LIMA — Like most car enthusiasts, Rodger McClain, current vice president of Lima Auto Mall, has a story behind his 1961 Chevrolet Corvette. He calls it, “For the love of a car.”
In May 1961, McClain was walking home from Central Junior High School. Like most days, he walked over to the White Chevrolet dealership to look at cars. A month shy of 16, the only thing on his mind back then were cars and girls. He happened to be at the dealership when a truck filled with new Chevrolets was unloading on Market Street in front of the dealership. That’s when he spotted a 1961 Corvette, with a beautiful color they called Jewel Blue.
McClain walked into the garage where they had parked it in the first stall and looked it over. He remembered the window sticker read, $5,600, and he thought, “Where does that kind of money come from?”
A couple of weeks later he and a friend were riding up North Street by the Ohio Theater, and they heard this loud engine noise coming from behind them. It passed them as they were coming to the light at Elizabeth St., and as the light changed the brake lights came on and right away McClain noticed that the car was the same one he had watched them unload at the dealership, but it had six tail lights instead of the four factory ones, and the wheels just flashed as they passed.
As they pulled along side it, they saw that the wheels were wire wheels with large flippers shining in beautiful chrome. McClain said he fell in love with the car at that moment, and that feeling has never left him.
McClain later found out the original owner was Roland Wemmer, son of Gene Wemmer, who owned the RG Dunn Cigar Factory. This was Roland’s sales car, and he had these options added before he took delivery.
McClain soon found himself driving by the factory a lot just to see the car. A year went by and the car was traded in at the local Oldsmobile store. A very good friend of McClain’s purchased it, as McClain could not afford it at the time. He watched the car go through the next seven owners, but finally McClain purchased the car in 1966. The car was not new, but McClain had the car redone to make it the beautiful car he had fallen in love with in 1961.
In 1972, McClain went through some tough times, and had to sell the love of his life. As the man paid him for the car, McClain admits that he did get emotional. He hated that moment for a long time.
McClain could not get the car off of his mind, and followed every owner for years after he sold it. One day, he ran into the last known owner and was informed the car went to Canada, and McClain would never see it again.
Anger and frustration set in then. McClain just happened to “know a guy that knew a guy,” and managed to locate the vehicle in Canada. McClain called the owner in 1984, and told him the background story of the car. In 1986, that man offered the car to McClain.
McClain drove to Canada with cash in hand and drove his car home. By the way, he stopped at the guy’s business that told him he would never see his car again, just to show him the car.
Two years ago, McClain did a complete frame off restoration that took a lot of money and hours, but with the help of his employees and great friends, he finished it to look the car that stole his heart in 1961.
McClain likens his story to the Black Beauty story, but with wheels, and he adds, “It is not for sale ever again.”