Bud Yirsa owned and drove a bunch of Fords before heading over to serve in Vietnam. His stint overseas caused an about-face.
At the time, Bud's mind was made up. Upon returning home, he would purchase a Mustang Mach 1. But one of his fellow GIs in the Army's 11th Armored Cavalry got him to rethink his choice of a civilian car.
"His name was Dennis Coburn, and he was from Napa, California," Bud recalls. "All he talked about was his 1962 Corvette that he drove through the vineyard countryside. Instead of a picture of his wife or girlfriend in his wallet, he only had pictures of his 'Vette."
With his tour done, Bud came home to Downers Grove in November of 1969. Thanks to Dennis' influence, he bypassed local Ford dealers and began scanning used car lots hoping to find one with a 'Vette. That led him to Glen Ellyn Dodge.
"They had a red 1962 up on the ramps, right by the road, surrounded by fluttering flags," Bud says. "It was hard finding one. I had to look all over the suburbs."
Just because the 23-year-old had scored his dream car didn't mean the Corvette was in a dreamy condition.
"It had been ridden hard and put away wet," Bud says, laughing. "It needed a lot of work."
Even on the test drive, the sports car didn't shine. "It ran poorly," Bud remembers. "After the purchase, I took it to a mechanic friend who thought it just needed a tuneup. In the end, it needed a whole new engine block."
That massive undertaking was put off until 1974, when it was performed by Bud's pal. The owner was busy working at Western Electric in Cicero. Another thing keeping him from doing the engine work was his band. Bud was the lead singer of Featherstone, which took up a lot of his time. They were a cover band playing many pubs and lounges in the Chicago and suburban areas throughout the '70s.
Bud used the car as his daily driver for the first year after buying it, eventually relegating the Chevy only to nice weather trips, such as those to his favorite drive-ins including nearby Tops Big Boy in Downers Grove.
He was still living at home and stored the car in his mother's garage, eventually moving it to four other garages over the next several decades. In 1976, Bud had the car repainted by a local car-building legend, Miles Masa.
"He charged twice as much ($900 when most shops charged $500) but it still is on the car and still looks great," Bud says. "It was a good investment."
This first Corvette has led to a lifetime of 'Vette passion. Bud has purchased seven others and passed along that four-wheeled love to his son, Mike, who was with him when he purchased a new 1999 model at Team Chevy in Hinsdale.
"I pointed out the car and told him that was going to be his new car," said Mike, "knowing that one day it would be my Corvette."
That reality came true in 2010 when Mike purchased the car from his father.
"Dad has been able to keep his Corvette for nearly 50 years," Mike said. "I plan to do the same with mine."
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