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The love story behind the sportscar



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If presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins in November, he will have to hand over the keys to the only car he’s ever loved: a 1967 Chevy Corvette convertible Stingray.

The Secret Service forbids the commander in chief to drive. Even once his term ends, a former president can never drive a car on an open road again, according to CNBC and various reports.

For Biden, who has said he loves to drive, that will be tough. The car Biden loves to drive the most is built for the open road: 327 cubic inch, L79 V8 engine rated at 350 horsepower with a 4-speed manual transmission, according to Hagerty, a Traverse City-based company that specializes in collector car insurance and valuations. 

It is capable of going 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. 

“I shouldn’t say this, but I like speed,” Biden told Jay Leno in a 2016 episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” when Biden got behind the wheel of his beloved ‘vette and talked about the family history attached to it.

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A wedding gift

Biden is the original owner of the car, which he recently showed off during an 80-second campaign spot posted on his Twitter page. 

In it, Biden describes the car’s best features before talking about the American auto industry regaining the market with electric vehicles, including that General Motors has plans for an all-electric Corvette that will be capable of going 200 mph. 

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“I love this car, nothing but incredible memories,” Biden says in the spot. “Every time I get in it, I think of my dad and Beau. God, could my dad drive a car.”

Biden’s son, Beau, died in 2015 of a brain tumor. 

The car was a wedding gift from Biden’s dad in August 1967. Biden shared the story of how it happened with Leno. 

“I was getting married in August of ’67,” Biden said. “My dad didn’t have a lot of money, but he ran the largest Chevrolet dealership in the state for years.”

Biden’s father, Joe Sr., who died in 2002 at age 86, devised a scheme to surprise the young couple with the new Corvette. 

“He said to my then, soon-to-be wife, Neilia, why don’t you give me your car (which was a 1965 Tempest and mine was a 1963 Chevy), and I’ll fix them for you for the wedding,” Biden told Leno. “So four days later, we go to pick the cars up and there’s 75 people outside the dealership. We pull up, they spread and my dad said, ‘This is my wedding gift.’ “

Tragically in 1972, just before Christmas, Neilia and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car crash that left sons Beau and Hunter severely injured, the New York Times reported in a 2008 profile.

Romance in a car

Biden’s dad paid $5,600 for the car, according to “Leno’s Garage.” It was a hefty sum back then, especially for Joe Biden, Sr. a man who had a tough life and struggled to make ends meet. 

But Joe Sr. also had a sense of honor. In an autobiography, his son recounts his father quitting a job as sales manager for an auto dealership when the owner decided to amuse himself at a Christmas party by spilling a bucket of silver dollars on the dance floor to watch his workers scramble to collect them. Joe Sr. left that party and never returned to the job, the Times wrote.

Still, Biden told Leno, “It was great having a dad at a dealership because every prom, man, you had a brand-new car. I remember my senior prom, a 1961 Chrysler 300g.”

Leno then asks Biden if he remembers the first car in which he had a romantic encounter while on a date. Biden doesn’t miss a beat and answers a 1951 Plymouth Convertible.

“The girls I dated were those Catholic school girls and their mothers wouldn’t let them go out,” said Biden.

’67 Corvette classic

Biden, who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and parts of Delaware, keeps the Corvette at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, now. He drives it as often as he can, said Ben Halle, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. 

The car is one of 14,436 convertibles produced that year, out of 22,940 Corvettes for the 1967 model, said Jonathan Klinger, spokesman for Hagerty. The 1967 Corvette is consistently the top seller among Corvettes at auction, he said.

In the car’s current condition, which looks to be in mostly original condition, Klinger said, the market value for the car is $88,700.

“If Biden’s actual Corvette were to be sold it would likely sell for a premium seeing that it is an original owner example and owned by a former vice president,” Klinger said.

While most politicians aren’t known for their personal vehicles, some, like President Ronald Reagan’s Willys Jeep CJ-6 have been added to the National Historic Vehicle Register by the Historical Vehicle Association, Klinger said.

The vintage Corvettes of the 1960s are typically associated with NASA astronauts. In fact, in 2012, a beat-up 1967 Corvette, purportedly first owned by astronaut Neil Armstrong, sold on eBay for $250,090.

Biden told Leno that his sons had the engine in the car rebuilt one year as a Christmas gift to him. 

“It feels great, it feels great,” Biden told Leno in 2016 as he drove it just the fourth time in seven years on the show. Leno said the Secret Service would not allow the vice president to drive during his term and for six months after it ended.

Biden told Leno. “I buried this,” pointing to the speedometer.

“You’ve had it up to 160?” Leno asked. Biden smiled and said yes, noting that Chevrolet had said the car would max out at 152 mph at the time.  

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Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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