Corvette collector is ‘addicted to horsepower’

Don Ratzlaff / Free Press<p>Randy Hamilton of rural Canton enjoys the view from one of two red Corvette Sting Ray convertibles from his collection. He and wife Roberta have owned 11 different Corvettes over the years. Currently his collection stands at seven. A math ?addict,? Hamilton figured out the pattern necessary to create the Chevrolet emblem atop his garage.

Randy Hamilton is not bashful about his additions. In no particular order, he admits his dependency on math, numbers, horsepower, acceleration, torque, curves, g-forces and personal license plates.

Fortunately for Hamilton, his addictions manifest themselves most efficiently in perhaps his biggest addiction of all: Corvette automobiles.

Currently, he and wife Roberta house seven of the classic Chevrolet sports cars in the large garage attached to their rural home two miles southwest of Canton.

Through the years, the couple has owned 11 different Corvettes, and Randy speaks of each one as a beloved, if transitional, member of the family.

Hooked early

The roots of his Corvette connection go way back.

?In the early ?60s I was 12 years old and I sat in a brand-new split-window Corvette Sting Ray at the dealership,? he recalled wistfully. ?They let me sit in it while Dad was getting his car fixed.

?But I was hooked even before then,? he added. ?I built lots of model cars: ?63s, ?64s, ?65, whatever.?

It didn?t take long for Hamilton to involve Roberta in his first Corvette deal.

?In ?73 I got out of college, but in ?72 we were looking to get a different car,? he said. ?Roberta and I went and looked around and around. She said, ?Well, let?s go look at Corvettes.? I said, ?Oh, they?re too expensive, we can?t do that.??

But they did anyway.

?We ended up buying this ?73 over here?and I still have it,? he said of the dark Elkhart green model. ?Thanks to her, we went to look at them and we actually ended up buying one.

?We had two cars and that was one of them,? he said. ?She had an Oldsmobile and I had this. It was my everyday driver for a long time.?

Anniversary editions

Chevrolet introduced the Corvette, known colloquially as a ?Vette,? in 1953 at a concept car show called the GM Motorama.

The Hamiltons have focused their collection on the anniversary-edition models, starting with the 20th anniversary model they acquired first. They next acquired a 25th anniversary (1978) edition.

?That was the first year they were Indy pace cars,? Hamilton said. ?They made one for every dealership in the whole world?special serial numbers and everything. It was truly a limited-edition Corvette.?

The Hamiltons acquired theirs through the Midway Motors dealership in Mound??ridge.

?When they came out, they hit the market at under $15,000?and then they instantly went up to $25,000, everywhere,? he said.

?We went down to Mound?ridge to buy this car like the 1st or 2nd of July in ?78. I remember talking about it at the Fourth of July party at the neighbors?. The (car) had everything I wanted except it was an automatic. I like a clutch.?

But when the Mound?ridge dealership asked for the $10,000 price upgrade, Hamilton walked away.

At least for the time being.

?A guy in Elyria bought it six months later,? Randy said. ?He took it home, trailered it to a couple of car shows?never even put the center caps on the wheels.?

Hamilton eventually got word from the mayor of Galva that the vehicle was up for sale.

?He called me up one day at work and said, ?Are you looking for a pace car?? I said, ?Oh yeah.? He told me where it was. We went down there and it had 22 miles on it. The guy had it covered, and he needed money real bad. It only has 8,000 miles on it now. I take it to car shows.?

The Hamiltons also have two 50th-anniversary Cor?vettes. Both are convertibles.

?We went to Abilene to see that car,? he said about the first one. The other came to them via Florida.

?They ordered it out, but had it delivered to Kansas so I had a Florida temporary tag.?

The couple acquired their purple 1996 model from the former Irv Schroeder dealership in Hillsboro.

?In ?96, I had a Buick and was looking to trade for a newer car because ?96 was the last year GM had rear-wheel-drive regular cars?only Corvettes and Camaros are rear-wheel drive now.

?We got to purple by eliminating the other colors, and I really like it,? he added. ?Purple?s good. My daughter went to K-State for a couple of years, so she fit right in.?

The couple?s most recent Corvette acquisition is a 2003 ZO6, the 60th-anniversary edition. It comes with plenty of horsepower (505), even for Hamilton.

?They put in the anniversary model everything they could think of,? he said. ?It?s even got little buttons on the on the visor that you can program for your garage doors, which is great.?

Who can blame Hamilton for choosing the personalized license plate that he did: ?INVIDIA,? which is a Latin word meaning ?lust.?

?People lust after my cars?that?s why I got this car,? he said with a smile. ?So, I love tags and I?m addicted to horsepower. I tell people horsepower keeps me young, and I got a clutch so my left leg stays in good shape.?

Regularly driven

Asked if he has any special locations where he can test the horsepower at his command, Hamilton replied with a smile, ?Not legally.?

But on almost every good-weather day, Hamilton said he drives one of their Cor?vettes to his day job as a corporate accountant.

?I love corporate accounting,? he said. ?I wasn?t big on CPA stuff?auditing and taxes. It?s boring, and they change the rules every two minutes.?

Hamilton has parlayed his love of math into developing a homemade meter to measure g-forces. He also developed a formula for figuring horsepower over a quarter-mile performance.

At one point, Hamilton developed a chart for all of his tools that lists not only their SAE measurements, but also their metric measurement in millimeters.

?If a 9-16th (tool) doesn?t fit something, you an go to 15 millimeters,? he said.

Memorabilia collection

Beyond the Corvette collection, he and Roberta have a huge collection of memorabilia connected to Chev?rolet, Corvettes and visual images from the 1960s.

Roberta, a retired math teacher herself, is a gifted embroider and has applied the images of Elvis, Cor?vettes and Chevy emblems on all sorts household items.

?She really likes to do embroidery,? Randy said.

So, what is his longterm vision for his Corvette collection?

?They?re all great, but I?d like to cut back to five,? he said. ?I?d like to (sell) a couple of them, but I haven?t found anybody serious enough to take them off my hands.

?Other than, it?s sort of a collection. It keeps me young. And I like to work on them when I can.?

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