Dusty attics have a magical way of revealing long forgotten, and in some cases, unexpected, treasure. In Dean Tarkowski's case, it's where he unearthed some startling discoveries that spurred him to overhaul his father's vintage Chevrolet.
"My dad owned and loved a silver blue 1963 split window Corvette coupe back in the late 1960s," Tarkowski said. The fuel-injected V-8 bow-tie pulled double duty as both a performance coupe and the family hauler.
"I still remember being a young kid and sitting in the back when Dad, Mom and me would go for an afternoon drive," the Palatine resident said.
Unfortunately, Tarkowski's father was involved in a rear-end collision and the vehicle was totaled. While the family's cruising fun may have been cut short, the accident didn't extinguish the father's sports car desires.
"He always longed for another Vette and when he found this one in 1983, it was a dream come true," Tarkowski said. His dad eventually located a slightly modified Ermine White 1966 Corvette Stingray parked on a Chicago side street.
"Dad was so eager and bought it right on the spot. He couldn't even wait to get it home." After the purchase, Tarkowski said his father immediately asked the owner to follow him home and drive the Corvette to Arlington Heights.
The subsequent years were spent in driving bliss. All in all, the senior Tarkowski cherished his Chevy chariot for 26 years until 2009.
"My father passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. After his death, I was going though some items in his attic and came across some things I dreamed I would find," he said.
What Tarkowski found was all the original numbers matching parts that the previous owner had swapped out for aftermarket pieces. "Growing up, Mom and me knew the car had been modified but Dad never told us the other owner gave him the correct parts to put the car back to factory specifications."
After a thorough search, Tarkowski found all the necessary equipment to make the iconic sports car showroom original once again. The single fiberglass leaf spring was removed and replaced with the factory steel unit, and the Holley Double Pumper carburetor, chrome valve covers, performance manifold and spark plug wires were all swapped out for the correct pieces.
Tarkowski tackled the engine work himself and let the Corvette specialists at Performance Restorations in Mundelein handle the suspension work.
"I wanted to make the car as original as possible and that's exactly how it is today," he said.
The big block 427-cubic-inch V-8 still lies underhood and the voluptuous bodywork and paint is just as it was when it rolled off the St. Louis assembly line.
"Since the body is fiberglass, there is no rust. Even the parts on the frame that are steel are rustfree," he said. "Dad never drove the car in the snow."
The twin-cowl dash and interior, covered in its bright blue upholstery, remained untouched.
While Tarkowski was ecstatic about his initial discovery, he has even unearthed more hidden gems. In recent months, he has uncovered several file folders full of paperwork and documents he had never seen before, which shed further light into his dad's ownership of the Motor City machine.