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Corvette people baby their fun rides

Corvettes were on display at the Lookingglass Corvette Club Meeting at the O'Fallon Knights of Columbus Hall.
Corvettes were on display at the Lookingglass Corvette Club Meeting at the O'Fallon Knights of Columbus Hall. News-Democrat

Darrell “Pokey” Wildhaber has bought and sold 60 Corvettes over the years, but he still owns his two favorites.

One is a 1964 red Stingray coupe.

“I took every nut and bolt off that car and completely restored it,” said Pokey, 70, of Highland.

The other one is a 60th anniversary edition 2013 white Grand Sport convertible with a navy top and silver stripes on top.

“That cost me four times as much as my house, so I’ve got to like that one,” Pokey said, grinning. (He bought the house in 1972.)

That prompted a round of laughter at O’Fallon Knights of Columbus Hall, where several couples were socializing before a meeting of Lookingglass Corvette Club. Members get together once a month to show off cars, tell stories, get advice and plan activities. They come from all over the region.

“We have 175 families who own over 600 Corvettes,” said John Mullane, 52, a pharmacist who lives in Edwardsville.

John is partial to his 1963 white coupe, known as a “survivor.”

“It’s never been restored, and it’s got the original motor,” he said. “It’s not the prettiest car in the world, but it’s got the paint that it left the factory with 52 years ago.”

John and his wife, Amy, even arranged to meet the car’s three previous owners at the Arkansas dealership where it was originally purchased.

The Corvette has a “split window” in back.

“They only did that one year,” John said. “It looks really, really neat, but it creates a heck of a blind spot.”

On a recent Thursday night, about 50 Corvettes were parked in the Knights of Columbus lot, half the usual number for a meeting.

“A lot of people won’t drive in the rain,” said Pokey, a retired service writer for a car dealership.

Tony Tranker thought the showers would stay in Missouri, but by the time he arrived, his 2015 blue Stingray coupe was covered with beads of water.

“That drove me nuts,” said Tony, 53, of Troy, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant. “I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), what can I say? That’s the first time it’s ever been rained on.”

Tony grabbed a microfiber towel and started drying off the Corvette.

“You notice that he’s not just wiping it,” said his friend, Gary Williams, 64, of Collinsville. “He’s stroking it tenderly.”

After some good-natured ribbing, Gary admitted that he didn’t bring his 1995 dark-green C4 coupe to the meeting because of the weather forecast.

“I put 300 miles on it last year,” he said. “It was a big year. I baby-sit grandkids, so I don’t get out much. I have eight grandchildren.”

Renee and John Steinwagner drove to O’Fallon from Aviston in her 2014 yellow C7 Stingray coupe. They didn’t dry it off, but they understood the urge.

“We all carry little cleaning kits that have towels and different car products to clean off bugs,” said Renee, 58, a retired AT&T employee. “And we have dusters to dust.”

Renee was wearing a yellow club T-shirt to match her Corvette, along with a stingray necklace and earrings and a bracelet that spelled out “VETTE” in rhinestones.

“I’m the club secretary, so my grandchildren bought me a yellow book bag to carry all my paperwork,” she said.

Pokey and his wife, Suzie, founded Lookingglass Corvette Club in 1976 with three other couples.

“We thought it would be good to get some people together with similar interests, to share information and knowledge and go places together and enjoy the vehicles,” said Suzie, 68, a retired administrative assistant.

Today, club activities range from luncheons to car shows, parades to road trips, “tech sessions” to holiday parties.

“This is our extended family,” said Amy Mullane, 50, also a pharmacist. “We went to Mount Rushmore (with the club) last year.

“There are so many members, there might be four different groups doing things together on any given weekend.”

Tammy and Keith Lochmann, of St. Jacob, are fairly new to the club, joining two years ago.

“Everybody is just so nice and personable,” said Tammy, 57, a doctor’s office employee. “It’s just fun. I’ve always been a homebody, but this has brought me out of my shell.

“(Joining the club) was the best decision we ever made together.”

The Lochmanns drove to the recent meeting in their 2013 red 427 convertible.

Keith, 61, a motor sports service manager, likes Corvettes because of their looks, horsepower and handling and because convertibles in particular are fun to drive.

“People say it’s a cult thing, but these are just people who enjoy cars that are sporty or flashy,” he said.

Beyond Corvette-related activities, the club also raises money for charitable causes through monthly 50/50 raffles.

For more information on Lookingglass Corvette Club, visit http://www.angelfire.com/retro/lookingglass/ or the Facebook page or call Pokey or Suzie Wildhaber at 618-210-8341.

“(Driving Corvettes) keeps you young,” Pokey said.

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