Classic Corvettes represent a lot of things to many people. In Brack Gillespie's case, however, his Vette means much more than usual-it means having a connection to the father he never got to know. The 16-year-old from Shawano, Wisconsin, grew up without his father. He died when Brack was only 16 months old. However, Brack does have something significant to remember his dad by-he inherited his dad's '60 Corvette!
His dad, John Brack "J.B." Gillespie was 41 years old when Brack was born in December 1986 and an avid sports car enthusiast all of his life. He had collected several Corvettes, as well as other sports cars over the years, and he thoroughly enjoyed sharing his passion for cars with his infant son. Unfortunately, though, J.B. didn't get to share his fatherly love with young Brack for long, as he died very unexpectedly on May 13, 1988. Brack was not even a year-and-a-half old when his father was taken from him, but they had been riding together in J.B.'s MG Midget only five days earlier.
Shortly after the funeral, Brack's grandfather suggested selling all of J.B.'s collectibles, including the '60 Vette. That would have been the rational thing for a young single mother to do to survive, but his mom Mary Jo Ambrosius was adamantly opposed to selling off the solid-axle. She understood how much that Vette had meant to her late husband, and she was determined to save the car for their son. "I felt that the car would someday give Brack great pleasure and be the only thing for him to remember his dad by," she tells us. So, she quickly got the Vette titled in young Brack's name to prevent it from being sold.
J.B .had bought the solid-axle in 1963 at age 18, just before he was shipped off to fight in Vietnam. He enjoyed the Vette very much, especially driving through rain puddles, taking his teenage sisters for rides, and generally disregarding speed limits. According to Mary Jo, "His brother was astonished one time when J.B. threw him the keys and told him he could borrow it for a night. Only after being stopped by three police officers from different jurisdictions did he understand why-J.B. had been speeding excessively while traveling from Green Bay to Antigo, Wisconsin!"
After J.B. returned home from the Vietnam War, he bought two more Corvettes. The '60 was still being enjoyed on a regular basis, but a careless driver ran a stop sign in 1969 and hit the driver-side front fender on the roadster. J.B., who always had a camera around his neck, documented the entire incident with pictures and ordered the necessary pieces to repair his Vette. He also bought a semi-trailer to keep the '60 and several other cars in as he began stripping the solid-axle down for its restoration. However, the temporary storage became indefinite in 1972. In 1985, J.B. moved from Green Bay to Fayette, Michigan, where he ran a small country store with Mary Jo and they started a family. The remains of the '60 became Brack's in 1988, but it would have to wait out another decade in pieces before its resurrection could begin.
When Brack was 10 years old, they began planning to restore the '60. Mary Jo contacted several of J.B.'s friends and, "They all suggested that if we wanted it restored properly, it should be a total body-off restoration." That's sound advice considering the car was a basketcase with pieces packed in boxes in the basement and the body in storage for over 30 years.
Mary Jo found Larry and Loretta Bartley at Corvetterestoration.com in Elizabeth, Indiana, to do the refurbishment. "In October 1999, I got a call from Larry [telling us] that they had an opening in their schedule and car-bay; they could travel to Michigan to get the car if we were still interested in having it restored. The weekend was close at hand, and I didn't have the finances all set yet, but felt we needed to move on the offer." So Larry and Loretta headed up to the northern peninsula of Michigan, loaded up the Vette and all of its bits and pieces on the trailer, and took it to their shop to set to work.