Arts & Life
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Alan Nickel may have had to wait more than 40 years to finally get his hands on a classic 1970s Chevrolet Corvette, but it was definitely worth the wait.
The 66-year-old retiree, and former owner of Nickel Electric, told the Sun this past Monday that the sports car originally caught his eye back when he attended Vincent Massey High School, although he lacked the funds and know-how to really make it his own.
"At that point, it was harder because I was young," he said. "I didn’t have any money ... plus my knowledge was a lot more limited, too."
Instead, Nickel decided to pursue a career as an electrician, founding Nickel Electric in 1974 alongside his father Henry and brother Leonard.
Despite his chosen occupation, Nickel still managed to keep his mechanical skills sharp throughout the years by fixing the company’s trucks and other vehicles whenever they required a tuneup.
However, once the Brandon resident officially retired and sold his shares of Nickel Electric in 2009, he finally had some free time for the automotive projects he always wanted to pursue.
In 2016, Nickel even managed to track down and purchase a 1973 Corvette Stingray, which possesses a few unique features that set it apart from the rest of the pack.
"It’s the last year that they had chrome in the back on the bumpers," he said. "And it also has the big block 454 engine, which is something that I was kind of interested in, too."
Even though the Stingray’s signature curvy body was in great physical shape, Nickel revealed that the rest of the car left a lot to be desired, requiring him to revitalize its undercarriage, suspension, engine and transmission over the last four years.
This past winter, Nickel even spent some time redoing the vehicle’s interior by repainting all the plastic mouldings and installing a new carpet in an attempt to bring the car back to its original glory.
"Because when you have a vehicle that old, people have played with it and things have gotten broken and haven’t been fixed properly," he said. "So you have to go through everything piece by piece and make sure everything’s working right."
Of course, this process wasn’t always easy for Nickel, since he hadn’t tinkered around with a classic car like this in a couple of decades.
But, he told the Sun that there were plenty of resources available to him either online or in the local car community.
"I kind of relied a lot on talking with other guys and I also went to different Corvette forums and watched a lot of YouTube videos, which will give you a lot of ideas on how to do things," he said.
That said, Nickel admits that the restoration process did have its rough spots and is definitely not for those who are easily frustrated.
"There’s a lot of fulfillment with it, absolutely, but there’s also some heartache and hard times," he said. "Because not everything works when you want it to work, and you have to be able to persevere."
Even though Nickel still wants to tweak some of the car’s aesthetics next winter, he and his wife Ruth are quite happy with how the Stingray drives right now, and are looking forward to riding out their golden years inside this classic vehicle.
"I think that’s key in any of these kinds of projects," he said. "You have to be able to do it with the people around you and not in isolation because they will enjoy it with you when you get things working the way you want."
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
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