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Chevy's muscle car turns 50

By Ed Brock

For Ed Wise, the dream of owning a Chevrolet Corvette began in his early teens.

When he was 18, he had the opportunity to realize his dream and buy the American sports car that turned 50 years old this week.

"I could afford the car, but the insurance cost more than the car," Wise said.

So Wise made the wiser choice at the time and bought a more conventional vehicle, but the dream never died. Then about a year ago he had another chance to make it come true.

A friend of his had a 1985 Corvette that spent most of its time in the garage, just as Wise's Jeep spent most of its time parked.

"He said I really like your Jeep and I said I really like that Corvette," Wise said.

So the two traded.

"I always said I'd buy one before I was 40," 39-year-old Wise said. "So I achieved my goal."

Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain bought his first Corvette, a 1974 model, in 1979. He kept it for a couple of years, sold it, then he bought a 1979 Corvette. He sold it and bought the same 1974 ?vette back again.

And then about eight years ago he saw the 1968 Corvette Stingray he now owns sitting under a pile of wood. He bought it.

"I completely rebuilt it," Partain said. "All the bells and whistles."

Now he drives the car primarily to car shows.

"I just enjoy watching people walk by and watching them salivate," said Partain, a self-described Chevrolet fan or "bow-tie man." "There is nothing like driving around in a Chevrolet with the top down and the wind blowing through what's left of your hair."

For Ralph Miller of Lovejoy, who collects and restores old cars on a regular basis, it's easy to understand why the Corvette has retained its appeal over five decades.

"It's the only true American sports car," Miller said.

Apparently Wise, Partain and Miller are far from alone in their Corvette enthusiasm.

Thousands attended celebrations for the car's anniversary in Nashville, Tenn. over the weekend. The first Corvette came off the assembly line in Flint, Mich. on June 30, 1953 but the car is now made in Bowling Green, Ky.

A new Corvette costs around $50,000, and the average buyer is a 49-year-old white male who makes $125,000 a year and who owns five or more vehicles.

"Usually they're pretty well off," said Jon Stallings, Internet manager at Terry Cullen Southlake Chevrolet in Jonesboro. "A lot of them are retired. They've been wanting a Corvette and now they're retired and enjoying life, the kids have left the house and they buy a Corvette."

The price can go up to $55,000 depending on what kind of Corvette you want, a hard-top coupe, a convertible or the more powerful Zo6. The special 50th anniversary models went for about $52,000.

Stallings said he believed the dealership had already sold the two 50th Anniversary models they received. They sell around five to 10 Corvettes a year, Stallings added.

None of the three Clayton County Corvette owners were able to make the Nashville celebrations, but Miller said he's been to the Bowling Green factory.

"It's pretty amazing," he said.

Miller declined to say the total number of cars he is currently restoring because "my wife might find out." But he has a 1968 and a 1965 Corvette roadster. He says there is no comparison between the Corvette and another American sports car, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

"The Corvette appreciates in value and the Trans Am depreciates," Miller said.

Wise said the Corvette is fun to drive. Partain loves the car for its sleek, curving appearance as well.

"It looks like it's meant to go quick through water or air," Partain said. "When you get into it it's like getting into the cockpit of an airplane. It molds to your body."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.