Interview by Greg Wing and photos by author and Dan Tooker
Jim Glass owns a Corvette shop and showroom in Kingston, NY, just a couple miles from the beautiful Rhinebeck Bridge over the stunning Hudson River and about ten minutes to the famed 60’s Woodstock, NY. This is the land of Sleepy Hollow tales. Jim is a humble guy, down to earth, and easy to talk with. He sports a Leno-style head of white hair.
Jim invited me to attend the VSCCA event in June, 2010 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and then to Kingston to tour his shop and superb showroom. Jim had just finished a qualifying sprint when we sat down in the paddock area to chat in 90 degree heat.
Sports Car Digest: We’re here at Lime Rock this weekend. What’s so special about racing here?
Jim Glass: For me, Lime Rock is close to home and it’s where I have the most experience.
SCD: Talk about the cars you are campaigning today.
JG: Number 11 is a red, 1965 Corvette. It was originally driven by Larry and Dawn Vitelli at Bridgehampton during the 1972 season. In 2008 this car went through a complete body off restoration and competed in the Rolex Vintage Fall Festival, the Watkins Glen Vintage Grand Prix race, and various other events. Number 7 is a 1964 blue, Corvette. It was originally driven by Doug Rippie during the 1972 and 1973 seasons, and was also driven later by Frenchie Damper, Steve Strandemo and Doug Kelley. This car underwent a mechanical restoration, which included new shocks, a new radiator, new hubs, and many other parts. It was also treated to new paint and graphics.
SCD: Are there any cars here racing today that you’ve serviced?
JG: Number 27 is a red, white and blue 1970 Corvette owned by Mark Ferrara. We totally restored this racecar in the winter of 2008 into 2009. This included the body, paint, and mechanical portions of the car. Also, Number 4, a 1966 blue Corvette is here owned by Bill Bogner. He’s a new customer who use to race modifies on oval tracks and now he’s road racing. Bill is new to vintage road racing, but he raced late models in the Buffalo area for many years. Today is his first vintage competition at Lime Rock Park. We sold him the Corvette in 2009 and did a lot of mechanical restoration and helped Bill get comfortable driving his car.
SCD: What has your vintage racing team learned over the years?
JG: We have more experience and know which extra parts to bring. We’ve also learned how to make the drivers more comfortable. With that, the speed will come.
SCD: My son, Marcel, who is 13, is here today and he wants to know how you select a team driver?
JG: I met Tony Carpanzano about 7 years ago. He was racing in the Formula Atlantic series. We became friends and now he’s been driving for me for about 5 years. Today he is driving our team #7 Corvette. Tony is a good set-up guy. He has a good feel for problems.
SCD: What are you the most excited about this year and why?
JG: I’m really excited about Lime Rock’s Vintage Fest this year. We will have four racecars there. We’ll be at other events like the SVRA race at the Glen and the New Jersey Motorsports Park Lightning Track, which are great. Also, we have a lot of new customers this year.
SCD: What do you think about the current focus on keeping vintage cars as original as possible, delaminating paint, cracked leather seats, original shocks, etc.?
JG: They are two different kinds of cars for two different kinds of people. I like them both. I have a friend, Jack Gillette up in Lake George, NY who has over 60 Corvettes. He has a totally original ’67 Corvette. The paint is original and the patina is great! You just don’t see them. I got Jack’s car prepared for judging to be registered as a “Survivor (Collector) Car”. Of course, there is nothing like seeing a beautifully restored car. (Sixteen of Mr. Gillette’s Corvettes were recently shown at the Saratoga Auto Museum, SAM in Saratoga Springs, NY.)
SCD: Can you share with me a humorous incident that happened during a race?
JG: Yesterday, I ran a seven lap sprint against a ’90’s Corvette # 4 driven by Kim Baker. That car has more modern racing slicks and brakes. He was on my back bumper the whole way (See photo). If the race was longer, I’m sure he would have caught me. The crowd was on their feet routing for me and I actually beat him. I won the race overtaking his yellow Corvette. It was like old school vs. new school technology, and it made for a very interesting and fun race.
Jim Glass Corvette Specialists – Photo Gallery
SCD: Besides Corvettes, what is your favorite car?
JG: I like Camaros. I have an original Trans-Am that I love to run here at Lime Rock. It has significant history. It’s the # 15 Jocko’s Camaro and was raced in the 1972 Trans-Am Race at Lime Rock Park by Will Cagle. Jocko raced the car in the San Air Trans-Am Race in 1972. I have raced the Jocko Camaro in three Historic Trans-Am events at Lime Rock Park, and competed at Mount Tremblant, Summit Point and Watkins Glen. This car has been documented and recently underwent another restoration. We hope to run this car in September. I also have a ’68 Big Block 427 street car. It’s a lot of fun to drive! It’s an SS model with a 427 cubic inch, 400 horsepower engine out of a 1968 Corvette. It’s a great car. All you need to do is turn the key and drive.
SCD: Tell us about an unforgettable story from the track?
JG: I was headed into Big Bend here at Lime Rock and I ran through some oil and spun off the track into about a half foot of water. The side pipes were under water. It sounded like a motorboat. The tow guy wasn’t too happy getting me out!
Interview by Greg Wing and photos by author and Dan Tooker
Part Two of the interview continues with Jim Glass at his shop and showroom in Kingston, NY:
SCD: Every organization has a catchy motto and a philosophy behind it. What’s Jim Glass’ Corvette Specialists philosophy and motto?
JG: I always try to sell Corvettes that are one or two steps better than the average cars; the cream of the crop. Real clean, real low mileage, extra special Corvettes I know the history on. I’d rather have less cars and better quality. I get the cars by word of mouth or if I know someone who is trading or if I know the person and how they took care of it. We do Corvettes at Carlisle and a couple of shows in New Jersey where I try to get leads on buying cars. I also have four people on the road that I trust to buy for me. The buying is the hardest part of the whole business because there is a lot of stuff that has stories behind it, cars with problems or have been hurt and damaged in one way or another. I don’t like getting involved with those whatsoever! You only have one reputation and spend a lot of time trying to do the right thing. If you get something that is a problem it can really get to be a big problem, so I do everything in the world to stay away from that.
SCD: Tell us a bit about your history restoring and caring for Corvettes. What got you started with your business?
JG: I’d been racing Dirt Track for lots and lots of years. It got real expensive and I thought I should take a break from it. I couldn’t run out front the way I wanted to. My grandfather and father had garages so I grew up around garages. I was working on some Corvettes and there was a Chevy dealer here in town. People really didn’t want to go there. Having a Corvette of my own to work on, I seemed to get involved in it and I understood how it worked and how things had to work. One thing lead to another and my hobby lead into the Corvette business. I originally started doing all different kinds of cars and in 1978; I went 100 percent Corvette. I bought this property and built the first building. When I got it built it wasn’t big enough, so I built the second building to have the showroom space. Generally, we do two or three restorations a year depending on how extensive they are. We also do a lot of regular service like brakes and fluids and tire changes. We work on cars of the ‘60’s and I have the computers to work on the newer cars.
SCD: How big is your shop and showroom?
JG: This building is the showroom with 4,800 sq ft. and my other building is 3,600 sq. ft. with a shop. Basically, everything that is for sale I try to keep in this building. In the back we have more storage and a detail area. I generally try to keep 20 to 23 cars for sale all the time. I can’t keep up with keeping them clean if I get more than that. I like to keep them at the level they’re at. Currently, we have from a ’68 to a 2003. I have a bit of everything, convertibles, coupes, big blocks, and small blocks. We play with a few Camero’s along with the Corvettes. (In the back area were a gorgeously detailed maroon Corvette and Jim’s truck and trailer to bring his racecars to the track for racing support.)
SCD: When you think about other Corvette shops, what makes your shop stand out?
JG: I think the fact that we do some performance work. Also, we can do work if someone wants to go to NCRS or Bloomington Gold for judging, we are capable of doing that too. We are pretty diversified on what we can do. We can do upholstery work, interior work, so you can take your car here and get pretty much anything done to a Corvette. That seems to give people a comfort level that you’re not subbing the work out. If people want wings or spoilers, or whatever, something that I don’t exactly like; we can do that. Everybody wants their car done the way they want it done.
SCD: Can you share something you’ve learned about restoring Corvettes that you think is important?
JG: I think that a lot of the new materials that are on the marketplace today are a lot more durable and do a better job and have a lot less shrinkage involved than the old traditional fiberglass.
SCD: What are you working on right now?
JG: We have a 1972 Corvette convertible. We are doing quite a lot of mechanical restoration on that. We just finished a really big project on a 1964 Corvette. This time of year I try not to take in really big restoration projects because we are doing the service work where people are dropping the car off and will be back in a few days. It just gets too hard to take the time to be so focused because there is so much involved in a restoration. This is our busy time for service, so we focus on the service work for these 120 days that we are in right now (and racing).
SCD: What is the Corvette project you dream about?
JG: I like the restoration on the old vintage racecars. I enjoy the restoration of the ’63 to ’67 cars in particular.
I mentioned to you that my father, Gordon, had a ’63 white split-window Corvette that he bought new. It was a lot of fun as a kid going around in it. One day we’re on Route 28 outside of Woodstock, NY with two of my friends. We must have been about 8 or 9 years old. I was in the back and loved to look out the helicopter type windows; at least that is what I thought. My friend Chris was in the front seat and Gordon at times drove with his knees. He’d raced sports cars in the SCCA. Chris thought he’d let go of the steering wheel and grabbed it. My Dad had to yank the wheel back as the Vette fishtailed off the road!
I just had a customer with a ’67, a way up in the six figure car that he bought out of a collection. The car had been restored and put in the collection, but never really sorted out or driven. He talked to a couple people and heard about us and gave me a call. I told him that I would drive it and straighten it out. So, he dropped it off here. It was a 427, 400 horse, a really good powerful car, a ’67 which is the premier showboat year of Corvettes. It got here and it ran terrible and it drove worse than it ran. It was overheating and had lots of problems. It wasn’t that someone sold him a bad car, it’s just that he took it out of museum condition and started to drive it. I went through things and the steering box was bound up and the alignment was off by a mile. The belts were slipping and it was overheating for simple reasons that should have been corrected. He picked the car up yesterday morning and then called me. He was just so happy with the way the car is now. It was kind of like I performed magic. It was the kind of magic we know how to do! He told me, “Before I brought it here I was running this car 75-85 mph and it’s all over the road.” I said, “I don’t know how you had guts enough to drive it!” It’s fun to work on something like that.
SCD: The last time we spoke, you mentioned you had a friend with a lot of Corvettes up in Lake George, NY. Is that the same guy who recently had a show of his cars at the Saratoga Auto Museum?
JG: Yes. Jack Gillette. I’ve helped him build that collection and I’ve worked on a lot of his cars. He likes to go to Bloomington and NCRS, so we generally prep his Corvettes for judging. The people at SAM told me that having the Corvettes there drew more attendance than anything else they ever had. Jack has some beautiful, beautiful cars!
SCD: I’m going over to the see the American Le Mans event at Lime Rock on July 24th. A couple of the Corvettes have been Racing in GT2 and are doing pretty well.
JG: The 24 Hours of Le Mans was just last week and I helped Kevin McKay and Lance Miller who has the original Corvette that won Le Mans. I helped them get the car from here to over there. One of my customers from France transported the car from the docks and took it to the track. That was the coolest thing to see that old Corvette pictured with the new ones there. Kevin McKay has restored some old Corvettes. He’s on Long Island and Lance is the Millers from Carlisle of Carlisle Productions. That was his father’s car. Getting that whole thing together was really something. Jan Hyde has that Registry of Corvette Racecars. Have you seen that website? The link is registryofcorvetteracecars.com.
This website is growing at leaps and bounds and it’s good because it gives credibility to the real cars that are out there. Jan (Hyde) called me and said, how do you think we can get this car to France? I said I have a custom broker, a lady from Long Island that we use. She’s fabulous and speaks like seven languages. We’ve been selling cars in Europe and getting emails from over there. I know the answers to the questions, but when you don’t understand the language it’s tough, the language being different. I don’t know how many languages you speak, but she was laughing on the phone! She said, just send the emails to me, I only speak seven languages! She’s fabulous to work with and handles all the details, like coming here with the container. I think we’ve sent seven Corvette racecars so far to Europe. It’s been a really good experience working with her.
Dan Tooker is a professional photographer and motorsports artist; for more from Dan, visit Dan Tooker Photography.
Greg Wing is a freelance motorsports writer living in Clifton Park, New York. Wing created a website dedicated to the history of the innovative Deutsch-Bonnet Panhards race cars that ran at the infamous 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans.