Inanimate objects sure do end up with plenty of stories to tell, and when we saw two Daytona yellow ‘71 Corvettes sitting side-by-side at Corvette Funfest in Effingham, Illinois we knew each had a story worth investigating.
At first glance, these C3s look nearly identical, and it’s only after playing a careful game of spot the differences can you identify one from the other.
The pair belongs to the Childers brothers, Jeff owns the manual car while Adam owns the automatic.
The Childers got their start as Corvette enthusiasts from their father, Ken. The senior Childers bought his first Corvette new in ‘73 and it really made an impression on his boys. Jeff, who accompanied his father to the dealership, immediately wanted a Corvette of his own. Still a student at that time, his father Ken promised that when Jeff got a full time job he would drive him back to the dealership so Jeff could buy a Corvette of his own.
Any parent will tell you once a child has their mind set on something there’s little you can do to dissuade them. Commensurately, as soon as Jeff got a job, he took his dad up on that offer and went Corvette shopping.
Though the Corvette he chose was only seven years old at the time of purchase, the car was, as Jeff puts it, “mechanically worn out.” There’s no question that the previous owner enjoyed putting the car through its paces much more than performing basic maintenance.
Unfortunately, this meant that Jeff’s first few years owning the car of his dreams didn’t exactly go to plan. Jeff’s brother Adam mentioned that, at one point, Jeff hinted he might be better off if a natural disaster occurred and the car was taken off his hands.
Corvette ownership isn’t without challenges and Jeff recounts three incidents that were particularly trying. The first was a hairline crack that appeared in a cylinder head during a road rally where, to the slight worry of his wife sitting in the passenger seat, Jeff was going a little north of the speed limit.
Coming around a corner the car suddenly started smoking profusely, but when he popped the hood and let the steam die down he couldn’t see anything amiss. This happened for a few weeks before Jeff realized that the crack in the head only opened up under hard driving, and when cool contracted to the point where it wasn’t easy to spot. Once he was finally able to identify the damaged head as the problem, finding one became the next hurdle.
The L46 motor in Jeff’s C3 requires a very specific 2.02 replacement head, of which there weren’t many in ‘79, and due to the relative rarity, they demanded top-dollar. Jeff recalls the car sitting for quite a spell while he got the money together to afford the replacement parts needed.
The second incident that really ground things to a halt was a faulty wheel bearing that failed so dramatically it heated up to the point where it welded itself to the axle, stopping the car dead in its tracks. Though parts for this repair were easier to come by than the aforementioned head repair, getting the car onto a rollback trailer with only three wheels rolling freely proved a challenge.
Ironically the last significant trial the car put Jeff through were wheels that moved too freely thanks to a failed brake master cylinder.
The Childers men have made Effingham’s Corvette Funfest a family tradition, having gone the past 20 years almost uninterrupted. In fact, they have a standing booking at the local hotel year after year, after missing one year due to a no vacancy situation.
However on one occasion, not too far from their final destination, Jeff put his foot on the brake pedal only to have it sink right to the floor. Radioing ahead (this was pre-cellphone era) Jeff hailed his dad and brother to form a rolling road block, while he guided the car off the highway and to a dealership for repair. Jeff says nothing happened thankfully, but it isn’t an experience he wants to repeat.
Jeff did, however, stick it out with the car and along with the help of his friend Boz Collins, who is the only person to work on the car mechanically other than Jeff himself, has given the car essentially a frame on restoration over the 39 years he has owned it. As his mother-in-law puts it, the car is more new than old at this point, given the number of components he’s replaced.
A few years ago the car was meticulously repainted by Quality Automotive to bring the exterior up to par with the underpinnings.
Though not quite as optioned as his younger brother Adam’s car, Jeff’s does have a rare black hard top option. It’s also the more performance minded of the two cars, with a 350/350 driveline matched to a Muncie four-speed and 4:11 rear end.
Adam’s Corvette journey was a little less eventful than that of his older brother, but memorable none the less. Following in his father and brother’s footsteps Adam bought a red ‘71 when he was 18 years old. Then a Corvette family three cars deep, the Childers men enjoyed going to shows together in their own mini convoy.
After several years of going to shows, life had a way of intervening, as it always does, and Adam made the tough choice of selling his first Corvette to finish basement renovations in his home. While Adam was Corvette-less, Jeff and his father continued to go to events. At one show in Bowling Green Kentucky a fellow Corvette enthusiast approached Jeff and said, “you know I’ve got one just like this.”
Usually, when someone says ‘I’ve got one just like this’ they actually have something nowhere close to the same, however, this individual did, in fact, own a Daytona yellow ‘71 nearly identical to Jeff’s own.
Jeff, having just become used to his Corvette playing nicely, wasn’t interested in trying his luck with another, but Ken bought it virtually on the spot knowing that his son Adam wouldn’t be able to turn it down.
Jeff and Ken brought the car back home and the rest was, as they say, history. Adam, as his father predicted, purchased it the second he saw it, and the car was never actually registered in Ken’s name. Adam basically drove it right off the trailer and to the DMV, happy to have another Corvette.
Adam confides that at that time the car looked ‘pretty sad’ but had a lot of potential. In contrast to his fairly plain Jane first Corvette, this one had tons of options (power steering, air conditioning, and an ultra rare 1 of 834 shoulder harness seat belts) which was perfect for Adam, who his brother says is the gadget guy of the family.
Together Jeff and Adam did all of the work necessary to not have a repeat of Jeff’s experience with his Corvette.
Maintenance was cracked off quickly in Adam’s garage before they reupholstered the interior. Once Adam’s ’71 was up to snuff it too was brought to Quality Automotive for a better-than-new respray.
With both brothers now owning Corvettes that love to be driven, they have continued to attend Corvette shows and events as a pair in tribute to their father who sadly passed away in 2002.
At the shows, Jeff and Adam trade good-natured barbs with each other over awards and car cleanliness, to the point that if you didn’t know them you might assume there was a long-standing sibling rivalry.
This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth as both brothers stressed the fact that they absolutely love spending time together, both at shows and in Adam’s man cave where the Corvettes are stored. There, the conversation shifts from cars to criticism of each other’s pool shooting ability while the Corvettes look on.
This slice of paradise isn’t too far from Jeff’s front door as he, his brother, and their mother share several acres of farm land side-by-side.
Now with kids of their own, Adam and Jeff include their family in their Corvette lifestyle as much as possible. Jeff fondly recalls a photo where his now not-so-little son fell asleep in the driver’s seat holding one of the many trophies his car has won.
Both cars are proven trophy winners, which is something Jeff and Adam are proud of for a pair of driven cars that have never seen a rotisserie.
Of course, the trophies are really second in line to the irreplaceable memories that two Daytona Yellow beauties have created. With decades of Corvette ownership between them, it’s safe to say the Childers brothers will be a fixture at the Effingham car show for years to come.
If you see these two cars together at an event keep an ear out for the two owners laughing at each other, we promise they won’t be far.