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1969 Chevrolet Small-Block Corvette T-Top Stingray - Barnstormer

After A 10-Year Hiatus, This '69 Came Back Swinging

Kevin Shaw Oct 1, 2005
Corp_0510_01_z 1969_chevrolet_small_block_corvette_t_top_stingray Front_right_view 2/1

There's something to be said about completing a project on your own. Tom Frankenfield of Algonquin, Illinois, knows, as he took on the restoration and renovation of this original small-block '69 T-topped Stingray. The car had been a primary source of transportation for Tom's neighbor in 1976, racking up a considerable 66,000 miles in only six years. But due to gas prices, insurance rates, and the trend of weaning away from large V-8s to smaller, front-wheel-drive platforms, his neighbor sold the Corvette to eager young Tom. The car was in good condition, and Tom said it served his thrill-addiction for three years before it was stored in his grandmother's barn from 1979 until a decade later, when it was unveiled in 1989.

The drafty confines of the wooden barn did little to shield the fiberglass body from the ravages of Illinois winters and temperatures, so Tom eventually moved it to a heated garage. In 1989, he wheeled out the Corvette and began the six-year refurbishing process. The car never received a full frame-off restoration, but nearly every major component was pulled, cleaned, painted or coated, and new hardware and rubber was installed. The suspension was kept as close to factory stock specs as possible without sacrificing safety and function.

The interior was nearly untouched even after all the years in the barn. The black vinyl seats and wheels are as they came from the factory in St. Louis, and are surprisingly well preserved. The manual four-speed glides the gears in place effortlessly, as the 350 was meticulously rebuilt by the Sigafoss Machine Shop in Easton, Pennsylvania. Only the slightest modifications were made to the engine, as it received a gentle .030 overbore, roller rockers, an Edelbrock intake, and a Holley 750 double-pumper. Tom even retained the same factory stock spec'd camshaft and valves, along with the aggressive 11:1 compression pistons that were unique to 350-equipped Corvettes.

Once the process of disassembly and reassembly came to a close, Tom had the body stripped professionally, which exposed the aged fiberglass body for any necessary repairs. In 1995, the Corvette was coated in several layers of rich DuPont Daytona Yellow lacquer; this was the last year lacquer was available in the marketplace. Once completed with a newly rebuilt engine, transmission, rearend, and suspension, the shapely '69 Stingray was returned to its rightful place on the road.

Since the restoration, Tom has clicked off a 13.20 in the quarter-mile at 109 mph. With 3.36:1 Posi gears burning down the 1320, one has to admit the combination, though shadowed by its beastlier larger siblings, is a venerable one. Tom isn't affiliated with any structured Corvette group, nor does he care much about the accolades and pomp of national judging organizations. All that matters is his 28-year relationship with a piece of American sports car history and the love and effort he's invested in it.

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