Though they were products of three separate plants–those being Flint, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; and Bowling Green, Kentucky–the early generations of Corvette were never more well-suited to an environment than right here in sunny Southern California. The lovely coastlines, bustling ‘burbs, and fourth largest economy in the world made for a market that loved fast classics like the Vette.
One need not look hard nor far to find shops around here that specialize in the top-performance Chevy nameplate. Our search brought up today’s offering, Coast Corvette, nestled in the gentle and hard-working Orange County. Lodged in the same place for close to 40 years at 828 West Vermont Street in Anaheim, CC services its eponymous Chevrolet machines, but also finds ways to help out folks with builds varying from lean, mean muscle cars to good old-fashioned hot rods.
We recently stopped by the shop to get a better sense of what all makes up Coast Corvette, beyond just the day-to-day in terms of business as usual. In doing so, we learned what got the company started in the first place, the kind of work the shop does, and why you can’t cheap out on fiberglass repairs.
Greg Williams, Sales Manager: “As Coast Corvette, we’ve been around since 1978. Our founders were Chuck and Sherry Cantz. Chuck used to work for Ford Motor Company, specifically in their design studio. On the side, he had a body shop where he worked on Can-Am race cars.”
“Sherry got the idea to have Chuck build and sell fiberglass parts, and soon enough Chuck had a new small business out of Fullerton, moved to Garden Grove, and then down here in Anaheim in 1985, I believe.”
CO: So what is the specialty here at Coast Corvette?
GW: “Well, we do a little bit of everything. We sell parts, buy and sell classic cars, service the cars, do some restoration projects. Our typical customer is anything but typical, really. We do some stateside and overseas business, and we tend to do older cars over newer cars because there’s not much to service on the newer stuff.”
“You know, you change fluids, batteries when they go bad, brakes when they go bad, and beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to do to them, as far as we’re concerned. A lot of what moves these modern vehicles is electronics, where we excel more at the mechanical side of things. Not that there’s anything wrong with these current-day Corvettes, it’s just that we have more of an appreciation and liking towards the classics.”
CO: And what does Coast Corvette offer that separates it from the crowd?
GW: “I think a good example would be one of our C2s that we have back here in the garage. It started off at another shop, they painted it, and then they just got lost trying to keep up with the pace they’d set up for themselves. We got it here, and we’re busy putting new wiring in it and making sure everything gets put back together, since it came to us in pieces. Hopefully, it will be back in running order in six to eight weeks.”
“We see it happen a lot, where guys will get as far as they can go, and they just have to give up because the issues start to pile up. The owner brought it to us because he was unhappy with the lack of progress made by the other shop: it didn’t have a windshield in it, the interior was all gutted, everything was just apart. This is where the build grinds to a halt, and we can come in and get it back on track.”
“Other times, someone has a lot better skill on one thing, and not so much on another, like when it comes to painting versus reassembly. The body will gleam and glisten, beautiful as can be, but the details like door gaps and body lines are less than perfect, or the wheels are out of alignment, or something like that.”
“Whether it’s just been sitting around for a couple of days or it’s been in storage for a matter of weeks, months, or years, we have the experience and parts access that can make the difference between a sitting junk heap and a completed, turnkey car. We can handle inventory, long-term projects, paint and body, and more.”
GW: “We actually have a ’65 C2 here that had its front end smashed in after it was involved in an accident. We put on some new headlight motors, a new bumper, and new fenders. Then we had to color-match the paint, which was a little bit older, so the whole car got repainted too. This is a stock color they had back in 1965 called Milano Maroon.”
“As far as the process goes, it’s not rocket science. We took the front end apart and got a good look at what the damage was, making sure the frame was still intact, and it was. Whatever was damaged was replaced or repaired. We’ve put tape marks on the car to indicate where the paint needs to be retouched, seeing as the paint shrinks after drying.”
CO: Where do you go to source new fiberglass from? What do you look for?
GW: “You look for something that’s good to work with, have the right lines and everything. Some of the companies we go to are Shimmershine, Corvette Image, and J&D. All of those companies make a quality product. The only thing is when it comes to deadlines, some firms are backlogged and we might not be able to get a part for a couple of months. So when we have a Corvette that can’t stand to sit around too long, we have to go for whomever can get the part over to us the fastest.”
CO: What is the most common thing that customers come to CC for?
GW: “It’s probably a little bit of everything. We do a lot with C2s and C3s, especially C3s, since a lot of those owners come looking to fix up rotting parts like suspension bushings, ball joints, and brakes. Brakes are a big part of the business, since even the stainless steel sleeved ones will start to leak if they sit around for too long.”
GW: “We tend more toward the classic generations: C1s, C2s, and C3s, by and large. The newer ones, the C4s, we do some stuff with those, but they’re at the stage of their life where they’re caught in the middle between being collectible and being just another C4 on the road.”
“Some people still take care of them and put money into them, but the thing with the fourth-gens is that any money spent to take care of or upgrade the cars will likely be more than they’ll ever be worth, sad to say. And then C5s, some of the things are starting to go bad on them too. But the C6s and C7s, there’s not a whole lot that requires treatment other than checking fluids and typical service stuff like that.”
CO: What about racing Corvettes? Could CC take on performance applications?
GW: “We see those as more of a niche hobby. We could do that, I mean, we used to set up older vintage race cars like we did a few years ago. There are still guys out there who do vintage racing, but we haven’t done too much in that area in quite a while.”
CO: You mentioned earlier that Coast Corvette buys and sells cars. What sort of advice would you offer to people looking to buy or sell a Corvette?
GW: “Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. You buy the nicest car you can for what your budget is. It’s cheaper to pay the money up front than to buy the car, especially if you’re going to have somebody else do the build.”
“A lot of times, guys will buy a beater thinking it will be easier to finish than what a finished car already costs, but they don’t factor in the time investment of months or even years it’ll wind up taking to do. Other guys will buy a fixer-upper and have no trouble taking all that time to do the restoration little by little. I would say the biggest thing is to just figure out what you want.”
What’s In Store
With a name like Coast Corvette, you’d imagine there would be no shortage of Vettes lying around, and you’d be right. We saw several varieties on the premises, and dug deep to find out what the situation was like for a few of them.
The first one to catch our attention was a blue C2 that Coast Corvette had purchased, sitting behind a Ford GT40 lookalike in the showroom. Its former owner had done a body-off restoration to reach this current condition. “He was one of the few guys left that liked to just restore cars,” according to Williams.
Out in the garage, the space opened up to show several more Corvettes in various states of repair. To our left was a ’67 coupe that had been delivered completely stripped down, and was presently having its body straightened out in preparation for painting later on down the road.
“From the factory, the body panels were popped out of a mold, glued together, scuffed, and painted,” explained Williams. “After so many years, the contours start to get wavy, so we’re in the middle of straightening the body and getting the lines back up to snuff.”
Further back was another C2, this one a ’64 coupe that would be used as a daily driver. The body and frame rested front to back from each other, with the frame all kitted out with a B&M 700R4 transmission, 327 ci V8, Bilstein shock absorbers, Wilwood disc brakes, and other such upgrades.
However, the owner wanted to keep the stock exhaust manifolds instead of going for headers. “It’s not going to be a race car,” offered Williams. “He just wants something that can be a nice driver to take around town.”
Across the way, a C1 sat hoisted on a lift next to yet another C2. The C1 had gotten its frame thoroughly cleaned and body painted, while the C2 was the less-than-great result of another shop’s work (see above interview) that had to be gone over once again to achieve perfection.
Williams then guided us to the next suite over, where cars were stacked two high and five wide. No two vehicles were alike except that they were all American and all looking like they would fetch a good price at auction, especially the early C3 coupe done up in Ontario Orange.
To its rear, we had our pick of classic American muscle, from a late-Sixties Barracuda to a modern-day Ford GT. And flanked on either side was an all white C4 convertible and a couple more C3s partially covered up, with a vast assortment of doors and other paraphernalia stacked on the far wall.
Back in the showroom, a left turn showed us more Corvettes still. Four more C3s, sitting pretty and glossy, surrounded some choice examples of ’50s classiness in a Chevy station wagon and creamy white Ford Thunderbird. Back to front and side to side, however, Corvette wheels from all eras were stacked one on top of the other.
To Sum It Up
If we were worried that Coast Corvette wasn’t going to deliver on its name, we were dead wrong. The shop had a wide and welcoming atmosphere about it, and it’s easy to see why it continues to be picked as the servicing center for those most precious of the Corvettes, the Midyears and C3s.
If you’re ever in need of some well-planned and coordinated rescues to your Vette, or if you’ve had enough of Disneyland and Laguna Beach for one day, the guys at Coast Corvette are more than ready for you to drop by. Just be sure to tell them Corvette Online sent you!