How Do You Turn A Bug Into A Corvette? Just Ask Denny Jorgensen

In 1969, Denny Jorgenson was working at a local auto dealership as the Service Manager in Loveland, Colorado. That was also the year he married the dealership’s title clerk, Cheryl. At the time, she was driving a ‘68 VW Bug, and Denny made it known he didn’t like that little car. At 6’5″ tall, he didn’t fit in it very well, and would often ask Cheryl, “why is the headlamp dimmer switch on the turn signal lever?” Shortly after they were married, one of the dealership-owning partners left the business and opened a VW dealership in an adjacent town.

The C1 Vette looks magnificent from any angle.

The used car manager at that dealership asked Denny, if he would be interested in trading Cheryl’s Bug for a 1962 ‘Fuelie’ Corvette? How long do you think it took him to answer that question? The problem was, he had to discuss it with Cheryl. The Vette was then offered to the couple to drive for the weekend. “Try it out, see if you like it,” the manager told them. It had a fuel injected 327ci engine, four-speed, 4.56 gears, and side pipes. Duh, that’s a no-brainer!

You might be asking yourself why the dealership wanted to do such a trade. It turns out there was a dock strike at Volkswagen, and they couldn’t get any new cars into the country. With that, Denny and Cheryl drove to the dealership, agreed to trade, and the dealership even added $150.00 to boot.

The interior was re-done just a few years ago – an update from the original.

The Corvette was nice, but wasn’t exactly the color they wanted. It was white with a red hardtop, black rims, and whitewalls. But those shortcomings could be changed. The next week, it was in the dealership’s paint booth getting a fresh coat of silver. Chrome reverse wheels and baby moons were also added. In the meantime, Cheryl (originally from California) was learning how to drive the Vette in the snow in Colorado – a good way to start – 4.56 gears and a fuelie engine on slippery ice and snow.

 

The ’64 “Fuelie” engine was pulled and rebuilt in 2014, and received a few other additions like rack-and-pinion steering.

When the weather warmed, they put a lot of miles on it and were having fun. Several trips to the Black Hills Corvette Classic show in Spearfish, South Dakota, were enjoyable, but during one of those trips, they experienced car trouble. Denny had recently installed a different set of heads with screw-in rocker-arm studs, and it seems one of them had been cross-threaded. During the trip it failed near Lusk, Wyoming. His pal, Roger Anderson, drove a ‘67 427ci-powered Vette to Denny and Cheryl’s rescue, and towed Denny into town with a piece of rope.

Lusk is not a very big town, and does not have a machine shop. The closest shop was in Douglas, Wyoming, about 60 miles away. At that time, Denny was selling automotive test equipment in Wyoming, so he knew nearly every dealership and repair facility in the state. He called one of his customers in Douglas to ask if he knew where to find a 2.02-inch intake valve.

Jokingly, he said “Yes, in Denver, at the Mile High Nationals.” He also said his wrecker driver was in Casper, and he would call and tell him to wait until Denny could maybe find a valve there. After two or three calls, one was found, and the wrecker driver picked it up and headed for Douglas.

In the meantime, Roger and Denny loaded the head into Roger’s Corvette and headed for Douglas, where the wrecker driver was already waiting for them. At the machine shop, they were told they couldn’t face the valve and seat it that day. When Denny explained he had an old Vette stranded in Lusk, the machinist remarked “if it’s for an old Vette we can handle it.” At about 6:00 p.m. that evening, they had the head back on the engine, and drove to the show in Spearfish. During that show, Denny’s Vette won Merchant’s Choice.

The door is open, can’t you just imagine slipping onto that red vinyl seat and twisting the key?

When Imron paint becam available, the local paint dealer said he’d donate the paint if someone would paint a car. Denny had the Vette painted black with an added touch of pearl, but it didn’t have the shine he hoped. A few years later, it was re-painted black, and remained that color for the next 20 years.

In 2014, Denny decided it was time to spiff-up the old Corvette. Of course, that turned into quite a task. As work started on the body, it was apparent the extremely tough paint wasn’t going to come off without soda blasting the body. That’s when all the fun started!

The company Denny hired assured him that they had “done this before.” Within 10 minutes, it was evident they didn’t have a clue. The resulting paint removal started a year-long process of gel-coating and block sanding to get the body perfectly straight. That’s because Denny wanted the car painted black once again. But that wasn’t the end of it!

Denny figured a redo of the interior would complement the new paint. If you’re going that far, why not rebuild the engine to 1964 fuelie specs, refurbish the hardtop (which hadn’t been on for 10 years), and maybe install a new cloth convertible top? What started out as a six-month quickie paintjob, soon turned into a four-year project. As you can see by the photos, it was well worth it. The car has remained much the same over the years, except for the addition of a Jim Meyer Racing rack-and-pinion, and front suspension installed some years ago, which greatly improved the steering over the old kingpin suspension.

Denny thanks John and Joel at Cooper Auto Body for putting up with him while the bodywork was ongoing, Chris at B & M Upholstery for the top and interior work, Pete at Total Precision Engine for the engine work, and Ed Troell and Brian Futo for making that “fuelie” a lot of fun to drive again.

Every time Denny and Cheryl get into the Vette for a rod run or event, they converse about some trip or memory they’ve had in the car over the past 49 years. Every once in a while they still think about that VW Bug. Well, not that often, but they wonder what it’s worth today?

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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