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1974 Corvette

The 1974 Corvette Set the Stage

Story Kevin Harper Images Bob Stone - December 22, 2011 10:00 AM

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That only reaffirms the idea that the change in course nearly two decades ago was the right move.

There were a lot of things going on in 1974. History saw a sitting president resign from office. That same president, Richard Nixon, had imposed a 55 miles per hour speed limit on the nation’s highways.

While it was considered a safety measure, there was also the economic side of it. The member nations of OPEC had limited the supply of gasoline and the cry was out to save energy.

You know we love our cars and we’re gonna drive them, no matter the speed limit. If you were fortunate enough to get your hands on a new Corvette in 1974, you often used it.

The car had a new look, so you wanted everyone to see it. That new look centered on the redesigned rear. The stylish chrome bumper set-up that had been seen on the previous year’s models was no longer glinting in the sun. The rear of the 1974 Corvette was encased in urethane with a two-piece bumper cover stretching from side to side. The taillights were recessed as well as the license plate holder. The panel was not continuous, containing a seam in the middle.

That development helped the car meet another mandate. Chevrolet had already addressed the front of the Corvette to meet the five miles per hour collision standard. Encasing the bumper and using some of the technology developed for the front of the car made meeting this requirement not much of a challenge.

Some critics didn’t like the look, a position that lost plenty of appeal when designer Larry Shinoda explained his work. Eventually, the buying public started to see the uniform style and popularity was where it needed to be at the time.

Since no one knew what was on the horizon, not many paid attention to the notion that this would be the last year for the big block V-8. There was, with the gasoline games going on, a little concern about fueling the cars, especially those with performance histories. It’s when we really started hearing about miles per gallon. Within the next year, automakers were focusing on catalytic converters and unleaded gasoline, items which have since become a way of life.

This particular example of the era was saved from destruction. In 1994, Eddie Denkenberger was working at a dealership. His position was in the body shop. The Frederica, Delaware, resident often had to deal with vehicles that came out on the short end of a run-in with wildlife, specifically deer. This car came to the dealership after one such encounter. Eddie was able to get his hands on it with the idea of fixing it up to become a driver for his wife.

The nice thing about making plans is that you can change. There are those who would think the opposite is true because it leads to more work. “Needless to say, the further into the project, the more involved I got,” revealed Eddie. You can argue with the rationale of changing the idea all you want, but you can’t dispute the results.

As an auto restorer, Eddie knew what he was getting himself into. He had a car with 83,000 miles on it. It had the base 350 engine in it and was going to be restored to what it was when it rolled from the lines in St. Louis. Nothing was going to be touched on the suspension. It was going to be a pristine example of this vintage.

The car was painted Dark Green … obviously, the paint wouldn’t be original on a wrecked vehicle. Eddie went to work on the interior, which is deluxe leather, saddle in color. The car is air conditioned with a tilt and telescopic wheel.

The car went from driver to show car. Its duties as a show car include showing the world the talents of Eddie Denkenberger and his restoration business, Superior Autoworks. Eddie has been building up satisfied customers who hold their own in show car competitions. His own ’74 Corvette has its share of trophies, and the collection keeps growing.

The bodywork always seems to get the lion’s share of the awards. Many years after the restoration has been completed, it’s not unusual for some people to think it was newly painted. That only reaffirms the idea that the change in course nearly two decades ago was the right move.

If Eddie hadn’t been there, who knows what would have happened to this car. There are certainly those who wish they’d never had to compete with it, but just get in touch with Eddie. He built this one and he can build a show winner for you, too.

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