Vettes provide milestones for this fan’s life

08/16/2014 12:00 AM

08/06/2014 9:18 AM

Driving by the home of Bill Cruthis in the Sailview community of Denver reveals an unusual sight, a Corvette on a lift in the three-car garage. The lift is necessary so Bill can park two other Corvettes in the garage, together with his 2000 Cadillac.

Cruthis, 67, who recently retired from his 46 year career as a pharmacist, the last 27 years with WalMart, is a lifelong lover of Corvettes. Not coincidentally, he is also currently the vice president of the Queen City Corvette Club, which he joined in 1974.

He bought his first Corvette in 1968, shortly after graduating from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois . “As soon as I saw a silver ’67 big-block coupe Corvette, I decided that I would buy one when I graduated. I did, and I’ve had one or more ever since,” Cruthis recalls.

“I had actually ordered a brand new ’69 that year, but the Corvette plant was on strike, so I bought a year-old used Corvette just to tide me over.”

His choice of Corvette over other sports cars is not open to question. “Personally, I don’t want a foreign car because a lot of people died so I can have the freedom to drive whatever car I want wherever I want,” Cruthis says. “Corvettes have always been American-made, and they’ve been built in Bowling Green, Ky., since 1982. That’s where the National Corvette Museum is located.”

So that leaves out the Porsche, for openers. “Porsche has a wimpy-sounding little motor, kind of whiny,” Cruthis notes. “Corvette has always been a big, loud, noisy V-8, a great sound to us Corvette owners.

“And when it comes to American-made sports cars, Corvette, unlike the others, has always held true to its roots. Since it debuted in 1953, it’s always been a fiberglass body, with a fuel-injected V-8 engine since 1957.

“It has also remained a two-seater, a sexy-looking car, unlike the Mustang, which is definitely not a sports car because it has a back seat. The Corvette is a fun car to drive, and the best bang for the buck,” Cruthis says.

And just how many bucks are we talking about? Cruthis explains, “New Corvettes can be bought for just over $50,000, but you’ll wish you’d spent more. A top-end car out of the showroom can cost more than $100,000.”

How muscular is that fabled Corvette engine? According to Cruthis, horsepower can range from 460 all the up to 650 in the new Z06, scheduled to enter the market in 2015. And where can you test the limits of an engine that big? “Not on the streets, that’s for sure. Unless you take your car to a track, you really can’t drive it the way it was meant to be driven.”

What about a used Corvette for folks who can’t afford to buy brand new? “You can find really good used Corvettes because they don’t get worn out,” explains Cruthis. “I use my Corvettes for club events and other special outings, so I might average 2000 miles a year. My cars are what we call ‘trailer queens’ or ‘garage queens.’ ”

Over the years, Cruthis has owned nine different Corvettes, so the one he has on order will be his 10th. He currently has two, having just sold a third in order to afford the new one. “I’ve owned as many as four at once, so I once squeezed three of my Corvettes in a two-car garage. Every one of the Corvettes I’ve owned has had its own unique personality,” Cruthis says.

“There are three Corvettes I’ve sold that I wish I had back, and I’m not going to do that again. Life is not a dress rehearsal. With age comes wisdom, and I don’t want to wake up one day and say, ‘I wish I’d kept that one.’

“The car I’ll have parked out front when I’m in the nursing home and when I ‘turn room temperature’ is my 2009 Z06, the race-ready version. That car has all the goodies.”

What does it take to live with a Corvette fanatic? Cruthis’ partner, Judy Armstrong, owner of Albertine’s Florals in Denver, is very understanding, he says. “She realizes the emotional and financial attachments I have to my cars. Besides, it takes a special kind of lady to drive with a Corvette owner. As a passenger, she doesn’t have access to the steering wheel or a brake pedal. All she can hang on to or push against is the grab bar or the dashboard.”

But that’s not all. Although Armstrong now owns a Chevy Captiva SUV, she sold her 2011 Camaro so Bill could buy his newest toy. “Now that’s a pretty big sacrifice,” says Cruthis.

Besides his Corvettes, Cruthis also owns a 2000 Cadillac and a Chevy Silverado pickup. “You can’t live without a Chevy pickup,” he explains. And no doubt, it looks good parked next to those sleek-looking, muscular Corvettes.

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