Love for little red Corvette spans more than 50 years
Troy resident Joe Feko has owned his 1961 Corvette for 54 years. He has restored it twice, and the second restoration was dedicated to his son, Matthew, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1998. Whenever he displays the car, he includes a placard, pictured above, which lists information on the car and pays tribute to Matthew.
Posted September 13, 2017
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In June 1961, Joe Feko was celebrating his high school graduation with friends at a cottage on Lake Erie when a red Chevrolet Corvette driving down a nearby road caught his eye.
It was the new 1961 version — the first model with a cut back rather than rounded tail, Feko said in an email. As a longtime Corvette fan, he was “mesmerized.”
Two years later, Feko bought one of his own and he’s had it ever since. In fact, over the past 54 years, the 1961 Corvette has been a part of every stage of his adult life.
Feko drove the car during college, and he used it to teach his girlfriend, Marie, how to drive. Marie eventually became his wife, and the couple has lived in Troy for the last 48 years.
“She took her driver’s license exam in that car, we took our honeymoon trip in that car, and our firstborn son, Dan, nearly arrived in that car,” Feko wrote, adding that the Corvette’s “performance capability” helped them get to the hospital in time for their son’s birth.
The car got a lot of use until Marie had trouble fitting behind the wheel while pregnant with their second son. Eventually, the car started to deteriorate.
“We were actually using the car to store old flower pots,” Feko wrote. “I decided to sell it, but Marie intervened, saying that it had to stay because it was part of the family.”
In 1975, Feko decided to restore the Corvette, which had 140,000 miles on it by then. Once the car was in better shape, Feko got it back on the road again.
“I enjoy the 4-speed manual transmission in the car,” Feko said. “(It’s) fun to drive. The engine is one of the most powerful offered at that time, which also makes for more fun.”
Over the years, though, the car began to show its age, so in 2007, Feko did another restoration — this time fixing things that he couldn’t do the first time around due to cost and the availability of parts.
The project was a family effort, as Feko’s son, Dan, and his grandsons, Nick and Nate, worked alongside him, with Dan doing much of the heavy lifting. The second restoration was also special because Feko dedicated the project to his younger son, Matthew, a 25-year-old commercial charter pilot and flight instructor who was killed by a drunken driver in 1998.
Feko said he drives the Corvette approximately 1,000 miles per year — “summer only, of course” — and he has taken the car to its fair share of local shows and cruises, including the grand opening of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1994.
Since the second restoration, however, there’s a significant addition that he always displays with the car: a framed placard that lists the Corvette’s details and pays tribute to his son, Matthew.
“His first love was flying aircraft,” said Feko. “His second was driving our 1961 Corvette.”
Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history or a special meaning to you? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.
About the author
Jennifer Sigouin is C & G Newspapers' social media coordinator, as well as a page designer, writer and proofreader. She has previously covered schools in Royal Oak, Clawson and Warren. Jen has worked for C & G Newspapers since 1998 and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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