Corvette collector part of Burr Ridge, IL car show

By Steve Schering Contributor June 12, 2012 1:20PM

When 19 year-old Bob Atkins bought his first car in 1975, he would have never known that first Corvette would turn into his life-long passion.

Atkins can recall spending countless hours and days at Classic Motors on Ogden Avenue in Hinsdale with his friends Richard Buxbaum and Bob Zimmerman. Buxbaum, who took over the building that previously housed Jack Douglass Chevrolet, and Zimmerman, a mechanic affectionately known as “stretch,” both remain close to Atkins today.

“I was over there all the time,” Atkins said. “I hung around there and started to learn everything I could about Corvettes.”

A $3,000 investment in his first 1969 Corvette led the way to owning 1966, 1974, 1967 and 1963 Corvettes, among countless others.

“I just started trading up,” Atkins said. “I’ve probably had 25-30 Corvettes over the last 30 years. Today, I have mostly mid-year Corvettes that I collect. I kind of treat them as 401k investments.”

Atkins will showcase his 1964 Corvette at this weekend’s Burr Ridge Classic Car Show. His collectible car, which is silver with red interior, will be one of more than 100 vehicles on display.

“It’s a very neat collection in a beautiful area,” Atkins said of the show. “It’s a cool evening and very, very nice. The quality of cars at the Burr Ridge show is stunning.”

Atkins’ 1966 Corvette has the original paint, tires and soft top. That car won an award last year at the Bloomington Gold Corvette Show downstate.

The La Grange resident also maintains a membership with the National Corvette Restoration Society and has kept in touch with members around the world. Anyone interested in classic cars or beginning their own collection should ask many questions, Atkins said, and always rely on the help of an expert.

“I had a friend in California who called me said a customer was interested in a Corvette in Wauconda,” Atkins said. “He asked if I could drive up there and check it out for him. I took a lot of photos and gave a report. If you’re going to spend $75,000 on a car, it’s worth the extra $300 to have it checked out. There’s too much to lose if you don’t.”

Over the years, Atkins has seen changes in how people collect cars. Collectors are steering away from traditional refurbished cars, seeking original vehicles, even if that includes minor imperfections.

“If you look at a car, open up the hood and it’s dirty and has a little rust, that’s what people are now looking for,” Atkins said. “The Corvette hobby is changing. The ones getting very valuable are unrestored, low mileage, original parts and have never been painted.”

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