Michael Kehoe, who grew up in Sterling Heights, bought this 1980 Chevy Corvette 42 years ago after he graduated from Stevenson High School in Utica Community Schools. He sold the car three years later. In 2021, it became his again.

Michael Kehoe, who grew up in Sterling Heights, bought this 1980 Chevy Corvette 42 years ago after he graduated from Stevenson High School in Utica Community Schools. He sold the car three years later. In 2021, it became his again.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

Behind the Wheel: Vette owner reunites with first car nearly 40 years later

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published July 27, 2022


STERLING HEIGHTS — In 1980, Michael Kehoe was in the process of buying his first car.

The young adult was debating between a 1980 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. After mulling it over, Kehoe chose the Vette.

He had just graduated from Stevenson High School in Utica Community Schools and paid cash for his first-ever vehicle.

“My dad owned J&J Sheet Metal in Warren,” said Kehoe, who grew up in Sterling Heights. “I worked there in middle school and high school and saved every penny I earned.”

Kehoe was thrilled with his new set of wheels. The exterior color was known as Corvette red, and the interior was considered oyster white. His new car had belonged to a GM executive who drove it for six months before Kehoe purchased it.

“It had 2,500 miles when I bought the car,” Kehoe said. “In 1980, the car was ultra-modern. The T-tops were mirrored. It cost $65 to undercoat the car. It is a four-speed stick shift.”

Three years after purchasing and enjoying the sports car, Kehoe sold the Corvette. He needed the money from the sale so he could enroll at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

“This car paid for my first year of tuition,” said Kehoe, who was studying to become an orthodontist. In 1983, the U of M dental student sold the car to a Warren Consolidated Schools teacher who told him, “Someday you will have another Corvette.”

It wasn’t easy to part with his first car.

“The day I handed him the keys, I thought I was going to cry,” Kehoe recalled. “I was devastated, but my education was of utmost importance.”

Kehoe continued with his schooling, and after 11 years of college, he became an orthodontist. In the summer of 1996, he opened Kehoe Orthodontics on Main Street in downtown Romeo. After nearly 25 years of serving families, he retired in December 2020.

Last summer while asleep one night, Kehoe got a phone call from his older brother, Bob, who had been on Craigslist and saw a 1980 Corvette for sale.

“I’m sleeping,” Kehoe told his brother. But Bob insisted that “he get out of bed” and check out the Craigslist post. Bob was pretty sure the Corvette for sale was the same one Kehoe once owned.

“I kept looking at Craigslist. That sure looks like my car,” Kehoe thought.

The retired orthodontist eventually contacted the owner of the Corvette for sale and asked him several questions. Kehoe was able to verify the vehicle identification number with the original documentation he had retained from when he had the vehicle. It turned out it was the same car.

It was time to make an offer.

“I repurchased the car in August of 2021 for the same price I sold it for in 1983. When I found this car, I was like a kid in a candy store. I was so excited,” Kehoe said. “It’s the sentimental value. The sentimental value is priceless.”

Kehoe, who now lives in Dryden, keeps the vintage car close to home.

“I only drive it to car shows,” he said.

Last month, for instance, he mingled with other Corvette owners at the Corvette show at Wally Edgar Chevrolet in Lake Orion. This summer, Kehoe plans to join the other car buffs Aug. 20 at this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise, which travels through Royal Oak, Ferndale, Birmingham and other communities.

“It’s so nice to sit and cruise along with it,” Kehoe said. When on the road, other drivers “are always giving me thumbs-up. I think it’s the color combo that attracts people to it.”

With 94,000 original miles, the Corvette has the original glass T-tops and original rims.

“I want to keep the car all original. I had new tires put on and new shocks,” Kehoe said. “I’m really detailing it and polishing it … cleaning the engine and the exterior. It still has the original spare tire on the back.”

Kehoe has put together a scrapbook to document the Vette’s history. The book includes the car’s original manual and window sticker, the Craigslist advertisement and more.

According to Kehoe, the car has had five owners, including him, and never left southeastern Michigan.

“It was amazing to get the old, original car back,” he said.

Do you own a vehicle with an interesting history? For a chance to be in an upcoming edition of our Behind the Wheel feature, email Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com.