Joe Hodges’ Corvette

This ’69 Big-Block Was Put Together Right, For the Second Time

Andy Bolig Dec 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

In 1969, when checking off the options boxes that would ultimately inform Chevrolet how to assemble your new Corvette, filling in any box that alluded to horsepower, for the true gearhead anyway, would be the most acceptable way to go. While not the ultimate horsepower package that was available, the package put together in Joe Hodges’ ’69 could be considered the ultimate street performer. Piecing together parts like the 427ci engine with the three Holley carburetors builds the package titled the L71. Like when any puzzle is put together, there are certain pieces that don’t fit. One part that Chevrolet deemed wouldn’t fit was air conditioning. Chevrolet would not install air conditioning on the L71.

This 435hp engine produced compression in the 11:1 range. Opening up all six butterflies would twist the M21 transmission with 460 lb-ft of torque, definitely enough for stout street performance. Joe’s Corvette was first put into service on December 30, 1969, and roamed the streets, ready to show any unsuspecting opponent how a car can perform better than the sum of its parts.

Some 51,000 miles passed and the car found a new home in the Central Florida area. That’s where Joe found it. Joe had been looking for a ’69 shark for some time, and had just concluded that his standards may have been too high when a friend told him about a mid-year that was for sale. Joe decided he’d at least take a look.

As most fairy tales go (you know, the ones that usually happen to someone else), it turned out that the car wasn’t a mid-year, but the big-block, Tri-power ’69 you see here! The car was in relatively good shape, with a lot of maintenance records and the original bill of sale.

Joe removed the interior, gauges, and trim and shipped the car to the body shop for a frame-off restoration, right down to the original stencil marks. When checking the engine, the shop tore off the heads and discovered that the original machining was still visible after 51,000 miles—more proof that Chevrolet built this one right.

With the frame freshly painted and the body sporting a new Can Am White paint job, Joe took the car home to be completed. He assumed the car was nearly complete, but he soon found out about Corvette puzzles. He said that every hour of work necessitated about two hours of reading or research for correctness. He used the NCRS, manufacturer catalogs, shop manuals, and whatever sources of information he could find. “I learned everything and then some about the car and found it becoming as much a hobby as a passion.” The date for completion of this puzzle was set when his son asked if he could drive him and his partner in the homecoming parade. With little time to spare, Joe completed the task, installing the carpet and seats only an hour before the parade. Joe’s wife and friends claimed there was no comparison between the sound of Joe’s 435hp Corvette and the rest of the cars in the parade.

Joe hasn’t had the car judged yet. He’s having too much fun driving it to worry about the few items he must address to make the car correct for judging. Yup, he drives this one. Some people will tell you that you can’t drive big-block Corvettes because they heat up too much. But Joe took his Corvette to someone who doesn’t believe that. Chris Petris of the Corvette Clinic tuned the car and worked on the cooling system to ensure that Joe can drive his ’69 throughout Florida without any concern of boiling over. Joe says he likes to open up all the carbs from time to time, making sure they get a fresh taste of the 100-plus-octane fuel that Joe prepares specially for them. After all, it’s a puzzle built to be enjoyed, not a 3-D poster, sitting behind a glass case.

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