Jeni Yeakel-Swanson, a real-estate lawyer in San Diego, on her 1964 Chevrolet Corvette “Nuclear Carrot” race car, as told to A.J. Baime.
When I was growing up, my dad, Fred Yeakel, raced a 1957 Corvette. I went to races with him, and when I was old enough, I told him, “Dad, I want to drive!” He said, “First you have to learn how to work on the car.”
He taught me all about how that 1957 Corvette worked, and ultimately, I started driving on a racetrack. I said, “There’s no horsepower in this car.” He said, “You don’t need horsepower to drive well. Learn to drive well, then we will add horsepower.” Which is exactly what we did.
Photos: A Corvette, Restored to Its Former Glory
This Chevrolet Corvette, nicknamed ‘Nuclear Carrot,’ was restored using old photos, and now looks like it did in the 1960s.
In 2007, he found the car pictured here in an ad in Vintage Motorsport magazine. It was painted red and the owner had it in storage outside Milwaukee. When we bought it, it came with documentation on its history. An Illinois-based driver had purchased the vehicle (it had been a theft recovery) and built it out as a race car in the 1960s. A piece of the front was missing, so he used parts he got from a junkyard.
Using old photos, my dad restored the car to what it had been in the 1960s. He was driving a Bill Thomas Cheetah race car at the time, and I like to think that he bought the Corvette for me. I have been the primary driver and my name is painted on the car next to the original sponsor from the 1960s—Tero Corvette of Rolling Meadows, Ill.
We started going to races up and down the west coast, from San Diego to Portland, Ore. We trailered our cars together, had our pits side by side, and sometimes even raced against one another. Along the way, a family friend, the late Mike Scott, gave this car its nickname: Nuclear Carrot.
Last year, under my dad’s supervision, I rebuilt the 327 V8. I took it apart and put it back together with new rods, pistons, the works.
Our next race will be at Sonoma Raceway, in the spring. To get the car ready, I will drive from San Diego on Saturdays to Anaheim, where the car resides. Sometimes my husband, daughter and best friend, Leslie Verfaillie, will come, and my dad will be there. I love to race and I love working on this car, but what I love most is doing those things with my family.
Contact A.J. Baime at Facebook.com/ajbaime