NORTH BENNINGTON>> Edward Chaisson was 19-years-old when he saw it on a car lot in southeastern Massachusetts: A red 1984 Chevy Corvette.
The Quincy, Mass. native bought it for $7,500 in 1995. He drove it a year before joining the Air Force and placed it in storge. It moved from one place to another, and eventually he sold it.
"When I was a kid in high school, these cars were it — they were the car you had to have," Chaisson, now a York, Maine resident, said Friday. Driving it, he said, "was like riding on rails. You couldn't ask for anything better."
He's since had five Corvettes, he said, but never forgot his first because of the sentimental value.
But thanks to some sleuthing and an anonymous tip, Chaisson tracked the Corvette down to a North Bennington barn and bought it this month for a second time.
He was working as a tow-truck driver, he said, when it came onto a Hanover, Mass. car dealership's lot.
"It was a Florida car — a couple drove it from Cape Cod every year," he said. "The top was faded and it needed a paint job."
He drove it for a year, he said, before he joined the air force. The car moved from one garage to another as he was stationed 3,500 miles away. He sold it in 2000.
"I was a punk kid, but this started making me a grown man," he said. He had to make car payments so his mom, the cosigner, wouldn't kill him. And he credits that responsibility to be one reason he went back to get a high school diploma.
The car also represented a link to his father, he said, whom died when he was young. Chaisson learned that the day he pulled into his uncle's driveway just after buying the car.
"My uncle said to me, 'Your old man had a Corvette just like this,'" he said.
In February, Chaisson ran a CarFax report on the car — he had previously found an old Massachusetts vehicle registration in a car magazine.
"I nearly passed out when I ran it," he said. "On my screen, it said the car had just been registered last June in Bennington."
Chaisson tried making calls to town halls and even the police, but didn't have any luck. He, his wife and dogs hit the road to southern Vermont the week before Easter. He put up fliers at local businesses, including coffee shops and Hemmings Motor News.
"My hope," he wrote, "is that somebody out there will identify the vehicle and help me get in contact with the present owner with the hopes of finally reuniting with this car after all this time."
Based on an email from someone who wanted to remain anonymous, Chaisson met up with Richard Rowe, of Cambridge, N.Y., who bought the car two years ago and stored it in a North Bennington barn.
A previous owner had it garaged for 12 years, Chaisson said. In the 15 years since Chaisson sold it, the car was barely driven 15,000 miles.
After negotiating with Rowe, Chaisson said, he bought the car for $7,500, the same price he paid in 1995.
"It's an absolute time capsule," Chaisson said. "It still has the same muffler. It smells exactly the same, rides the same." He joked that "everything on the car that was broken 20 years ago is still broken... The power antenna, the dashboard."
So what now, given it's sitting in his garage with his other Corvette and a motorcycle? A new paint job and new tires are likely, he said. But Chaisson said any upgrades he's going to make will be mostly decorative. It's the memories of driving his first Corvette that he cares about.
"It's the same car I had 20 years ago."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979