“Can you run that story by again?” I asked Paul Kerner.
We were looking at his ’63 split-window coupe, tires dug into the desert floor after sitting there for the past three years. The white car was highly modified, but a real split window coupe.
“I thought I heard you say a dump truck went around a corner, a boulder rolled out the back end, crashed through the side of a barn, and skipped across the hood of a Vette.”
“And you mean this Vette right here, in front of us?”
“Yes, a boulder, about basketball size, shot out of a dump truck on a road in California and punched a perfectly round hole in the side of the old, rotten barn. The farmer tried to get a new paintjob out of the insurance company, but the coupe desperately needed a new paintjob, anyway, as you can see.”
Apparently, the car hadn’t changed much since the boulder-skipping incident, 13 years previous. I could see chipped paint on the hood and fenders, possibly the result of contact with a basketball-sized boulder or rock. The ’63 needed a new front clip, modified as it was, including enlarged wheelwells at all four corners.
Kerner got a lead on the Vette in 2000. His co-worker said a neighbor had related the Vette story to him and the car was for sale. Kerner’s neighbor wasn’t interested, but Kerner was.
“When I looked at the ’63 coupe, this accident had recently happened, like in the last 30 days.”
The price was reasonable, if not cheap at $7,500. Kerner gave the farmer a $1,000 deposit. He would have paid the entire amount, except the farmer would not release the car until he got his insurance check.
A week passed, and Kerner called the farmer. The settlement was still not over. Kerner called after another few weeks and heard the same response, “I’ll call you when I know something.”
“I called him in a month. The answer was still no. I kind of halfway forgot about the car. A month, or so, later they were still going back and forth about the settlement.”
A year passed. Kerner got a call. It was the farmer. Funny thing, Kerner was closing on a house this same day and had to come up with $50,000 or $60,000.
Kerner remembers the farmer explaining, “I got my check. But, I sold the Corvette to you too cheap. I’m a man of my word. You can buy the car, but you have to come get this car today or I’ll give you your $1,000 deposit back.”
At the time, the year 2000, Kerner felt the Vette was worth “20ish.” The Vette did run, but was highly modified, as seen here. Somebody removed the pop-up headlights and added four huge wheelwell flares. They modified the front end with gills or grilles. Kerner still wanted the car due to the very reasonable price.
“Luckily, my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, had some money, and I borrowed money from her to get the car.”
Kerner testdrove the ’63, discovering no brakes. He’s logged maybe 2 miles on the car since 2000. He believes the engine is a 350 and the original Vette was a base small-block backed by a four-speed. The big option was factory air. The original color combination was sweet—black with red interior.
The original wheels are long gone. The car wears a set of turbine-style Westerns. Kerner says the ’63 would probably still be sitting in that barn in California except that boulder shot out of the back of that dump truck.
All I could think of, as a writer of “Rare Finds” stories for 25 years was, “Wouldn’t that have been a great picture, the car in the barn and the boulder sitting there?”