The Times West Virginian

My Hobby

February 27, 2013

Thrill of the hunt

Restoring cars is a passion for Bob Rogers

FAIRMONT — When he was able to hold a tube of glue, Bob Rogers started putting together model cars.

Now that he’s older, he still does ... only they’re real cars and he uses real tools.

Restoring cars is one of his passions, he said.

He favors Corvettes.

“But it really doesn’t matter what the car is,” he said. “It’s my hobby. I enjoy it.”

He kind of comes to this hobby the natural way.

“My dad (Bob Rogers) had a Texaco station where Papa John’s is now,” he said. “It was called Rogers Texaco. I have old gas pumps at my garage with pictures of Dad putting gas in my aunt’s car.”

He grew up an only child and sometimes, when friends couldn’t come over to play, he was on his own.

“On boring days, I’d tear my models apart and put them together again. I love doing that even now.”

He has a thing for Corvettes.

“They’re fast, they’re comfortable and they get great fuel mileage. That’s hard to come by.

“Cruising, I can get 28 mpg. People don’t believe it, but it’s true.

“But I could never afford a new one. Years ago, I realized the only way I could have one was to buy junked ones and build them myself.”

And that’s just exactly what he’s been doing.

“I buy them junked and then restore them. Every piece ... every nut and bolt ... comes apart.”

And his restored vehicles are driveable ... “absolutely,” he said.

He belongs to the Central West Virginia Corvette Club, which has “social run meetings” twice a month: the first Tuesday, at the sponsor dealership, and the third Tuesday, at a business or a member’s house.

“We’re a special group of people who love Corvettes,” he said.

“There are so many things in the U.S. that involve Corvettes now,” he said.

There’s Corvettes at Carlisle, in Carlisle, Pa., the largest and most fun-filled Corvette event in the world, which features more than 5,000 Corvettes representing all generations of the classic sports car.

Closer to home, he attends the Central West Virginia Corvette Club’s Auto Cross in July.

There have been seven Corvette generations, each reflecting major changes in design since its debut in 1953.

• C1: First generation (1953-62).

“These are for show only,” he said. “You’ll never see one of these being driven.”

Pampered and treated like royalty, they’re taken to shows in trailers. No busy highways for these cars.

• C2: Second generation (1963-67), also known as the Sting Ray

• C3: Third generation (1968-82)

“Some people still drive their C2s and C3s,” he said.

• C4: Fourth generation (1983-96)

• C5: Fifth generation (1997-2004)

• C6: Sixth generation (2005-13)

• C7: Seventh Generation (2014- ).

“I take my cars to shows in trailers. But I do drive around locally,” he said.

That comes at a price, insurance-wise.

“They’ll ask you what state it’s for. And when you say ‘West Virginia,’ they always say, ‘the deer state?’ That’s another $200.”

His cherished “Therapy” car is a 2009 Z-06.

All new, everything new.

And it was not a cheap date.

A standard version is “only” $47,000, he said.

“A grand sport, the next step up, is about $65,000. Now, the Z-06, which is what ‘Therapy’ is, is ... are you ready for this? ... about $80,000.”

“That’s why it sits covered up in the garage,” he said, laughing.

“It’s always been my dream to own a Z-06,” he said.

“This is a hobby I can do in the evenings. It’s relaxing. I work during the day, and in the evening I can go to my garage and work on the cars.

“This gives me time to think about things, like business. Restoring these cars frees up my mind a lot. And when I’m done, I have the fulfillment of saying ‘See what I did.’

“It’s not collecting. It’s doing.”

It’s also the thrill of the hunt, he said.

“If I’m looking for older parts, I can go to flea markets. They may not be in the best shape, but I can clean and paint them. Saves a lot of money.

“It’s like a game. A treasure hunt. It’s all about the hunt. And it’s fun.”

It can take up to three years — and some serious bucks and time and labor — to restore each car. Even so, he doesn’t get sentimental about them. He’s just as eager to sell as he is to restore.

“I don’t get attached. I guess it’s because of the hobby part.”

He has five pampered cars in his garage right now.

• “Therapy,” his 2009 Z-06 cyber grey.

• 1967 C3 sunset orange Daytona.

• C1 1960 Vette, which he’s restoring now.

• A blue-and-silver, “all custom-made” 1955 Chevrolet Belair.

• 1969 Camaro Z28-302 engine

It’s with this car that he indulges in one of this other passions: drag racing.

“On weekends, I go all over the East Coast drag racing,” he said.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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