FRANK ALLEN'S PASSION FOR AMERICA'S SPORTSCAR
Sportscars can add panache to an automaker’s brand. Stylish, two-seat, high-performance machines get front cover placement in automotive magazines, bring pride to employees and traffic into showrooms. On the other hand, a car with a seat for the driver and just one other occupant is hardly practical and that’s why so few stay in the brand’s portfolio. Chevrolet launched its Corvette 70-years ago in 1953 as a sports roadster, powered with a relatively stoic, straight six-cylinder engine. Crosstown rival Ford responded two-years later with its two-seat Thunderbird, a bit heavier V-8 powered boulevard cruiser. But by then, Corvette had a new V8 and in 1956 offered two, four-barrel carburetors and in ’57 optional fuel injection. The V8-powered Corvettes were successfully raced while the T-Birds cruised and in 1958, Ford’s Robert McNamara (later our Defense Secretary) made non-sports official with a big, comfy four-place T’Bird coupe. Now there’s some fun trivia for your next cocktail or tire kicking gathering.
Frank Allen fell in love with Corvette in his early college years when a fellow student owned a shiny new ’72 convertible. It was Frank’s first encounter with the real machine and he was able to drive it, cementing what was to be a lasting relationship. After graduating from University of Georgia in 1976, Allen skipped the cap and gown ceremony to celebrate America’s 200th birthday by riding a bicycle across the nation from Jamestown, Virginia to Seaside, Oregon. He packed 50-pounds of camping gear for the 84-day journey, with our five mountain ranges the most challenging portions.
In 1977, after beginning his professional career in metro Atlanta as a mortgage banker, he bought his first Corvette, a ’75 Stingray owned by a friend from UGA who had ordered a new ’78 model. It was Allen’s only car and as the mileage and maintenance accumulated, he sold the Corvette in 1980. A career in new home creations with National Homebuilders along with marriage and family took Frank out of Corvette ownership for nearly two decades, but in 1999 he bought his second Corvette, the dramatically improved fifth generation with fresh styling and increased performance. He loved this Light Pewter ‘Vette enough to treasure it 24-years and accumulating just 19,000-miles over that time. In fact, this like new sportscar only experienced rain one time during a return from the Corvette plant and museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky after a major celebration for the brand.
When the dramatic new 2023 mid-engine Corvette was announced, Frank was smitten and began the process of securing one of the new, and very hard to acquire, models. There was little frantic pressure since his ’99 was as good as new in appearance and condition, so he did his homework, checking which dealers sold Corvettes without a markup over the retail price. Jacksonville’s Coggin Chevrolet was clearly one and Cary Watkins was the dealer’s Corvette specialist. Watkins worked with Frank to build just the right car, a Hypersonic Grey Metallic 3LT model with black leather interior with red stitching and red seatbelts. The brake calipers are also finished in red and a performance exhaust system adds its occasional orchestral notes. Engine sonnets aren’t Allen’s only music rewards. He serves in the music ministry at the First Baptist Church in Fernandina Beach and helped our Amelia Legends car club stage a cars and coffee gathering there on a recent Saturday where members brought canned goods and other supplies for the church’s community outreach programs. Frank lobbied his lovely wife Sonja to keep the ’99 Corvette but sold it his nephew who, along with his son, will show the car until the lad graduates from college. That’s an incentive for keeping a good grade point average.