Tommy Hundley has always loved Chevrolets, particularly the sporty Corvettes. You could say it’s in his blood, thanks to his Chevy-loving father, Ellis Hundley, and his grandfather, Marion Matthews Jr. His uncle, Larry Matthews, loved them, too.

“All of them influenced me and my love of Chevrolet,” he said. “So, naturally, I was a fan of the only true American sports car, the Corvette.”

Growing up, a poster detailing the evolution of the Corvette hung on his bedroom wall, and he dreamed of one day buying his own. He still has the poster.

And a shiny 2005 Corvette in his garage.

“I basically purchased it for a couple of reasons, as validation for my hard work and it’s sitting there for my son, Ayden. It’s only got about 5,000 miles on it. Hopefully, it will be for him or my grandkids one of these days.”

Hundley is a successful businessman who links his hard work to his desire to own a Corvette.

“I have evolved my life around working hard for that,” he said. “It’s all driven by a desire and love of Chevrolet, especially the Corvette, a dream car for most Americans.”

Because of his passion for the cars, Hundley became friends with Mike Huff, owner of Bob Huff Chevrolet. He went from window-shopping at the dealership to becoming a customer.

“I bought my first car from Huff in 1990 and have been a loyal customer almost my whole life, except for a couple of times, which were mistakes,” Hundley said.

It was Huff and Hundley’s wife, Annessia, who conspired to get Hundley the biggest ticket in the country for Corvette lovers – a seat at the unveiling last month of the new mid-engine Corvette Stingray, completely redesigned for the eighth generation.

Only about 400 people, including the media, were lucky enough to attend the car’s official debut inside a military hangar in Tustin, California.

“It was incredible,” Hundley said. “It was mostly media with about 200 Corvette owners and 99 celebrities. But honestly, I never saw one, not the first one.”

Inside the massive, 17-story hangar every generation of Corvette was on display, along with three prototypes for a mid-engine Corvette that dated back to 1960 – it’s taken the company that long to proceed with a mid-engine car, Hundley said.

He added that it was an amazing experience to see the sports car go from front-engine to mid-engine, even though the change is not popular with some Vette lovers.

“Basically, the car had been developed to the point that they could no longer change it to improve it, so they had to change the foundation of it,” Hundley said. “Personally, I think it is a good thing. Like with all things, you have to evolve or you die. That is just how it works.”

Some of the best news out of the unveiling is the car’s price. The Corvette Stingray C8 starts at $60,000. Most people will never be able to afford supercars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis for $250,000 or more; the C8 is much more affordable, Hundley said.

Hundley said he had been “aggravating the crap” out of Huff every week for the past four years, hoping to get information on the car.

“I didn’t even know if it was real or not,” Hundley said. “Chevrolet kept it hush-hush until March, when the company announced the July unveiling.

Hundley owes his invitation to Huff and Annessia, who pursued the invitation with Huff’s help to celebrate Hundley’s 50th birthday in May.

“I’m just one very lucky person,” Hundley said. “It’s because I’ve been loyal to the brand and dealership for 30+ years. I’m not a special person, and I’m especially not a celebrity. I just can’t say enough for Mike and those guys (at the dealership), and having the relationships with those guys and all they for the community. Keeping it local – it’s the right thing to do and it helps the community.”

Hundley said the fact that he had just turned 50 was also in his favor because some astronauts were on hand for the unveiling and July 20 marked the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

“I was like a kid at Christmas,” Hundley said.

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com

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