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Vintage Vettes: Hot Summer Nites And Even Hotter Cars
Written By Tom Olsen
Photos By Derek and Tom Olsen
Have you ever found yourself becoming acquainted with a person that you probably should have known from over the years but, for some reason, you just never really made contact? That’s the scenario I found with Ron Kersbergen. We both graduated from Washington High School in the class of 1965. (Along with 970+ others!) We’re both long-term car guys, know many of the same people, did some racing and car shows, but only recently did we really start to get to know each other.
I’ve known for several years that Ron is a very committed Corvette guy as I’ve seen some of his Corvettes at shows and cruise nights. But only while working on this article did I learn the extent of his involvement with Corvettes. Ron presently owns five Corvettes, one from each of the first five generations of Corvette.
Ron still owns his first Corvette, a 1975 model (C3). It’s somewhat surprising that he stuck with Corvettes, as he went through a difficult 14-month process to even buy this car. He originally ordered a 1974 model, but the factory wouldn’t build the car as Ron ordered it, even though the options he ordered were listed in the brochure. Eventually, after haggling with Chevrolet at length, Ron was able to get his Corvette, now a ’75 model instead of the ’74. When the car arrived, however, it had a variety of issues including a substandard paint job. Ron stuck with it, though, repairing many of the issues on the car himself, and putting only 9,000 miles on the “Medium Metallic Red” car all these years.
Being performance minded, Ron initially planned to do some modifications to the C3, but decided to leave it essentially stock and look for a true project car. About five months later, he found a 1961 Corvette (C1) “basket case” which he purchased for $700. The car was in rough condition and missing a lot of parts. Initially, it was questionable if the car would ever be worth the amount of time and money it was going to require to rebuild the car. Ron was determined, however, and he started buying up NOS (new old-stock) parts. Ron ordered parts weekly, and each week when he’d pick up one order, he’d order the next batch. This went on for a year and a half.
At the time, factory assembly manuals and Corvette judging guides weren’t as plentiful as they are today, so Ron assembled the car as he felt the factory might have. For performance, he built the car with dual-four barrel carbs, 4-speed transmission, a hot cam, and other high-performance parts of the day. Bob Schmeichel, while working at Howards Corvette’s, painted the car in “Jewel Blue” lacquer. By 1977, the car was finished and on the road.
In 1980, the NCRS (National Corvette Restorer Society) judging books started to be produced. Ron decided it was time to do a totally correct, original style restoration on the Corvette. He took the car apart in 1981, did research to determine what the car was originally, and began collecting parts for a stock restoration. When new, the car had the 230hp, 283ci engine with a Powerglide transmission, so Ron went with that powertrain. Once the car was torn down, it was years before the project was completed. A series of other cars, some racing, and other life activities sidelined the completion of the car for years.
In 2012 (31 years later) Ron decided it was time to get the car together. It took a year and 2,000 hours to totally re-assemble the car. The lacquer paint was still in excellent condition, so a repaint wasn’t necessary. As many NOS parts as possible were used in the restoration. Only when necessary were reproduction parts used. Ron feels the car is now as correct as possible. Options on the car include a Wonderbar radio, white sidewall tires, both tops, a blue interior, and a white cove insert. Ron has driven the car about 1,800 miles since the restoration.
And then there’s Ron’s 1966 Corvette Stingray (C2) which he bought in pieces in 1977. The car had been through a variety of owners over the years and had been seriously abused. The previous owner started a restoration, but burned out on the project. The body was off the frame, some major components had been rebuilt, and a large group of NOS parts came with the car. In researching the car’s history, it was learned that the car was never actually sold through a GM dealership. It was ordered by the GM photo department to be used for pictures in the 1966 Corvette brochure! Ron restored the car back to its original condition and options, finishing the car in 1980. This is a beautiful car with “Ermine White” exterior, red leather interior, and a white top. Some of the many options on the car are the 427ci, 390hp engine, 4-speed transmission, side mount exhaust, cast aluminum knock-off wheels, Positraction, auxiliary hardtop, AM/FM radio, and more.
Also in Ron’s collection is his 1990 (C4) “Bright Red” Corvette. Ron bought this low mileage car in 1997. Power comes from the 250hp, 350ci engine through a 4-speed automatic transmission. Options include both tops, red leather interior, Delco/Bose Stereo with CD and cassette, electronic A/C, oil cooler, and low tire pressure warning indicator. Ron has taken this car to the Black Hills Corvette Classic eight times over the years. On its last trip to the Classic, Ron and his wife, Cindy, decided they needed more room for luggage. The decision was made to move up to a C5 Corvette. After looking for a few months, Ron came across just the right Corvette for sale.
Ron’s C5 is a 2002 convertible in “Magnetic Red” with black leather interior and a black cloth top. Powered by the LS1 engine with an automatic transmission, this is a great road car. The car was purchased in 2013 from a local friend and has been to the Black Hills Corvette Classic a few times. Ron and Cindy find that the C5 is much easier to get in and out of, rides better, and has much more room for luggage. Some of the options on this car are polished wheels, a Bose stereo with 12-disc CD changer, electronic A/C, heads-up display, deluxe seats, power telescopic steering column, and many more.
With this collection of Corvettes, it’s no surprise that Ron would be involved with Hot Summer Nites in Downtown Sioux Falls. Ron had been a member of the Sioux Falls Corvette Club for many years, and in 1994 he and Bob and Lynn Roetzel (fellow Corvette Club members) organized Hot Summer Nites. HSN is a kickoff event that takes place the evening before Corvettes from all over the nation depart Sioux Falls for the annual Black Hills Corvette Classic. After the first year, Downtown Sioux Falls contacted the committee and offered to help promote the event. A band was added the next year, and a parade and display of Harley-Davidsons was incorporated to further broaden the appeal of the event. From there, Hot Summer Nites has grown into one of the largest events held in Downtown Sioux Falls. It’s a fantastic family event with multiple live bands, food vendors, automotive vendors, and Corvettes of every description. I attend annually as a spectator, and it’s easily one of my favorite events of the year!
Hot Summer Nites will be held on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Look for more information about the various activities associated with HSN in this issue and online at www.dtsf.com. Ron Kersbergen has been attending for years, and he’ll be there again this year. Watch for one of his beautiful Corvettes there and check it out in person.