“I had David Brigham come over to my shop and I stripped the paint and primer off the area of the door on each side where the lights were,” Joe Scafidi said. “At the long races at Daytona, they needed a small light in each door to light up the number to race at night.”
What had started out as a rare enough discovery, a 1964 big-tank fuelie was looking like a possible vintage race car. Scafidi, who owns The Bow Tie Shop in Billerica, Massachusetts, and Jonathan White, his client who was buying the old Corvette, were very excited. This 1964 just might be a vintage racer from 1964. The NCRS has a validation process. That was Brigham’s job.
This barn find began with a phone call White made to his attorney to make a contract for another Corvette restoration with Scafidi. The timing proved to be incredibly lucky. White’s attorney was settling a case between a Corvette buyer and a seller from 15 years ago. The car was “a couple towns over,” and purported to be a “big tank fuelie,” which White knew was an exceedingly rare Corvette, with only 38 made.
At first, Scafidi balked at the possibility of a big-tank Corvette, due to the car appearing orange in the photos. When White said, “No, it’s supposed to be red,” Joe said, “Now, we’re talking.”
“I grabbed my checkbook, Joe grabbed his ramp truck, and we drove out to the seller.”
The car was located on a horse race farm in Pepperell, Massachusetts. In a barn were two Corvettes: the 1964 and a 1969 L88 clone. White had to write a check for the 1969 to get the 1964, and he did not hesitate. He looked on the 1969 as a “lottery ticket.” What if it turned out to be real? When the 1969 turned out to be an L88 clone, they sold it and concentrated on the 1964.
Scafidi went to work on the car’s history. He did an NCRS Delivery Data search, which revealed the car sold new to a small dealership called Clay Motors in Manchester, Kentucky.
About a year later, Scafidi “stumbled” on a photo online of a red Corvette race car with white interior. Could this car be Jonathan’s 1964? Their 1964 had a black interior, but running the trim tag codes revealed white was factory issue, more evidence of a match. Plus, road racers ordered the 36 1/2-gallon NO3 big-tank option to cut down on fuel stops.
Scafidi called Bill Gould, a friend that does auto ancestries and is well known in Corvette circles. Gould found one Mr. John Lewis, aka “Red,” living in, of all states, Kentucky.
Gould got the green light from Lewis for Scafidi to call. The stars were lining up. Lewis confirmed he bought a brand-new, red 1964 big-tank fuelie to race when he was living in Manchester, Kentucky. Scafidi and White traveled to Kentucky and videoed hours interviewing Red Lewis, in his 80s sitting in his rocking chair beside his dog.
White’s big-tank fuelie was the race car that Lewis bought in early February 1964, and immediately began driving in SCCA events in Florida. Cale Yarborough and GC Spencer drove the car at Daytona that year because Red did not get his long-distance race license until later in the year. After the ’65 season ended, Red sold the 1964 coupe to a man that converted the car back to street use.
The final validation came from the NCRS. David Brigham was there to watch the magic pop out of each door. Scafidi exposed two round holes, one per door, as he sanded off the red paint.
Photography by the Author