Left to Right: Tom Wallace, Joe Greenwood (accepting his late father’s award), Burt Greenwood and Mike Yager
The Corvette Hall of Fame was established by the National Corvette Museum in 1998 to confer official recognition upon the most influential individuals in the history of the Corvette and honor their achievements. Corvette Hall of Fame inductees have distinguished themselves, not only through their accomplishments, but also by their high standards of integrity and character that reflect and enhance the reputation of the Corvette and the National Corvette Museum.
Mike Yager bought his first Corvette in 1970 when he was just 20 years old. When he saw there was no Corvette Club in his area, he started one. As the club grew he made the observation that there wasn’t a place where a Corvette fan could purchase Corvette merchandise. To remedy that, he bought whatever he could find that related to Corvette and started making it available at Corvette club events and car shows. When that worked out, he got a $500 loan to start a company that has now grown to become one of the world’s largest suppliers of parts and accessories for Corvettes… Mid America Motorworks.
Just as famous as his company is the annual festival that he started to celebrate the people who have made it all happen—his customers. It is an event called Funfest, which brings together thousands of Corvette people each year for a good time that ends with a concert featuring bands likeREO Speedwagonand The Beach Boys.
Back in the summer of 1966 I was staying the summer with an older brother in Satellite Beach Florida. That summer, Jim Rathmann Chevrolet had a grand opening of their new dealership. For the weekend celebration, they were having ”the Astronauts” and their Corvettes there to meet the public and had the bank Procol Harem as the entertainment. Now that was about as close to the moon as any 16 year old could get. Corvettes, Astronauts and live rock music. I did not make the event – as I had to work.
Fast forward to July 1998 and unbeknownst to me at the time, I purchase a group of Corvette motors from the bankrupt Corvette Americana Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York with a connection to Jim Rathmann Chevrolet and the Astronauts. Around the year 2021, I decided to sell a few of those engines from the MYGarage Museum in Effingham, Illinois. I placed a 427/435 Horsepower block with all original stampings on eBay. As activity mounted, and a Canadian customer called me and asked if I knew what I was selling. Of course, an original 427/435 block belonging to a 1967 Corvette, serial number 7102849. That information informed me that this was not just any 427/435, but the original block from Gus Grissom’s Corvette. Upon searching the web, I found the restored red Corvette and its chain of auctions.
The auction results and many calls later, I contacted the presumed owner Donald Latham, a car dealer and Corvette collector. For some reason, we never spoke, and the sales of the block just ended.
Going forward to May 2023 and once again we decided to sell the motor. This time, I was going to find what I now knew was 194677S102849 THE Gus Grissom Corvette. My first call struck a dead end. So, I checked out Mr. Latham on Facebook and sure enough, I found his dealership on Facebook and left a message of what I had and what I wanted. Don called me and we immediate knew we were kindred spirits and made arrangements to meet at the Mecum sale – Indy 2023. The bad news, he had sold the car. Now, another dead end. Once again, I head back to Google and find that Bill Sefton of Red Vette Ranch now owned the car. Bill’s Red Vette Ranch is a large car collection, and I just knew he would want the block to finish the story on the Gus Grissom Corvette. Contact ws made, and true to form, he no longer owned that Corvette. Bill did send me the email address of who he thought owned the Corvette.
Now as they say, for the rest of the story. On a windy Saturday afternoon, May 6th, I received a message to call Ed Greene. When we finally made contact, I finally found the current owner. When we spoke, I told Ed my story and his immediate response was – I will buy it. As a collector, I thought I ws the only one that made a quick ‘I will buy it” decisions on items relating to a Corvette that was in my collection. Deal!
As I go through life, I realize more and more each day that things happen for a reason and are very often connected to our lives in many different ways. Going back to that summer day in Florida and the Astronauts at Jim Rathamnn Chevrolet, I finally added my piece to not only a great Corvette, but a life connection to that day 57 years ago. And, added new friends to my Corvette world.