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Divine Intervention

By Bob Schmeichel

1970 was a great year with all the different cars. Even if you were just cruising the loop, at 38 cents a gallon cost for premium, it was cheap entertainment and fun during an innocent time. Charlie Zeeb had a 1961 Corvette then, but wanted to have one of the newer body styles, a 1963-1967. Since they weren’t that old yet, they weren’t too hard to find, but they were expensive for the time. 


Then Charlie heard about and found a totaled 1963 coupe in Luverne, Minnesota. With Charlie not having experience with how to repair fiberglass, he told Howard Goehring about the car. Howard bought the Corvette body as a parts car and took it to his body shop in Menno. Charlie being from the area, would go hang out there to watch how things were done in the body shop business. After seeing the smashed Corvette sitting on the floor and getting behind the steering wheel a few times, Charlie was hooked. 


Out of that an affordable agreement was made between Howard and Charlie, with Charlie physically helping while learning and getting the Corvette back into new shape. Working evenings and weekends, it took 5 months total of rebuild time, along with Charlie learning how to repair fiberglass, bodywork and painting. After having it all together for a while and confident with driving the car, Charlie decided to take the car on a road trip to the Black Hills on July 10, 1971. Prior to leaving, his dad told him not to get in an accident with the car to which Charlie responded by saying, “It won’t be my fault if I do.”  

Charlie filled up his gas in Chamberlin and headed west, there were some detours off the interstate over to Highway 16, near Vivian, which Charlie had to follow. As he was rolling on to Highway 16 with his window down, he heard a loud engine roar almost beside him to which he instinctively laid down to the right because it scared him. In an instant the Corvette was hit hard from behind throwing everything around inside the car that was loose, as Charlie held on. Once everything stopped with all the dust still in the air yet, Charlie realized he could smell gas, so he pushed hard to get the driver’s door open to get out and away. 


After getting out and getting his wits about him, Charlie realized that a loaded 18-wheeler was driving faster than he needed to be, and had jack knifed beside Charlie trying to avoid hitting the Corvette. But the right rear tires of his trailer rolled over the center of the Corvette from behind, smashing the rear mounted Corvette gas tank causing it to blow out with the 2 tires while rolling up and over the left side of the car. Had Charlie been sitting up right, he would have been killed as the driver’s seat backrest was torn by the spare tire carrier under the trailer that tore thru the roof as it came forward. Charlie was so fortunate to have escaped with nothing more than a small tear on his shirt sleeve. 


Four hours later Howard came to Charlie’s rescue and hauled the car back to his body shop in Menno and decisions had to be made. For Charlie it wasn’t hard. Even though the Corvette was a total loss with a replacement being offered by insurance, Charlie told the Trucking insurance company he wanted that car repaired. With that request the rebuild began all over again with insurance paying the total bill this time. While Charlie and Howard began disassembly of the salvaged car, Howard located a complete back half of a ’63 Corvette in North Dakota, and other multiple pieces to get the car back into new shape. Being that the Corvette was a regular body shop job, paid totally by insurance this time, it was a full-time job that was completed in 5 weeks and on the road again. 


After that it, remained a daily driver in all kinds of weather until 2004, when he stripped the paint off it totally and repainted the car one last time. This was the last car Charlie had painted with original style hand rubbed lacquer. Charlie told me that he really doesn’t have that much actual money in the car after 51 years. I can tell in his voice that the sentimental value of this car far exceeds the actual monetary value of this highly sought after specific year Corvette that he never tires looking at, from all angles, while reminiscing about the journeys it has taken him, safely.


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