Have you ever sold a car and then rediscovered it? Ed Distler did.
Ed raced five different Chevys in and around Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley in the ’60s, including a 340hp ’62 Corvette. He’d promised his girlfriend (later his wife) Carol he’d get another Vette to replace the ’62 he sold before they met in 1963. When he heard about the ’66 427s, Ed was hooked.
That spring, a visit to Reedman Motors in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, turned up a way to keep his promise. “That was Good Friday,” he recalls. “I had the day off from work and my dad worked in Trenton. I went up there to have lunch with him and on the way back I stopped at Reedman Motors.”
The Distlers had previously bought Chevys from that dealer, whose inventory wasn’t limited to daily-driver candidates. “They must have had 30 to 40 brand-new Corvettes,” says Ed, who noticed an L72/four-speed Milano Maroon coupe. “I’d been running a ’65 Malibu, L79/four-speed,” he says. “When I saw that big-block, I decided that I had to have it.”
How to tell Carol? Says Ed, “I worked a deal on the spot, and asked how long it would take them to get a car ready. They said about an hour or two, and I said I’d be back. I went home, got Carol, and told her we were going for a ride. She said, ‘Where?’, and I said, ‘You’ll figure it out.’”
When they got near Reedman’s in their ’65 Malibu SS, Carol was anxious. “She said to me, ‘What did you do—trade this car in?’ I said no, I didn’t trade it in. She said, ‘What are we doing here?’, and I said, ‘I want you to look at a car.’ She was still convinced that I’d traded in the Malibu we were driving.” Once Ed explained they were keeping it and buying the Vette, the process became as “jet smooth” as a big Chevy’s ride, and they drove both cars home.
For the next few years, Ed raced it in A/SP, turning consistent low-12-second times in the quarter-mile, with a best of 12.08 @ 120.80 mph, and racking up win after win.
Like many Chevy lovers, a growing family’s needs compelled them to sell the Sting Ray, to make way for a ’69 El Camino. (A four-speed SS396—Ed says some things you just can’t get out of your system!)
In 1982, it was Vette time again. “We’d agreed that we weren’t going to have any more kids,” says Ed, “and then decided to try and get our old Corvette back.”
A friend suggested they track down his previous Corvettes. “He had a friend who was a state trooper,” recalls Ed, who gave the trooper the ’66’s VIN. “I don’t think it took him any more than 15 minutes to locate it,” says Ed. “He gave me a call, saying he’d found it.”
And it wasn’t far away, either. “It was maybe 20-25 miles away,” he says. Ed contacted its owner, and—with the understanding that it wasn’t for sale—he and Carol were invited to see it.
Their trip revealed a clue to when Ed flat-towed it. “I’d drilled holes in the front bumper brackets to mount the tow bar,” he recalls. “I knew that if it had holes in those brackets, then it was mine because I’d not seen anyone else do that! And, sure enough, that was the car.”
The L72 was long gone. “That had been put into a ’55 drag car and blown up,” says Ed. There was an L79 327 under the hood, installed by the eighth owner, replacing a 283 that owner number 3, who Ed had known from the dragstrip days, swapped in so his wife could drive it.
Ed kept in touch with the ’66’s owner for the next 11 months, when he finally told Ed that he’d sell it to him. The deal was done and the C2 was once again Ed and Carol’s. “We drove the car for 25 years with the small-block in it,” says Ed. “Then, about 6 years ago, when we were done with college and weddings, I decided to restore it.”
That meant another 427—but where to find one? Ed’s mechanic, Mike Berardi, owner of CEMI Automotive in Horsham, Pennsylvania, had the answer. “He said, ‘I have a friend who has a 427 in a 1960 Corvette that he’s going to replace with a Hilborn-injected 572 big-block. Why don’t you take a look at it?” That 427, an L72, was only two miles away. Its block had a casting code pre-dating the ’66’s build date by six weeks—an ideal substitute.
Once completed, Ed and Carol began enjoying their C2 as a show car. “We do about 35-40 shows every summer,” he says. “We started showing it in 2009 and we’ve picked up about 180 top awards with it since then.” They don’t trailer it, thanks to the Tremec five-speed Ed installed, which works well with the ’66’s original 4.11 rear gears. Ed explains, “We’ll go to shows within 100-125 miles from home. When we get on the turnpike and run at 70 (mph) with a 4.11 and a four-speed, the rpms are up around 3,500 on a constant run. I didn’t care for that, which is why I threw the five-speed in.”
That made it an enjoyable long-distance car, even with Hedman Hedders and a set of N14 sidemounts. “When you go from Fourth gear to Fifth, you can hear the noise level drop, because the rpms are lower.”
Does the story of Ed and Carol’s C2 inspire you? Ed says be careful. “You can search all you want on the Internet, but if you don’t find one locally that you can look at, you’ve got to be very cautious.” He adds, “If you’re buying one that’s already painted, you’d better have someone with you who can pick out flaws that aren’t so evident to the average guy.”
|Vehicle:||1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe|
|Owner||Ed and Carol Distler; Warminster, Pennsylvania|
|Engine||Chevrolet Mark IV big-block|
|Block||Correct (but not original) 1966 Chevrolet Mark IV 427, “942” casting, cast iron, with four-bolt mains|
|Displacement||427 cubic inches (7.0 liters)|
|Heads||Chevrolet Mark IV big-block closed chamber/square port, cast iron|
|Valves||Chevrolet Mark IV big-block, 2.19-inch intake, 1.88-inch exhaust|
|Camshaft||Crane “Powermax,” solid lifter|
|Pistons||Stock RPO L72, 11.0:1 compression|
|Crankshaft||Stock RPO L72, forged steel|
|Oil System||Stock RPO L72 wet sump, with mechanical pump|
|Carburetion||Holley 750-cfm four-barrel on an aluminum Edelbrock Performer “EnduraShine” intake with a chrome K&N air cleaner|
|Ignition||MSD 6AL electronic|
|Exhaust||Ceramic-coated Hedman headers and modified RPO N14 sidemounts|
|Transmission||Tremec TKO five-speed manual, with Sachs clutch and modified stock shifter|
|Frame||Original ’66 Corvette|
|Suspension||Restored original ’66 Corvette RPO F41 “Special Handling” coil springs, tubular shocks, and 7/8-inch-diameter sway bar (front); transverse steel leaf spring, tubular shocks, and 3/4-inch-diameter sway bar (rear)|
|Brakes||Restored original ’66 Corvette four-wheel disc, non-power-assisted, single-circuit master cylinder|
|Wheels||’66 Corvette RPO P14 aluminum “knock-offs,” 15x5|
|Tires||BFGoodrich Radial TA, 215/70R15|