Car of the Week: 1959 Chevrolet Corvette

By John Gunnell

Larry Nesler, 61, of Paducah, Ken., picked up a Celebrity Choice Award with his ’59 Corvette, before heading home from the 2018 Corvette Funfest. “This is usually about the only show I go to anymore, because I’m so busy,” Nesler explained. “I also play in a classic rock & roll band and my son is the drummer. We call it Contagious, but it’s spelled out Can’t Age Us. So, I don’t have a lot of time for Corvette stuff. In fact, I have to leave from here in Effingham (Ill.) early because I have two shows to play tomorrow.”

Nesler purchased his Corvette years ago. “It costs more to paint one now, than I paid for this one back then,” he joked. “I found this car advertised in a publication. It was for sale up in Lexington, Ken. It was not in this condition. We negotiated. Then, I went up there, put it on a trailer, brought it home to my garage.” Larry started taking the car apart and he worked on it for about the next 10 years.

“I was specifically looking for a ’59 when I found this car. Actually, a guy at work bought the ‘trader’ magazine that it was advertised in. The guy said, ‘Hey Larry, you’re looking for a Corvette, aren’t you?’ I told him I was and he said, ‘I think I found you one.’”

Larry had told his wife that he was going to look for either a ’59 or a ’60 Corvette. “That’s because I liked the four headlights,” Nesler said. “But, I didn’t like the extra chrome on the ’58 and I didn’t like the new grille on the ‘61. I liked the shark’s tooth grille. My wife said, ‘Get a ’59.’ I asked, ‘Why a ’59’ She said, ‘Because that’s the year I was born.’”

Larry followed her wishes. “I told her, just for you Baby, I’ll get a ’59.” After that, he could remind her that he had bought the car just for her. “But we really both enjoy the car immensely,” Nesler added. “A few years ago, I got laid off from work and I told her we could sell the car. My wife said, “You will not sell the Corvette!” Larry said the car probably wouldn’t have sold anyway because of its value. When we asked what he thought the value was, he said, “More than what anybody in his right mind would pay me for it.”

When asked if it was harder to take the car apart or put it back together Nesler said, “Ah ha, it was much harder putting it back together. I had boxes filled with parts and I had made up a master list of all the parts I put in those boxes. Even at that, I would still have trouble finding the parts I was looking for when I started putting it back together.”

Nesler farmed out the paint and body work, but did all the rest of the work himself. “I’m no body man,” he said. “But the car was in very good shape. The fiberglass was all good. I stripped the car down and took the body off. I got parts from everywhere.

Larry admits that there were times when he got frustrated and wanted to walk away from the project and sell the incomplete car. “There were more times like that than I can count,” he said. “But, it was the car of my dreams and that made me stick with it.

We asked Larry if his dreams were based on the old Route 66 TV show of the same era as the car. “No,” he said. “I’m not that old myself. I guess the first Corvettes I fell in love with were probably the C-3s. I was at the 12-14-year-old age then. But as I got more mature, say 16-17, I started to fall in love with this body style.

Nesler doesn’t know a whole lot about the car’s earlier history. “The guy I bought it from was the third owner,” he recalled. “It was just too much work for him to restore it, so he gave up and sold it to me.”.

The car has a stock 283 V-8 with 245 hp. It’s got a four-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission. “It’s a highly optioned car for 1959,” noted Nesler. “It’s got sun visors, a deluxe heater and an AM signal-seeking radio,” According to a reproduction dealer invoice displayed on the windshield, the car also came with optional courtesy lights, whitewall tires, a white convertible top and permanent antifreeze. About the only option Larry’s Corvette doesn’t have are power windows, which were available in ’59.

Nesler has the car set up with a marine radio in the trunk. “It’s got a little control panel and a cord that goes all the way to the radio,” Larry explained. “If you just had a modern remote, the radio has no way to sense a remote.

According to Larry, the small differences between ’59 and ’60 Corvettes include seat pleats that run a different way. “Also, the wheels are body color on a ’60,” he pointed out. “hey were black on ‘59s. I like red wheels. so, I have them on my car, but I also have a set of black rims with bias-ply tires. If I want this car to be all original, give me about 30 minutes and I can swap those parts on this car and make it totally original.”

 

Nesler has been coming to the Corvette Funfest since its second year. “That’s 26 consecutive events,” he said. “I haven’t missed any except the first one. I have also taken this car to the Knoxville Corvette show and local shows. It has always done really well, but it’s not the winning that counts; it’s meeting good people. I’ve discovered that Corvette enthusiasts are nice, considerate and kind to one another and fun to talk to.”

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