Nestled in a strip mall on the south side of US Highway 125, just west of Amelia, sits a local legend about which very few people know. This stretch of Ohio Pike is dotted with buildings and open fields, reflecting the development that has been undertaken in this area over the past decade or so. And those signs stand tall along the road announcing their intentions to all. Except for one shop which, if you didn’t know where to look, you could pass it by. That is unless you’re a Corvette fan.

Eastern Corvettes (Vette Photo 1) is one of the most famous specialty restoration shops in the country and yet unless you are one of those people looking to have their C1, C2 or C3 Vette worked on or restored, you probably don’t know it’s here. The shop does everything from basic repairs to complete restorations for customers from all over the country. They have even worked on cars from around the world.

Steve Hack started the company in 1986. “He was doing it before that for friends but in 86 that was his full time job,” said his son, Mike, who now runs much of the day-to-day operations.

In mid-80s the Corvette hobby was filled with aftermarket modifications. These owners were essentially turning their cars into hot rods with pipes and blowers poking out and robbing the integrity of the original designs.

“Dad saw the cars as an art form so he thought about going back to original parts,” said Mike. This belief in keeping things original remains as the shop’s philosophy. It was born out of a 1964 Vette Steve bought out of a barn in Owensville which he set about restoring to be completely original.

Steve began doing basic maintenance and oil changes for a few friends who then referred their friends. Then around this time came a change in the way many car shows were being judged. Keeping the car as close to original spec as possible became the desired norm. Steve saw an opening and began offering restoration services. Today, Eastern Corvettes will do every aspect of restoration except body work and paint which they hand off to a trusted partner. (Vette Photo 2)

“People bring their car here for a specialty and they trust that you have good subcontractors to finish that part of the job,” said Mike.

When doing a complete restoration, Mike said, they will completely strip the car to bare fiberglass and gut all of the mechanicals. They take apart the engine and the drive train, pull off the suspension, take apart all of the interior fixtures, and will even shim the frame as needed. Basically they are undoing what the factory did when it initially put the car together.

During this time Mike will be making spreadsheets of which parts can be used and which need to be replaced. Every part down to the smallest nuts and bolts are accounted for on the spreadsheets. The spreadsheets make up a large and thorough folder that illustrates every detail of the job. Mike is proud of this meticulous record keeping because it ensure that the customer can authenticate every aspect of the job. It is this attention to detail that has won so many Eastern Corvette restorations the highest possible awards. And that is what brings in new customers and has existing customers coming back.

An example of this was evident in a black 1963 split window (Vette Photo 3) that was in the shop a couple of months ago. The car belongs to a man who lives in Wyoming who will trailer his cars 2000 miles to have Mike and company work on them. “This is the second black ’63 split window we’ve done for him,” said Mike.

While 2000 miles is a long way to travel in order to have a car worked on, it is not the furthest one has come to end up at Eastern Corvettes. Through a friend in West Virginia, Mike got hold of a light blue 1959 Vette (Vette Photo 4) owned by a person in the United Kingdom.

All was well and good until it came time to paint. “I talked to the owner, who I only talked to three times before, and he said he wanted it painted Tiffany blue. He said he was going to ship us a box in case it was a different color than the ones we have here,” explained Mike. Mike then met with representatives of Sherman Williams paint to come up with the exact color. Which is a good thing because the car was ultimately used in the procession for the royal wedding of Prince William and Cate Middleton.

Another time there was a car in Washington, DC that was shipped in for work. After the Vette was restored it was sold and then shipped halfway around the world to a collector in Australia. It became the highest scoring Corvette for originality in Australian history.

Not all cars come from overseas or across the country. Much of their work is centered around the Tri-State but they do get a fair number of cars from nearby states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. Quite often the cars come from repeat customers. The reason being that the finished cars not only meet but generally exceed expectations.

The workshop at Eastern Corvettes is relatively small (Vette Photo 5). “There are normally seven cars being worked on at a time,” explained Mike.

While the workshop itself may be small, the walls are filled with pictures of cars they have restored. When asked about the cars in the photos, Mike will talk about their successes in shows as winners of various concours events and of the all-important scores from Bloomington Gold, the most prestigious judging event for Corvettes in the entire world. Many of the cars that have gone through Eastern Corvettes have received the highest possible rating from that event.

As one would expect, Mike and his father have worked with Bloomington Gold quite extensively over the years. Their expertise in all things Vette makes them a valuable asset.

“We’re the first father-son team to judge at Bloomington. Dad is the only person who is a judge, vendor and a senior instructor. He taught seminars for 10 years at Bloomington Gold,” said Mike. Mike has joined in on the instruction as well, helping to teach judges what to look for when they are judging Corvettes.

“They tend to use me a lot for things,” said Mike. Not only is his knowledge about the cars important but so too is the fact that he represents a younger generation in a hobby that is seen as aging. “I’m in my 30s and not in my 60s,” he added.

Knowing these cars so well brings in some unexpected cars. Even Corvette experts come to see Mike to get their cars restored. The founder of the National Corvette Restorers Society has had a car done at Eastern Corvettes.

To be able to see some of these magnificent automobiles is quite a treat. In fact, anyone who was at the Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance in Ault Park last month got to see two of the cars that had gone through Eastern Corvettes. One, a 1967 Sting Ray (Vette Photo 6) that was the highest rated ’67 at the 2015 Bloomington Gold. The other, a rare but period accurate Laguna Blue 1966 (Vette Photo 7) that was a special restoration in conjunction with the concours.

While the goal may seem to be to earn the highest accolades and awards possible, that isn’t always the case. According to Mike, every project, every build is designed to meet the needs and desires of the owner.

“You may bring us a car that you want nice looking and reliable. Another owner may want us to spend as much as it takes,” said Mike. “Every car we’ve restored has gotten the award it was designed to get.”

That is the exact reason why, tucked away in a small strip mall on Ohio Pike just west of Amelia sits a true hidden gem.

Vette Photo 1

 

Vette Photo 2

Vette Photo 3

Vette Photo 4

Vette Photo 5

Vette Photo 6

Vette Photo 7