As a young man, John Mrock lived out a double dream -- owning a great classic and cruising some of the best beaches.
The Arlington Heights resident spent several years in his 20s stationed on the sun-soaked shores of Hawaii. As if that wasn't enough, the navyman had an envious string of fantasy cruisers to tear across the island paradise.
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"As a kid, I read all the hot rod and speed magazines. The Corvette was always the iconic sports car," Mrock said. "I always wanted one."
This burning desire became a reality, thanks to very affordable prices. "In 1967, I bought a '57 Vette for several hundred dollars."
His three-speed car, with a single four-barrel carburetor, was wrecked just one year later, but Mrock soon replaced it with another '57 Corvette, this one packing a dual-quad V-8. This second Vette was just the ticket he needed to trade up.
"A friend bought a stripped '63 that was sitting in a junkyard. He never fixed it and traded it for my car," said Mrock, who wasted no time before filling that empty engine bay.
"The island of Oahu wasn't that big. I knew of another totaled '63 and took its 327 (cubic inch) V-8 engine." Other items that were needed included a transmission, dashboard and seats, which were all quickly located.
Mrock's love of wrenching on the Corvette was readily shared on base. "Our squadron at Barber's Point had five servicemen who owned Vettes. On most evenings, all of us would cruise together to Waikiki."
The strapping sailors and their sporty vehicles attracted an adoring crowd. "We called it 'coed season' when the young ladies would come to the island," he said, recalling how the men from the base would park along a street lined with palm trees and put the tops down.
"At the time, they were considered older cars but the girls sure liked them."
With so many fond memories, cash-strapped Mrock wasn't going to part with his Riverside Red Chevy when he left the service in 1969. After getting out of the Navy, he had the split window coupe shipped to Los Angeles for a cross-country excursion.
"The car had four recapped tires and no spare, but I loaded it up with my belongings and drove home to Chicago."
Mrock kept the cruising fun alive, using the sports car regularly. "It was my daily driver and I left the Hawaii license plates on to remember my years on the island."
Mrock recalls one snowy December when he and the Corvette hauled some holiday cheer. "I used the vehicle to bring home our family Christmas tree. It was a tight squeeze. I had it strapped across the rear fenders," he said.
As the enthusiast's pace of life slowed, the wise decision was made to hang onto the special Chevrolet. "I knew if I ever sold it, I'd be the guy years later walking around the cruise nights saying, 'I used to have one of these. I'm so sad I sold it.' "
Mrock's fear of seller's remorse has paid off. He says the Corvette has "effortlessly maintained its timeless design and appeal."
"Getting behind the wheel takes me right back to when I was 20. While I've gotten older, the car has never aged."