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Basic Needs: Two Owners Swap Driving Small-Blocks

Jim Strathearn's '71 Corvette and Donnie Hyson's '63 Vette: A pair of small-block iconsa full generation apart.

Jerry Pitt Feb 10, 2004
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Whether you're a Corvette enthusiast through and through or new to the whole game, you have two basic needs. The first is the ability to recognize you don't know everything and the second is having someone around who does.

Donnie Hyson has the ability to be Jim Strathearn's chief know-it-all when it comes to his '71 Corvette. Jim has relied on Donnie's knowledge from the moment it was time to buy the Corvette, right through keeping it in top condition.

For Donnie, knowing a fellow Corvette enthusiast makes the job of running a shop every day a lot more fun. Hear what each has to say about the other's Corvette.

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The Interview

What is the one thing you wish you could add to your Corvette that the other owner's Corvette has and why?

Jim Strathearn commenting on Donnie Hyson's '63: I'd like to have his wheels. The period-specific Cragars really make this car stand out. Oh, yeah--I'd add a nice stereo like his. Donnie and his wife Judy like to ride in style.

Donnie Hyson commenting on Jim Strathearn's '71: What's there to add or change on the '63 Chevrolet Corvette that Zora Duntov engineered and Larry Shinoda designed? What's to add or change on the '71 Chevrolet Corvette that was Chief Stylist Bill Mitchell's vision or Larry Shinoda's design? Top talent, top Corvettes!

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While stock down to the drum brakes, Donnie Hyson's '63 coupe features aset of Cragar GT five-spokes that were sourced from a friend's mortuarywarehouse. The mags are a period-modification that cannot be replicatedtoday.

If you were going to change anything about this car, what would it be?

Jim Strathearn: Donnie just recently did a frame-on partial restoration that included fresh paint and a new interior. There is little that I would change, but if I had to do something, I'd probably blow the carbon out of it for him!

Donnie Hyson: How could one improve on Shinoda and Mitchell?

Driving this Corvette is better than mine when...

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In the span of less than two years, Jim had bought his first Corvetteand his third Corvette, this '71 four-speed 350. The Mille Miglia Redcoupe convinced his wife, Linda, that this was the Corvette to keep.

Jim Strathearn: If I could drive it, it would have to be the fresh restoration, but that's why I haven't driven it, either.

Donnie Hyson: Just driving a Corvette, whether it's the '71 shark (as it is designed after!) or the '63 Sting Ray (as it is designed after!), is what it's all about! A mean-looking shark or a strong Sting Ray, nothing fishy there!

I prefer my car because...

Jim Strathearn: It's red. I also enjoy the fact that I can remove the T-tops and the rear window.

Donnie Hyson: Paid for and I own it--it's in my garage! I'm sure Jim feels the same way about his.

When I consider this generation of Corvette, my initial impressions are...

Jim Strathearn: I first think of big-blocks. Who in their right mind wouldn't prefer a big-block mid-year?

Donnie Hyson: All Corvettes are unique in their own way and I'd like any of them in my garage, second or third generation. Every generation is special from 1953 through 2004.

Will my next Corvette be more like this car or my own?

Jim Strathearn: If I could purchase whatever I wanted right now, it would probably be a '69 427 with side pipes, so I guess my next one will be more like mine. However, if I could have three more, I'd choose a '63 Z06 and a '67 427 coupe to go with the '69.

Donnie Hyson: If I were to buy another Corvette, it would be a white '63, simply because then I'd have a red '63, a white '63, and a blue '63. Patriotic, don't you think? The American way!

If you were to drive this car a long distance, what necessities would you take?

Jim Strathearn: I'd have to bring Donnie along, because he would never leave me alone with his car. Plus, he's a great mechanic and if I broke anything, he'd be right on it.

Donnie Hyson: It would be necessary to take Jim along on a long-distance trip because he's the owner/driver; I'm only his mechanic!

From past comments you made to friends and family about this "other" generation of Corvettes, have you changed your opinion based on this Corvette swap?

Jim Strathearn: I've always wanted a big-block mid-year, so I've never had anything but good things to say about that generation. Economics being what they are, I believe we ended up with a great alternative, and my car came with a big-block hood.

Donnie Hyson: My friend Jim and his '71 Corvette are great and his car is a classic. My '63 is great and is a classic, also. We've got the Corvette Fever! All Corvettes are great in all seasons and I'd trade spaces with any, mainly because they're fun! They are America's legendary sports cars.


Under the hood, the 327ci/300hp RPO L75 engine remains the powerplant ofchoice. With 10.5:1 compression and a four-speed, this '63 is a blast todrive regardless of its stock configuration.

The interior was part of the recent body-on restoration to freshen upthe hides and make the split-window a joy to drive.

The base 350 for 1971 was the 270-horse. With the coming requirement ofunleaded fuel, the low-compression 350 could accept the 91-octane fuelrequirement of the day.

Only three exterior colors could gain you the Red interior option:Classic White, Nevada Silver, or Mille Miglia Red.



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