Passion pays off for Washougal car enthusiast

Jon Corral wins grand prize in national Champion Auto Parts contest

Jon Corral, his wife, Alyssa, and their dog, Louie, enjoy a springtime evening in front of their Washougal home. Jon, a 2004 Camas High School graduate, builds cars inside his two-car garage.

Jon Corral put a completely rebuilt 1973 engine in a 1973 K5 Blazer more than two years ago. Two of Corral's Camas High classmates, Nick and Richard Lynch, along with Corral's father, Jim, assisted with the project. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jon Corral)

Jon Corral, of Washougal, is restoring this 1972 Black Diamond Chevelle, using $5,000 he received as a grand prize winner in the Champion Auto Parts' Search for a Champion contest. The Chevelle will be displayed at the Specialty Equipment Markets Association Show in Las Vegas, in October. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jon Corral)

Jon Corral started restoring this 1972 Chevelle SS when he was 12, and he finished the project during his senior year at Camas High School in 2004. He grew up around old cars with his father, Jim, and grandfather, Armando Sr. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jon Corral)

Jon Corral, of Washougal, grew up steeped in the beauty and craftsmanship of classic cars.

His father, Jim, and grandfather, Armando Sr., collected and drove classic automobiles. His uncle had a 1969 Chevelle, and his best friend and fellow 2004 Camas High School graduate, Nick Lynch, still has a 1972 Pontiac GTO passed down by Nick’s mother.

“I also had a childhood friend in West Linn, Oregon, whose father had multiple Chevelles that we would ride in and sometimes drive before we were of age,” Corral said.

He started his first car restoration project — involving a blue 1972 Chevelle SS — at the age of 12 when he was still in middle school. The project took up more than four years of Corral’s life. He finished it when he was the ASB president during his senior year at CHS in 2004.

He’s been a classic car and hot rod restoration enthusiast ever since. Now, his hobby and passion is starting to pay off.

Corral, 32, recently won a $5,000 grand prize in a national contest sponsored by Champion(R) brand of automotive products. He will use the prize money to restore and enhance a 1972 Chevrolet “Black Diamond” Chevelle that will be displayed in October at the Specialty Equipment Markets Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.

“I represent any and all guys and gals who work a normal 9 to 5 job and tinker on their own projects in their spare time,” Corral said.

Corral’s father, along with his former CHS classmates Nick and Richard Lynch, have helped with several automotive projects including that first restoration of a ’72 Chevelle, as well as a 1977 C10 pickup, a 1973 K5 Blazer and the ’72 Black Diamond Chevelle.

Corral’s wife, Alyssa, and a friend who is a painter, Chris Jensen, are helping with the restoration of the ’72 Black Diamond Chevelle.

Corral said Alyssa tolerates and supports him in his automotive endeavors. They recently welcomed “Louie,” a puppy they named in honor of Louis Chevrolet, co-founder of the Chevrolet Motor Co. The Corral’s previous dog, “Chevy,” died at the age of 12, in February.

“He was our shop dog,” Corral said.

Corral said some people have their cars restored or they customize certain components to perform better with current steering, suspension, brakes, engine and electrical upgrades. The customizations can still maintain the old school feel of an original classic muscle car.

Corral entered the Champion(R) Auto Parts’ Search for a Champion contest as an “In the Garage” nominee, the category for do-it-yourselfers.

He works on his car projects in his home’s two-car garage.

His day job, as an e-commerce market manager, involves selling hot rod parts online. Corral uses the on-air name “Class1c” and produces a show, Friendly Fire Radio, streamed through the Dash Radio digital platform.

Corral sees winning the “Search for a Champion” contest and displaying a car at the SEMA show as a possible path to owning a hot rod restoration business.

“I’m just trying to do it on a bigger level and prove that you can build just as nice of a car without all the need of a professional shop,” Corral said.