Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Importance of June 30th

June 30th is an important day to Corvette Crazies because we celebrate the date on which the very first Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint Michigan:  June 30, 1953.

My dear friends, David and Pat Shawaker, natives of Michigan, somehow found a photograph of this momentous occasion and gave it to me for a birthday present -- you will find it hanging in my garage.

Twelve years ago the Corvette faithful decided to celebrate June 30th by designating the Friday in June closest to June 30th as "National Drive Your Corvette to Work Day".

A few years ago Professor John Elder of The Scripps Research Institute and I decided to honor the NDYCTWD.  John drove his white 61 and I drove my red 62.  It was great fun!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tank Sticker: The Holy Grail of Corvette Documentation

So I have a 45 year-old Stingray in my garage, purchased from the original California owner, with original paint, original engine, and even the original California license tags.  The Trim Tag next to the VIN tag confirms the build date (May 12, 1967) and the original paint and interior colors.  Heck, I even know the original owner because he lives down the street.  In Corvette restoration circles, however, all these "facts" are insufficient documentation to prove the authenticity of a car, primarily because some greedy people are creating fake cars with rare options and selling them to unsuspecting customers.

Beginning in 1967, GM used a computer-printed "build sheet" during assembly to indicate all the options of a car.  Somewhere just before the car rolled off the assembly line the build sheet was stuck on the upper surface of the gas tank, then the tank was bolted into the car.  The sheets have also become known as "tank stickers" If a restorer can secure the tank sticker he has absolute irrefutable proof of the originality and options of his vehicle.

Since my 67 Corvette was optioned with the very collectible L71 427-435 engine, it is really important to me to prove it, and the best proof is to secure the tank sticker.

A few nights ago I removed the gas cap and the rubber gasket between the filler tube and the body.  With a small flashlight I could peer into the gap to see the top of the gas tank, and sure enough, I could see what I thought was a tank sticker.  I couldn't be sure, though because of the accumulation of dirt.

On Sunday, Danny Schrokosch came to my garage on his Harley to execute our newest mission:  get the tank sticker!

We removed the spare tire well, the rear cross member, both mufflers and the filler tube.  Then we gently dropped the tank out of the car and onto the garage floor.  Yep, what I saw through the filler opening was in fact the original tank sticker.  The paper was thin, covered in 45 years of dirt, and very fragile.

Danny very gently brushed away the dirt revealing the original print out.  The 67 only came with eight options and each one was clearly spelled out on the form.  If you have never seen a tank sticker, here is what they look like!

We knew from the start that this car was all about racing.  Many options commonly found on a 67 Stingray were not ordered:  power brakes, power steering, power windows, air conditioning, and other amenities.  Instead this car had eight options:

Regular Production Options
Code Option
A01 Tinted Glass, all windows
F41 Special Performance, front and rear suspension
G81 Differential carrier, positraction
K19 Air Injection Reactor (Smog pump)
K66 Transistor Ignition Equipment
L71 Special High Performance, tri-carburetor
M21 4-Speed transmission, close ratio
U69 Radio, AM/FM Push button

And, to our joy, everything the tank sticker says the car should have on it, it does!  We found the Holy Grail for this unique car.

Now the question is, "What do we do with it?"  Danny thinks we should just drive it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

First Photos of Nan Actually Driving Nan's 56

There is a chance that I could hold two Guinness World Records:

(1) The shortest time for a regular guy in his home garage to do a complete frame-off restoration of an old Corvette: 147 days for the restoration of my 62 (really - fully documented); and

(2) the LONGEST time for a regular guy in his home garage to do a frame-off restoration:  5,052 days for the restoration of Nan's 56 (Labor day 1998 to June 30, 2012).

When we bought it, the 56 wasn't actually a car -- more like pieces of a car.  And since there was so little original about it we had the freedom to make it a functional, modern car.  We upgraded it with power disc brakes (front & rear), power rack and pinion steering (my own design), air conditioning, multi-speed wipers, power windows, GM Ram Jet electronic fuel injection, Fast-Burn 385 HP engine, 700-R4 overdrive 4-speed transmission, 3:55 Posi-traction rear-end, electric fans, aluminum radiator, shoulder seat belts, leather interior, Glide Engineering custom seat frames, custom Dayton wire wheels (with Corvette logo center caps), and more.

On Sunday, June 24, 2012 Nan finally got to drive the car!

Canon joined her for the maiden cruise!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Working around the Garage on Saturday, June 23, 2012

Savoring the fresh new interior of the 56 Corvette, Saturday was reserved for about 20 more tasks necessary to finish this car so that it can go to the NCRS show on June 30th.  We were very lucky to have some friends drop by to check my work and to see the 1967 Corvette.  Bill Brandon stopped by in his 2003 50th Anniversary Corvette that he purchased through his connection to me, my connection to Bill Goodwin, and Bill's connection to Howard Parzow in Maryland.  Soon Bill was joined by Jeff Smith who owns a Torch Red 2002 Coupe.  It is Jeff's "fault" that I also have a 2003 50th Anniversary car; after meeting Jeff at a Chevron Station in 2002 he let me drive his car and I decided I needed one.

Soon after Bill and Jeff left, Wayne Cowie stopped by for a visit.  Thanks to my buddies for encouraging me to get ready for NCRS.

Finishing the Interior of the 1956 Corvette

On Friday, June 22, 2012 I finally took the 1956 Corvette to Sickel's in Escondido so that they could finish the interior.  Everything in the interior is either white leather or blue to match the Nassau Blue of the exterior.  Edward had previously done masterful work on: covering the dash rail, covering the seat frames, and fabricating and installing custom carpets.

Friday's goals were to fabricate and install the door panels and kick panels.  We started at 7:30 AM.  Nothing on the 56 has ever been easy, and little obstacles popped up all day.  Finally at 7:30 PM we were done and I drove the 56 the 20 miles back home.

Special thanks to Dan Schrokosch for fabricating attach hardware for both the shoulder harnesses and the door pulls!  And to Felix of Sickel's for all his support over the past few years!

Friday, June 22, 2012

National Corvette Restorers Society Coming to San Diego!

The NCRS is coming to San Diego for their 2012 Annual Convention, so this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to take the 62 Corvette and the 56 Corvette to such an event.  Even better, NCRS is celebrating the "Year of the 1962 Corvette" in recognition of their 50th Anniversary.  The convention is from June 30th to July 4th.

June 30th is a big deal for the Corvette Fraternity -- I will explain why in a future post.

The 62 is pretty much ready to go.  Nice that the "Poster Car" for the Convention looks like mine, huh!? 

The 56 Corvette, on the other hand has been undergoing a restoration for 14 years.  I only have 7 days to finish the car and have spent every night and weekend for the past month getting it "done".  The interior was completed today -- nice new door panels and kick panels.  I'll clean everything up tomorrow and post a few shots of the interior.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Operation Corvette Rescue

My eighty-six year-old neighbor, Bill, walks every day to keep fit.  From time-to-time he will stop by my garage and tell me, “My son, Ron, used to race Corvettes!”  I never gave this much thought until December 28, 2011.  Bill and Ron came to see me for help.  Due to a lifestyle change, Ron is moving from his 30+ year home in El Segundo California to Carlsbad.  He told me that he has two Corvettes “trapped” in a garage at his El Segundo home – a 1965 former SCCA race car and a 1967 Corvette Coupe.  Ron is the original owner of the ’67; he purchased it with the 427/435 high performance engine, drove it on the street, and raced it as well as the 65.  The cars have been in a small two-car garage for about 12 years.

I decided rescuing two Corvettes that were trapped in a tiny garage would be a great adventure, so I asked a few close friends to help out:  Don Kingery because he knows all about 63 – 67 Stingrays; Joe Jezisek because he knows big-block Corvette engines (and owns a garage-door repair business – you will see why this is important later); and Dan Schrokosch, because he knows everything about cars.  The four of us agreed to execute the rescue together.  Nan provided logistical support and encouragement.  Danny and Joe would bring their trucks and trailers.

After a few failed attempts in March and April to get the cars due to scheduling issues, we finally got clearance to go with Bill to get the cars on Saturday, June 2nd.  The cars were jammed into a small garage with a completely failed old-style tilt door.  The cars could not come out until the door was replaced and the door couldn’t be replaced until the cars were moved.  The resolution to this impasse was that a local garage door company was supposed to remove the old door, then we would extract the cars, then the new door could be installed.  When we arrived at Ron’s house the old garage door was still in place.  I called the service and they were now refusing to work on the door until the cars were “out of their way”.

Joe instantly found a solution.  Along with his buddy, Matt (who joined us for the day), the old garage door was torn off the house board-by-board!  Nice that the Rescue Team had a garage door expert!

Imagine our joy to find the cars inside relatively unharmed.  All the tires were flat after 12 years.  We pumped them up and miraculously they held.  But the brake pads had rusted to the rotors!  After breaking them loose, we were able to get the 67 Coupe out!

The 65 Race car had 4 wheels but only two tires.  Luckily I had brought two tires off my 62 Corvette.  After finding some spacers in the garage we then had the race car liberated.

Then we caravaned back to San Diego to put the cars safely in my garage. 

Many thanks to the Operation Corvette Rescue Team (left to right):  Bill, Matt, Joe, Dan. Me, Nan and Don!

The ending of this story became clear on Father's Day 2012:  A local San Diego SCCA race car enthusiast purchased the 65 car and Nan and Canon purchased the 67 car for me!  I love happy endings!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today I begin the journey of sharing my life-long passion for cars, especially Corvettes, with friends and family through a blog.  What prompted this event?  Two days ago, on Father's Day, my wife, Nancy and daughter, Canon, bought me a 1967 Corvette Stingray Coupe with the somewhat rare and very powerful 427 cubic inch, 435 HP engine.  I have always wanted a Stingray (1963 to 1967) but until now had never owned one.  The story of this 50 year journey to Stingray ownership will gradually unfold on these blog pages.

To my family, my fellow Corvette enthusiasts, and all my friends, I thank you for encouraging me all these years!