This Corvette Is Strangely, Perfectly At Home In Iceland
Story by Sigfús B. Sverrisson // Photography by Birgir Kristinsson and Björn Kristinsson
I travelled to the U.S. in 1970 when I was 10, and saw the “Sharkbody” C3 Chevrolet Corvette with my own eyes—that moment in time is edged into my mind because it took my breath away! The gleaming, red, rocket of a car with the most unbelievable design lines I had ever seen; it looked like it was going 200 mph standing still. It was outside of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant where I also had my first taste of an Ice cream soda, and loving it during the heat wave we were experiencing
I decided then and there I would have a Corvette when I grew up!
Ten years later, I bought one of the two Corvettes in Iceland, my home country, and had great adventures with it—including a huge repair after it was attacked by horses toting wheelbarrows. (A true story, for another time!)
Twenty-one years after I sold my first Corvette, I had the means to buy a well-preserved C3 from California, via eBay. It’s the last of the sharks, in white—a 1982, 350 – L83, with “Crossfire” injection and a 4-speed automatic, with only two prior owners and original paint…although it had worn through on some sharp edges from polishing! Perfect to work on and cruise around in while in Florida.
When the Corvette arrived, it was with some disappointment: the door seals were very tired and a lot of water had leaked into the cabin, as it had rained non-stop during the transport across country! The scent that accumulated there was like something terrible was growing inside, and the carpet had to be thrown out. Later, I also replaced the leather seat cushions and then the new car smell returned to my “Great White”.
My uncle Robert took care of driving the Corvette twice a month like clockwork, driving around the neighborhood, waving to the dames he would come across. During this time, the Corvette did not leak a drop of oil—after he died, the Corvette would stand idle in between my visits and I had to put big trays on the floor to catch all the oil!
I always intended to ship the Corvette to Iceland, but the Shark did not want to move to the cold. The day before I was going to drive up north, I took the Corvette for the last ride around the neighborhood to make sure everything was ok. It started acting up, when driving ahead it would turn to the right, and under braking it would turn to the left. I first thought that I had a flat so I checked the air…but that was spot on. So I went for another ride and just as I got back, lots of black smoke started pouring from the left wheel well. I went outside to check and the brake disc was glowing red and the pad was literally melting down: a brake piston was stuck.
This Corvette was going nowhere, as I had to leave in the morning.
Before my next visit, I had ordered Stainless brake calipers and everything to go with them to fix the problem, and since I was dirty anyway, I also updated the suspension—which in the Corvette had been virtually unchanged since 1963. Completely new suspension and shocks puts it up to about 1996 Corvette standards, which should be adequate for a C3.
After some more small repairs, the Corvette and I were ready to go to Iceland, but low and behold, when we arrived at the station, it closed because of Hurricane Sandy! This delayed the trip about a week, and when I finally got to Virginia Beach, the Eimskip shipping people had to work extra hard to make sure that the Corvette got on board in the last container loaded on ship.
While the ship was steaming towards Iceland, I was busy preparing for the Corvette’s arrival: I had to go to the Icelandic DMW to get registration papers for the customs authorities anyway, and I wanted to get a vanity license plate for my American car—and I’ve always wanted “JAWS”…But the DMV computer said no—so I waited to decide on a plate. The importation went like clockwork, but I wanted to have the Corvette painted before registration, so off to the paint shop it went: when doing a complete makeover, always calculate double the time for paint…and then double again: this applies anywhere in the world.
When I finally got the Corvette back, I also took my own sweet time with the reassembly. But one day, I was at Harpa, the concert hall, which is now the new hotspot for cruising in Reykjavik…when my old red Corvette shows up! I had heard that it had been sold back to Reykjavik from Djupivogur in the east of Iceland where it had been most of the time since I sold it. What was unbelievable is that she still had the GoodYear Wingfoot tires that I bought in 1981, 35 years ago! I was mighty happy to sit in the Red Corvettes driver’s seat again, and right away got into gear to finish what I had started with my new Corvette.
Back to the DMW to finish the registration but this time a beautiful girl bubbling with life was taking care of me—so I, of course, asked her if I could get the only correct vanity plate for the car—and she did not consult the computer but called the jail directly, where the plates are made. So thanks to her and her personality, “JAWS” is the number! In Iceland, cars have to go to an inspection station where they check everything out, and they were amazed at how low the emission numbers were from the Corvette—the lowest they had ever seen for a classic V8, and JAWS passed the inspection with flying colors.
During the restoration of my Corvette, I tried to simplify everything to emphasize the basic racy lines which are so wonderful: all badges are removed, the vent trim color-keyed, I removed the horrid sidelights, removed the antenna, and closed the hole. All mechanical modifications have lightened the weight, and now I have to address the power of the engine with a new manifold called “Renegade” and true dual exhaust. Last on the list are daylight running lights, without having the main lights open.
My wife and I had an ’80s date the other day. We went cruising in the Corvette through downtown Reykjavik, had a wonderful dinner Fish & Chips (naturally, with fresh Atlantic cod), desert at the ice cream parlor Ísbúd Vesturbaejar (with the best ice cream in town), and enjoyed the sunset at the Grotta Lighthouse. I guess I was hurrying home—as we got a speeding ticket courtesy of the Reykjavik Police Department, something that has not happened in 25 years.
It was déjà vu everything, just like 1980—and still a wonderful day. The best part was when the police officer said: “I know it’s a Corvette, but what make is it…Dodge?”