Local Business

A quarter century of restoring Corvettes

McHENRY – Craig Cone is celebrating 25 years in a career that goes back to love at first sight.

Cone was 16 in 1963 when he bought from a classmate a 1954 Corvette – only the second model year that General Motors offered the venerable automobile. But his father made him sell it out of fear that the hot rod would kill the teenager.

He sold it for $200. It’s now worth a lot more than that – Cone says you’d be hard pressed to find a part to a 1954 Corvette cheaper than $200. And while Cone said he never let his dad live it down, his dad did set him on the road to where he is now. His McHenry-based business, CC Vette, is celebrating its 25th anniversary repairing and restoring Corvettes.

“I started this in my garage as a hobby, lost a corporate job, and decided to do this full-time,” Cone said in the front office of his garage.

His 1,500-square-foot garage on a cold Monday morning housed two Corvettes. He owns and drives the black 1963 split-window coupe – he bought it in 1986, sold it in 1992, and bought it back in 2006 when he found it for sale on eBay. To its left was a red 1969 435-horsepower convertible that Cone is refurbishing for a client.

And on the computer screen in the front of his office was a picture of a black 1954 Corvette restoration of which he is particularly proud.

The “before” picture of the car was taken in the barn garage in LaGrange where it had slowly been rotting away, in pieces, since 1972. A client bought it and asked Cone to make it a “restomod” – a classic car restored to look like the original but with modern parts and performance.

Earlier this year, the car was chosen for auction at Scottsdale, Ariz., by the prestigious Barrett Jackson Collector Car Auction. The auction last January cleared $106 million in sales.

The wall above Cone’s computer holds a blue ribbon he won in 2005 from the National Corvette Restorers Society for a 1964 Corvette he restored. Unfortunately for that car, the “after” picture on Cone’s computer was taken after the owner mangled it in a crash.

Cone’s restoration career started when he lost his job as a telecommunications executive in 1988. He had two choices – look for another full-time job despite the fact he had developed “a bad taste for corporate life,” or turn his full-time hobby into a business. Cone chose the latter.

“What’s that they say – do something you love and never work a day in your life? I’ve been accused of that,” Cone said.

The business that started in his home garage then moved to a garage in Woodstock, and eight years ago moved to its current site in Adams Industrial Park in McHenry.

Cone does more than restore and repair Corvettes – he and business partners come up with ways to improve them. Just off to the right of his latest remodeling job was a set of ZO-6 brakes for the more modern Corvette C6, for which he has engineered the parts to adapt them to models between 1963 and 1982. Cone said he is in the process of marketing them.

Cone said he intends to keep celebrating anniversaries for his one-man business. Retiring, he said, just wouldn’t make any sense.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I retired. If I retired, I’d still be doing this on a daily basis for something to do,” Cone said.

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CC Vette

What: A McHenry-based business celebrating its 25th anniversary repairing and restoring Corvettes.

Where: 2730 Barney Court, McHenry

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, and Saturdays by appointment.

Information: Call 815-344-1887 or visit www.ccvette.com.

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