Is the disappearance of the brand specific auto shops upon us?

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Legendary Vancouver-area specialty shop Corvette Specialties shutting its doors this month after 54 years

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Corvette Specialties is shutting its doors after 54 years in business. The 17,000 square foot building that has been a Vancouver-area fixture at the Surrey end of the Pattullo Bridge since the mid-Eighties will turn off the shop compressor and showroom lights for the last time on May 15th.

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For more than five decades, brothers Bruce and Glenn Iggulden have bought, sold and repaired thousands of Corvettes.  They also worked on painting a Lamborghini Countach and a Ferrari Testarossa along with race cars, hot rods and classics.

The closing of their business follows a trend of shops that specialize in one brand of car shutting down in urban centres or moving to less expensive locations.  Retirements, high land values, soaring taxes, difficulty in finding skilled workers and other reasons are making it harder for these unique automotive repair and restoration companies to stay in business. And that makes it more challenging for owners to maintain their aging and classic vehicles. The Iggulden brothers are retiring, their property has been sold to a developer and high-rise condominiums are on the horizon for the 2.5-acre site.

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Glenn and Bruce Iggulden at the entrance to Corvette Specialties that is closing after more than half a century in business.
Glenn and Bruce Iggulden at the entrance to Corvette Specialties that is closing after more than half a century in business. Photo by Alyn Edwards

“It’s time to wrap it up,” 74-year-old Bruce Iggulden says. “It’s been a great ride.”

Bruce has loved cars all his life and started working on them as a teenager growing up in Surrey with three brothers. He was barely out of his teens when he bought his first Corvette: A 1963 roadster. “I told the owner I would buy the car, only if he took that garbage off the top of the engine and put a carburetor on it,” Bruce recalls of his misstep with a rare fuel-injected Corvette. Today, the fuel injection unit alone could bring up to $15,000.

He opened his own shop at the age of 21 after a brief start with two other Corvette enthusiasts in a business they called 3 Vettes. When that partnership didn’t last, Bruce went out on his own.

Younger brother Glenn started sweeping the floors after school at age 14 and was soon doing body work on the fiberglass Corvettes.  At that young age, Bruce realized that, if he was going to make the auto industry his career, there would be no one there at the end to supply with a pension income unless he supplied one for himself. So, he went out on a limb and bought his first building as a strata title in Surrey’s Newton area.

“I was fixing a lot of Corvettes and people heard about that and brought more for repairs,” he says. “The business kept growing and I had to expand so we built a 10,000 square foot building.” Soon, even that building wasn’t big enough. In 1982, he learned of a gas station property for sale at the major intersection of Scott Road and King George Highway adjacent to the south end of the Pattullo Bridge linking New Westminster to Surrey. It was a high traffic area with a convenient location.

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“It was owned by an oil company. I was told to make an offer with a 10 per cent deposit,” he recalls. “My offer was accepted. Then I had to come up with the whole purchase price in 30 days.”

He was able to close the deal with help from a close relative, but he needed to find a purchaser for the shop in Newton to enable construction of a new 17,000 square foot building.

He got lucky. A graphics company with an identical building next to his business had won the B.C. government contract to produce license plates and had an urgent need to expand. They bought Bruce’s building, and he was able to close the deal for the bare land on which he would construct the Corvette Specialties building featuring a mechanical repair shop, body shop, parts department, offices and a showroom. Glenn ran the repair and body shop while Bruce dealt with customers, buying and selling Corvettes and running an online Corvette parts business.

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“At one time, we had over 40 Corvettes out in front – all for sale,” he says. “There were seven restored 435 horsepower 1967 Corvettes in our showroom. They are worth 10 times what we were selling them for back then.”

A youthful Bruce Iggulden with his bronze 1968 Corvette.
A youthful Bruce Iggulden with his bronze 1968 Corvette. Photo by Submitted

In the mid-Seventies, Bruce stumbled upon one of the rarest Corvettes in existence: a 1953 Corvette General Motors Motorama show car. It was registered as a 1954 Corvette, but it was different than any he had seen. It had a hardtop, roll up windows and chrome throughout the engine compartment. He knew it had been a show car. His research shows that it was number 260 of the 300 first-year Corvettes produced in 1953. It had been taken off the assembly line and made over into a show car by the manufacturer.

General Motors built one Corvette for its Motorama display in the U.S. Corvette with the serial number E53F001260 was specially built and painted candy copper/bronze for display at the 1954 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. This became the first Corvette to feature a removeable hardtop, roll up windows and a glove compartment inside the kick panel – the formula for the 1956 Corvette introduced to compete directly with Ford’s two-passenger Thunderbird.

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The restoration-in-progress General Motors Motorama Corvette will be taken home so parts expert Bruce and body man/painter Glenn can complete the rebuild of one of the most historic Corvettes in existence as Corvette Specialties fades out of sight in the rearview mirror.

Bruce and Glenn will still keep in touch with their customers for help and advice by email, [email protected], by phone at 604-580-8388 or the online at corvettepartsworldwide.com

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in a Vancouver-based public relations company. Contact him at [email protected]

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Alyn Edwards

Alyn Edwards used paper route money to buy a 1934 Ford coupe at the age of 14 intending to turn it into a California style chopped and channeled hot rod. His interest in cars has endured throughout his working life as a newspaper reporter, feature writer and communications consultant. He is a partner in a Vancouver-based public relations company and is passionate about restoring classic cars and writing stories about people who cherish the special cars in their life.

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