Sylvia Duque's story reads almost like a classic Horatio Alger rags-to-riches dime novel. It's with uncommon courage and moral fortitude that Alger's youths struggled against adversity to achieve great wealth and acclaim. And while Sylvia definitely isn't any 19th-century city urchin rising up in the face of rabid industrialization, she does exemplify the American ideal of making a successful and productive life for herself through nothing but her own hard work and dedication. And she's rewarded herself, at long last, by fulfilling another traditional, all-American dream-driving America's Sports Car!

Born in Ecuador, Sylvia immigrated to the United States as a girl with her family back in the '70s. Her father wanted to offer his children a better way of life than was possible for them in Ecuador and saw America as the land of opportunity where you could achieve anything if you were determined enough. They made their home in Houston, Texas, where her dad worked tirelessly at a Toyota assembly plant installing air conditioning systems so that Sylvia, her sister, and her two brothers could get a good education, study English, and attend college.

Sadly, a heart attack took Senor Duque from his family all together too soon. Sylvia and her mom and siblings were grief-stricken to lose him, but "we kept his ethics of hard work and dedication alive," Sylvia tells us. "We would not let him down. We felt the need to make him proud of us even though he wasn't present anymore." There were still many dreams to make reality.

In the early '80s, Sylvia and her family became U.S. citizens and were quite proud to call the USA their "home, sweet home." As Sylvia toiled through college, she also began to get more familiar with American products-and American icons. It didn't take her long to fall in love with the Corvette and was mesmerized forever by those sleek lines with their aura of power and performance. "It amazed me how beautiful the '82 Corvette looked. Back then, I thought that it would be a dream to drive Speed Racer's car!" However, Sylvia accepted the reality that she simply couldn't afford a Corvette as a college student, nor as she began her career. Biding her time for the right opportunity, Sylvia practiced the "virtue of patience" as she spent 12 years behind the wheel of a Mazda RX-7.

Sylvia has worked her way up the corporate ladder in several banking and oil company institutions. Now she is an office manager for Qwest Communications in Houston, works out at the gym regularly to sculpt her petite frame for bodybuilding competitions, and has both her feet solidly on the ground. Yet Sylvia has never let go of her dreams and aspirations, especially about owning a Corvette. She finally made that dream a reality in 1998 when she got behind the wheel of a beautiful, white '89 convertible with saddle interior that had only 18K miles. Sylvia quickly became skilled at detailing her C4 "front to back and all around those sexy curves on it," and she proudly showed it at local events. She even took home several First Place plaques and trophies with it.

Though Sylvia was enjoying her C4 Corvette immensely, it didn't take long for her to fall head-over-heels in love with the C5 styling. On August 25, 2000, "I took delivery of my first brand new Corvette, an '01 [Navy Blue Metallic] coupe, that I truly enjoy, and it's become a way of life for me," says Sylvia. She bought her '01 C5 off the showroom floor at Capitol Chevrolet in Montgomery, Alabama, with a Light Oak interior, automatic transmission, blue-tinted removable roof panel, and all the luxurious options available. Those first 500 miles of break-in were torture for her as she fought the temptation to simply hammer it. "I knew I had to use the 'TLC' treatment, but as I drove my new Corvette off the lot, with a huge grin on my face and the odometer barely clicking over 15 miles, I was ready to fly!"

Sylvia and her C5-affectionately dubbed "Speedy-Vet"-have become quite familiar since then, and they take fabulous care of one another. She's kept the '00 virtually all original except for detailing. However, Sylvia did have Corvettes of Houston install a set of chrome taillight louvers on her coupe, along with a Tri-Flo PRT cat-back exhaust system. Under the hood, the C5 is exactly as it left the Bowling Green plant, except for replacing the standard black LS1 fuel rail covers with red ones from a ZO6. Sylvia has recently also installed ZO6 stainless steel mesh grille inserts from a ZO6 to add a little more pizzazz up front.

"Speedy-Vet is my pride and joy!" beams Sylvia. "My C5 has been a way to meet many great people, including other ladies who are also Corvette owners. We attend functions, get together, and mostly share our passion for owning these cars regardless of color or model." Sylvia also regularly chats online with other Corvette enthusiasts around the world, not just here in the States, but in Canada, Hawaii, and Europe as well. "I've come a long way!" she exclaims. "Today, I truly enjoy being surrounded by the genuine sports car styling and feeling the power of the engine and rumble of the exhaust! I give special thanks to my father, for now I stand tall and proud next to a true American legend-the C5 Corvette!".

Sylvia's dad would be very proud of how hard she has worked in order to get to play as hard as she does. Good ol' Horatio Alger would be proud, as well, of the little immigrant girl who dedicated herself to succeed, to making her father proud, and growing up to be an all-American lady driving a purebred, all-American sports car! Sylvia's truly is a classic American success story!

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