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Air Of Superiority

Gary Carlston is flying high with his '67 427 "Air Car"

Rob Wallace, III Aug 26, 2002

What does it take to be declared a certified Corvette nut? We're not sure that there is a simple, clear-cut description for this condition, but we have no doubt that Gary Carlston qualifies--no matter how the term is defined!

Gary, an airline pilot who resides in Glendale, Arizona, has had a long-time love affair with Chevrolet's magical 'glass cars. He has been a Corvette enthusiast ever since he saw his first Vette at age nine. When he was 15 years old, Gary had the privilege to ride in a Corvette for the very first time when his uncle (who owned a couple of car dealerships) brought home a '63 convertible and took him for a spin. It was several more years before Gary got his first chance to drive a Corvette, again thanks to his uncle, who gave Gary's cousin a '66 427/425hp roadster to drive. Each new experience only served to heighten Gary's already fervent passion for America's Sports Car.

Because of numerous family and financial priorities, Gary's Vette-related dreams were relegated to the sidelines for many long years. Finally, in August 1989, Gary and his ever-so-patient and equally-indulgent wife, Sherry, bought their first Corvette--a red-on-red, "4+3" '86 coupe. Since then, Gary has been on a mission to make up for lost time, dedicating house and home to his plastic obsession in the forms of toys, models, paintings, posters, carpets, signs, clothes...well, you get the idea. And, to date, he has brought home 11 real Vettes.

Gary's immense garage/shop is like a Corvette oasis in the middle of the suburban Arizona desert; it is overflowing with memorabilia and currently houses six Corvettes (including a friend's mid-year vintage road racer). But the centerpiece of Gary's collection is a meticulously restored '67 big-block "Air Car".

The numbers-matching Marlboro Maroon 427/400hp coupe is equipped with an M-21 Muncie four-speed close-ratio transmission and Posi-traction differential with the original 3.36:1 ring-and-pinion. Its stock 15x7-inch wheels have received upgraded 205/75-R15 radial tires all around for better ride and handling properties. The 400hp L68 rat motor is equipped with three two-barrel Holley carburetors and factory side exhaust, all of which produce a nice, stump-pulling 460 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Other than air, this coupe is equipped with little that is not performance-oriented. It has power brakes, and inside is a Saddle-colored vinyl interior and carpeting.

Any Sting Ray Corvette equipped with factory A/C is a rare find. For instance, only 3,788 of the 22,940 '67 Corvettes built came equipped with the OE Frigidaire C60 air-conditioning units. That's a mere 16.5 percent of all '67 Vettes equipped with cold air. Back then, GM did not keep production figures that cross-referenced combinations of options, except with coupe or convertible which had different VIN numbers. Thus, we know that 1,553 convertibles were equipped with air in addition to 2,235 coupes.

There is no way to say for certain how those 3,788 air-equipped Corvettes were distributed between the two iterations of 327cid motors and the three streetable 427cid engine options. Some 9,687 '67s were built with big-blocks (excluding the 20 L88 race cars) while the remaining 13,233 had small-blocks, and it seems safe to assume that most people who would have ordered 427s originally would have been more interested in power and performance rather than creature comforts. The bottom line is that Gary's 427/400hp, four-speed Air Car coupe is one unique package!

This '67 was delivered new to its original owner in Lakewood, Illinois, who kept it for nearly 20 years before parting with it in the spring of 1984. For the next 15 years, the mid-year bounced from owner to owner throughout Illinois and Indiana. Before it found its way into its loving, Arizona home in August 1999, the '67 Vette was treated to a full restoration.

It has been three years since Gary first got behind the wheel of his big-block Air Car, and he's loving every minute of it. The '67 is sharing quarters with Gary and Sherry's three other Vettes in the Carlston's Corvette "Garage-Mahal," including a Glen Green '65 327/365hp convertible, '96 Collector Edition convertible, and a triple-black '01 ragtop. Gary's also giving some serious thought to adding a '03 50th Anniversary Corvette to the collection.

The Vettes were a long time coming, but Gary is now living large. At 53 years young, Gary is nearing retirement from the piloting business, but that just means he and Sherry will have more time to play with their Corvettes! "I like to clean them up and show 'em," Gary says. "I like to do a little autocrossing. But most of all I like driving them." Gary will always be flying high, even when he's on the ground!


The Saddle interior is immaculate and positively normal '67 Sting Ray fare--until you catch sight of the air-conditioning vent in the center of the instrument panel, above the clock, and the small round vents out the outer bottom edges of the dash panel. Just 16.5 percent of all '67 Corvettes were equipped with factory air.

Only 3,788 Corvettes were produced in the 1967 model-year with factory air conditioning. An even smaller percentage of that minute number were to be found in big-block cars, like Gary Carlston's 427/400.

Welcome to one end of Gary Carlston's "Garage-Mahal."


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