interior, still in excellent condition. A Bonhams specialist has had the chance to drive the Corvette over a short distance and is highly complimentary about the way it performs: 'You can feel it is an honest and original car'.
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