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[News] Little red labor of love

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Little red labor of love
BY JACOB DIRR | ENQUIRER CONTRIBUTOR
Last Updated: 4:33 pm | Saturday, January 27, 2007

<!-- BEGIN: Story Chat Refer --><!-- END: Story Chat Refer --><!--ARTICLE BODY TEXT-->When Gene Cochran first gripped the wheel of his 1973 Chevy Corvette five years ago and fired the engine to life, he hadn’t sat in a ’Vette for three decades.

Saturday, he watched with quiet pride as person after person at Duke Energy Center stopped to marvel at his glossy red car during the annual Cavalcade of Customs show.

At an event that features more than 300 cars, created mostly by professional customizers, Cochran’s was among the few restored by a hobbyist. He spent eight months of man-hours over a period of almost five years working on the car in his home garage in Villa Hills.

“It was a 30-year-old car when I got it,” Cochran said. “There are cars here more beautiful than mine, but no one is more proud of theirs than I am.”

Cochran, 69, bought his first Corvette at age 27. He had three different ones up until he got married in 1976.

But then the ‘Vettes had to go because the car seats for his two children wouldn’t fit, his wife Linda Cochran said.

“He doesn’t express a lot of excitement, but I knew he had been waiting for years (to buy another),” Linda, 57, said.

As onlookers snapped photos, Cochran kept a low profile, content to let people admire his ride without much fan-fare for himself.

“You have that car looking good!” one admirer said.

“Eh,” Cochran said, shrugging his shoulders, “It’s clean, anyway.”

This was the second time in the show for this car. The red Corvette also appeared two years ago.

“I enjoy coming here. It’s like all your work wasn’t in vain,” he said.

Cochran found the car in Monroe, Ohio, buying it for $10,000. He invested about the same amount to restore it. Now, he estimates the car is worth $28,000.

Doing the work wasn't easy. He installed jacks and ramps in his garage to lift the car so he could work on the brakes and install custom exhaust pipes. He tracked down an aftermarket hood.

An HVAC-mechanic by trade, Cochran said he had been tinkering with cars since his teens. But even with a car in a popular show, Cochran doesn’t consider himself “real mechanical.”

In all, he estimates investing eight months of labor into restoring his Corvette; a day here, an evening there.

“You just do things a little at a time,” Cochran said. “I worked mostly in the evening, sometimes I’d be out there ’till 2 (a.m.) or better.”

Now he takes the car for a drive nearly every summer weekend – as long as there’s no water on the road to hurt the finish.

“He was complaining about the puddles he had to drive around to bring it over (to the show) on Wednesday,” Linda Cochran said.

The show car isn’t the only Corvette in the family. Cochran’s 5-year-old grandson -- whose picture rests in the center console of the show car -- has a miniature, drivable version of his own.

“He feels like Grandpa,” Cochran said. “He gets out there and waxes it and rubs it.”

Source: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070127/NEWS01/301270010
 

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