Copperfield. Houdini. Penn and Teller.
All became household names for their magical stage acts, but when it comes to four-wheeled magic, Tom Spera may have them beat. The Chicago-area magician made this 1984 Chevrolet Corvette appear.
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The trick didn't happen with smoke and mirrors. Rather, its arrival came after years of hard work, determination and saving that spare change he found behind kids' ears.
"I bought the car as a reward from doing magic shows and events. It was a treat and something special that I wanted to have," the Arlington Heights resident said.
To remind himself how his Chevy chariot came about, Tom had MAGIC emblazoned on the license plate.
"I previously owned a 1976 Corvette and wanted to be one of the first to have the new body style," Spera said. The 1984 Corvette became the fourth generation of this iconic American sports car. This model was Chevy's first fully redesigned Vette in fifteen years.
With his mind made up, Spera headed down to Jack Phelien Chevrolet in Berwyn in the summer of 1983 to place the order. After all the options, he plunked down $25,726 of his hard-earned pay. While he intended to pull a manual transmission out of the car lot, the excitement of the reveal was just too much for Tom to handle.
"I originally ordered a stick shift but the dealer called and said it would be a six-month wait. If I wanted an auto, he could have it in three." To expedite the build process, Tom changed the order, taking delivery on Halloween day.
"I miss having three pedals, but looking back, I'm glad I made the change," he said. The manual unit Chevy used was a hybrid four-speed setup with an overdrive on the top three gears. While innovative, the setup was plagued with reliability issues.
Under the massive clamshell hood is the factory L83, Cross-Fire Injection, 5.7-liter V-8. Horsepower was rated at a less-than adequate 205 with 290 foot-pounds of torque. Despite the Corvette's sporty nature, the engine's mild performance numbers were restrained by stiff emission regulations at the time, and the yet-to-be-perfected electronic engine control.
While the new styling would set Tom's coupe apart from the rest of the Corvette crowd, he wanted to make sure the exterior color was something unique. The special Light Metallic Bronze color it wears wasn't his first choice, either.
"The plan was to get black but after looking at one in person, it looked too much like the Trans Am from 'Smokey and the Bandit.' I certainly didn't want people confusing my car with a Pontiac."
Only 2,452 of the 51,547 Corvettes that rolled out of the Bowling Green, Ken., assembly plant in 1984 came with this color. The exterior is matched on the inside with dark bronze upholstery and bronze leather seats.
A paltry 18,000 miles show on the odometer, but no sleight of hand is involved in keeping those digits low. "Averaging the past 28 years, I drive 642 (miles) a year. I'm quite selective about when it goes out," Spera said. "I've been caught in the rain once but the vehicle has never seen snow or ice."
The pristine Vette's asphalt appearances may be few but Spera did allow his son a special driving opportunity. He drove the showroom beauty to his 2007 Rolling Meadows High School prom. All in all, there's no hocus-pocus required to fabricate the love this happy owner has for his Corvette.
"Every time I go for a spin, I feel like the kid on the block with a brand new toy."