1978 4 door Corvette America

How many times do we hear of Corvettes being sold off because "we needed a more practical car, one the whole family can enjoy"? Does a growing family sound the death knell for the Corvette lifestyle? Not if you're Daniel LaVene of Maitland, Florida. While not exactly the most common solution to the Corvette family dilemma, Daniel's four-door '80 Corvette does fill the need for more seating.

Chevrolet had actually planned on making this family minded sports car at a rate of 40 per year, and to call it "Corvette America." It was designed by California Custom Coach in Pasadena. The one prototype and five production cars that were assembled were built by cutting two cars in half which, when mated together, extended the wheelbase of the vehicle by 30 inches.

Because of the economic climate of the time and the fact that a base-model Corvette sold for around $13,000, the $35,000 price tag of the four-door was deemed unaffordable. Only five production cars were built, each one custom designed for the buyer.

Singer Dorothy McGuire of the McGuire Sisters originally owned this car. Because of the customized doors, there is no provision for exterior door latches. Opening the door was achieved by punching in a code on the keypad on the driver-side windshield by the A-pillar. All the door latches operated electronically. Also, the rear window opens hatchback-style, an idea that would make it to production, although not for another two years, in the '82 Corvette.

This is believed to be the only surviving four-door production Corvette in existence. The others were destroyed in accidents and by neglect. Luckily, this car escaped the same fate by being in the hands of Corvette collector Mike Yager. It now resides in Daniel's care. He does drive the car on occasion, but it boasts fewer than 15,000 miles on the odometer. While it can be argued whether a car this rare should be driven, you have to admit that the reason it's even in existence is to allow more people the thrill of riding around in a Corvette. Just so happens, they only need one parking space.

Text from the February, 2009 issue of Corvette Fever
Photo's: Wayne Ellwood