One Broken Corvette Leads to Decades-Long Restoration Career
Corvette restorer owes his career to his mentors, local community, mechanical gifts, and a whole lot of luck.
No matter what Corvette we have in our garage, we definitely enjoy working on our cars to keep them at their best, and to bring out more of their best. For most of us, though, we may not either have much time or much skill to do the things we dream of doing with our ‘Vettes. Thus, we wait for things to work out, or hand our cars to someone who can make our dreams come true.
For one man, however, a busted Corvette convertible was all it took to make his dream come true. Wilson, North Carolina newspaper The Wilson Times has the story of local restorer Donnie Hall Jr., who has been working on Corvettes since his 20s.
Hall Jr. was 20 when he paid $300 for a 1966 Corvette convertible which had been in a roll-over. His friends believed he couldn’t bring the Corvette back to life, but through his inherent mechanical skill and a few parts, Hall Jr.’s ‘Vette was back on the road a year later. He then kept it “for four or five years” before selling it to buy the next of many Corvettes to come into his long life.
A few years before that fateful purchase, he and his double first cousin, Alton Ray, made a promise to each other to work on cars of all sorts when they got older. Unfortunately, his cousin was killed by a train on October 13, 1965, an accident that’s still with Hall Jr. to this day, along with the promise he made. Through a pair of mentors, Hall Jr. learned the ins and outs of auto body work throughout his early 20s, building upon his natural gift along the way.
Fast-forward to 1979, Hall Jr. buys an old diner with money from the sale of a pair of Corvettes, a purchase that didn’t sit too well with his wife. He made a promise to her that he would do “real good work” on the cars that would come through, work so good that customers would come far and wide, and not even bother asking how much it would cost to do it. Thus was born Donnie’s Corvette Specialists.
Today, Hall Jr. works on as many as eight cars at a time, doing almost everything from bodywork to sewing the seats; he leaves the parts machining to others. He also has “a rusted ’57 GMC wrecker” that he’s made into a clone of beloved Cars character Mater, eyes and goofy grin included. The tribute draws a lot of people to his shop, including a few who might need a Corvette worked on in the future.
For Hall Jr., working on Corvettes is something he looks forward to doing every day, adding that it’ll all he’ll ever do for the rest of his day. We salute you, Donnie.
Top photo by Drew C. Wilson/Wilson Times