Bluebird Chapter 2: The Restoration

As told by owner and collector Michael E. Stephens with Bobby Allen
Written by Kaitlin Candelaria

Bluebird is coming right along

The best place to start the story of the renovation of Bluebird is to back up to the work by Mark Crowe. The pictures below show the body of Bluebird removed so that we could totally renovate and restore the frame, engine, transmission and brakes with the idea in mind for the restored frame to ride under the body of Bluebird. In essence, we wanted her body to remain a survivor.

Mark painted the frame and the engine, did a few tweaks to the engine, rebuilt the brakes, added new tires and provided a dual stainless steel exhaust system. Miraculously, the engine only needed a few stuck valves released even after the car had been sitting for over a decade — the motor and rings were not seized up.

I was proud of driving a well running Bluebird, feeling comfortable with its reliability and what rested under her body. But as stated earlier, she did not reflect her potential beauty. That’s when it was decided that we would call Bobby Allen of Bobby’s Corvette and Classic Restoration — one of the most reputable Corvette restorers in America. Bobby accepted the car for his personal shop to do the renovations of Bluebird with his hands.

Bobby started working on cars at only 11 years old. He had a work ethic even at that young age and needed a pick up truck.

“I had bicycles — everybody had a bicycle — but you can’t haul hay and fertilizer with a bicycle,” he said. “You can’t make money with a bicycle.”

His father purchased a truck from a family member and told Bobby he could drive it if — and only if — he was able to pay him $125. This was in the spring.

“I drove it back to school in the fall,” Bobby said, laughing. “It sounds silly but I picked up bottles on the side of the road. I chopped hay. I picked cotton. When I paid him the $125, it was in nickels, dimes and dollar bills. He counted it out on the dining room table.”

Allen had an interest in Corvettes and set out to build one from the ground up. He found the perfect candidate — a ’59 Corvette sitting in someone’s backyard. The transmission was in the closet and the engine was in the garage, but Bobby wasn’t daunted.

“I bought the car and brought it home and started it,” he said. “When I finished it, from the first time it was shown, it was the highest scoring car in the US and Canada. It won every award it could win.”

That car still holds the record today with the National Corvette Restorers Association. After that, Bobby became somewhat famous for his Corvette expertise.

“If my customers will let me, I’ll do their cars exactly like I did my own,” he said. “More time, more research and as the years go by, more experience. I specialize in the 56-67 Corvettes — that’s my speciality and I don’t do anything else, which means I learn a lot more about them. Repetition is a good teacher.”

Since then, every car Allen has built has been awarded the Top Flight award or the DUNTOV Award of Excellence by the NCRS or been awarded at the Bloomington Gold Convention — both of which are considered top echelon for Corvettes.

img_6660We breathed a sigh of relief when Allen accepted Bluebird into his shop’s capable hands. He is now storing Bluebird at his home shop in order to focus on the car without distractions.

“I have more time to do more research and concentrate more on it there,” he said. “And, I’ve got a thing for ’59 Corvettes.”

Bobby says the car is in good condition, despite the fact that we’ve battled rust issues.

“I think when we get through, we can take it to the NCRS,” he said. “The metal structure is really good. Even the pieces that need to be restored are in great shape to be restored. It’s a great little car.”

Now, Bobby has started the restoration process. He began by disassembling the body.

“Once we get that done, we’re going to rework the body and make everything straight and everything fit,” he said. “Once we paint it, we’ll lift it from the frame and detail the frame. We’re going to rebuild and detail the engine. At that point, we’ll clean the bottom of the car and reset it and we’ll put all the trim, interior and gauges back in it and it’ll be back on the road again.”

Bluebird is rare for a couple of different reasons. She’s fuel injected, which is a rarity for this year and model. Not only that, but Bluebird also contains an automatic transmission, making it even more remarkable. The blue color also makes her uncommon.

Bobby and his team are already flying through Bluebird’s objectives. The before mentioned bowed front fenders have already been corrected, all chrome and interior has been removed and the paint has been stripped and body sanded.

It’s great that we made the decision to restore her when we did. Although we still don’t fully understand how a car with a fiberglass body could experience rust, you will see in the pictures below of Bluebird stripped that places hidden by chrome and leather were mildly rusted. Luckily, it was caught in time and did not progress to the destruction of the other parts of the car. Also, the body is totally stripped, which means that we will be building back from the base all aspects of the car and make the car a ground up restoration.

Stay tuned for what’s next in Bluebird’s journey.

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