Sweet: Gorospe’s Candy Apple Red Corvette

Prince’s 1983 hit song, “Little Red Corvette” doesn’t have much to do with Corvettes, but the red 1977 Corvette owned by Kapa‘a’s Sonny Gorospe would have been a good car to feature on the album cover.

Chevrolet introduced the Corvette as a show car at the GM Motorama in January of 1953. Production began the following summer, but options were few; all 1953 Corvettes were Polo White with red interiors, and were powered by Chevrolet’s 235 cubic inch 6-cylinder engine teamed with a 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The engine was fitted with three carburetors and dual exhausts to produce 160 horsepower. Though the U.S. finally had a “sports car” to compete with England’s popular Austin-Healey, Jaguar, MG and Triumph touring cars, the new Corvette did not meet GM’s performance expectations. In 1955, Corvette performance was much improved with a 265 cubic inch V-8 and 3-speed manual transmission. That allowed Corvette to survive, and eventually, thrive.

The first generation (C1) Corvette ran through 1962, with styling updates in 1956 (coved sides), 1958 (quad headlights), and 1961 (“duck tail” rear end, new grille). The second generation (C2) Corvette “Sting Ray” was introduced in 1963, and for the first time, buyers could choose between a hardtop coupe and a traditional convertible. The third generation (C3) Corvette, 1968 to 1982, took styling cues from GM’s “Mako Shark II” concept vehicle. C3’s 15-year run was the longest of Corvette’s six generations, which also include C4 (1984-96), C5 (1997-2004) and C6 (2005-present).

Five years ago, Ruby Gorospe gave her husband Sonny a 1977 Corvette. This is how it came about. Ruby’s friend Stella Pimental had purchased the ‘Vette for her daughter, Starla, who went on to become a professional entertainer. When the ‘Vette became available, Ruby, knowing that Sonny liked classic cars, bought it for him. (Note to wife: Gift idea)

Gorospe’s Corvette is stock in most regards. The 350 cubic-inch engine has a 4-barrel carburetor and is mated to an automatic transmission. The removable T-top allows the coupe to take on a convertible air when desired. The interior is red leather. The most striking thing about Gorospe’s Corvette is its incredible Candy Apple Red finish, which was applied here on Kaua‘i. To achieve the desired effect, a base coat of metallic gold is covered with multiple layers of red-tinted clear coat, to create a look that resembles the coating on a candied apple. Car customizers have loved the look for more than 50 years.

Sonny thought about installing external exhaust pipes on his beloved machine, but decided he didn’t want anything to break up the car’s beautiful lines. He installed a set of Western Wheel Bullet rims for a finishing touch. The Corvette is always garaged, often polished, and driven only in parades or to Kaua‘i Classic Car shows.

There are a number of very nice Corvettes on the island, but none of them match the look of Sonny Gorospe’s Candy Apple Red ‘77.

• Wheels in Motion is a weekly feature showcasing interesting island vehicles and the people who own them. Email wheels@thegardenisland.com to suggest a vehicle that should be featured.

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