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 By Tom Strongman
www.tomstrongman.com

Check out Tom Strongman's new book, "Wheels of Dreams" Vintage Cars and the People Who Love Them

Not only is this collection of beautifully-illustrated true stories perfect for car lovers, it is charming enough to captivate even the reader who never before understood the mystique of vintage automobiles.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. The last Corvette Sting Ray, VIN number 22940, rolled off the assembly line at the Corvette Assembly Plant on Wednesday, July 12, 1967.

On Saturday, Jan. 20, Terry and Fred Michaelis, owners of ProTeam Classic Corvette Collection and Sales, of Napoleon, Ohio, rolled that same Sting Ray across the block at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., and into the hands of a new owner for $600,000.

In 1994, Terry Michaelis said he heard that this well-known car might be available for $18,000, but as his interest increased, so did the price. He declined to buy.

In 1995, Bill Mock, a Corvette collector from Bartlesville, Okla., bought it for one dollar for every digit in the vehicle identification number, or $22,940. A decade later, the Michaelis brothers bought the car from Mock for $229,400, or 10 times that amount.

This 427-cubic-inch coupe needed serious restoration. Nabers Brothers Restoration in Houston set upon the car in a flurry, completing a total body-off restoration in four months time. Like Cinderella dressed for the dance, this silver coupe began a coming-out tour in January of last year. Prizes include a Top Flight award by the National Corvette Restorers Society, a Bloomington Gold Award at the annual Bloomington Gold Corvette Show and a Lion Award at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance.

Speed TV produced a six-part documentary about the restoration and Dana Forrester, renowned Corvette artist from Independence, was commissioned to paint its portrait.

When its beauty tour was over, the last Sting Ray became one of the featured cars at the Barrett-Jackson auction. When the gavel came down last week, the $600,000 price was a record for a 390-horsepower coupe.

This car is the high-water mark, the Holy Grail and the end of an era, Terry Michaelis said. There may be a lot of disappointment about the price in the Corvette community but Im excited about the way the car was received and the amount of attention it received.

This is not about buying a car, but its about buying a piece of history and heritage. Its like buying a painting.

The last Sting Ray joins the collection of Ron Pratte of Chandler, Ariz. Pratte also bought Carroll Shelbys 1966 427 Super Snake Cobra for a world record $5.5 million.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to tstrongman@kc.rr.com.


Terry Michaelis and his brother, Fred.


Terry Michaelis commissioned Dana Forrester, renowned Corvette artist, to paint a portrait of the last production 1967 Corvette Sting Ray. Forrester, at left, accompanied the car onto the auction block.

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