Walking across the hot, sun-bleached asphalt one late summer day in St. Charles, Illinois, crack photographer, Jerry Heasley, came across an uncommon scene. A '65 Silver Pearl Sting Ray sat in a lonesome stall amid the acreage of endless aisles in front of the local Wal-Mart. The parking lot was littered with SUVs, late-model station wagons, and egg-shaped minivans in a myriad of metallic hues, making the curvaceous fiberglass shark stand out all the more. Curious, the photographer waited for the owners to return. Jerry was on a Corvette Fever assignment that weekend to cover the famous Bloomington Gold event.
When two gentlemen approached the Corvette, Jerry introduced himself. The two men- Lee Lasher and Mike Hofmann- informed Jerry that their plans to stop by a local quick-change garage for an oil change were thwarted by a two-hour wait. Instead, they opted to change the oil themselves right there in the parking lot. Amazed and slightly skeptical, Jerry watched as Mike climbed behind the wheel of Lee's rare vintage Vette, and crawled the front right wheel up a narrow board, mounting the curb. The two men then scrambled underneath the Corvette. With his camera in hand, Jerry proceeded to document the impromptu vehicle servicing. Lee, a congenial gentleman with a very noticeable New Jersey accent, regaled Jerry with how he came to own this super-rare Chevrolet.
As Mike threaded the spent oil filter off and drained its contents into the newly bought (and now filled) drain pan, Lee explained that the previous owner had driven it in to a local BMW dealership and traded it for a new 745-series sedan-it too in silver. Playing the fool, Jerry asked if Lee had any idea what the Corvette would fetch if he chose to sell it. Lee returned, "It's a real 375-horse 327 fuelie; they only made 771 of them. And how many of them were silver?"
Lee was right. The '65 Corvette was the last production year with the available mechanical fuel injection. It wouldn't be until 1982 that fuel injection would be offered again on a Corvette, and then it would be the famous TBI throttle-body injector system pioneered by General Motors. Only a total of 771 Corvettes were optioned with the L84 small-block 327, which made a whopping 375 ponies and was only available for that single production year. Only ten horsepower less than the L84-option was the L76 327, but the General made nearly seven times that number at 5,011 units.
Lee was intending to sell the '65 at the all-Corvette Mecum Auction at the Bloomington Gold event that Saturday, and expecting to take home the $100,000 the Corvette rightfully deserved. Hailing from Fort Meyers, Florida, Lee and his friend Mike own a private collection of American musclecars, reaching far past that of just Corvettes. both men shared a mutual love for the raw, unbridled power that came from Detroit during the '50s, '60s, and '70s. But it was this '65 shark that stood out among so many unique vehicles. The most potent small-block to come out of the General's arsenal until the ZR1 and the shockingly fast '06 ZO6, the '65 Sting Ray also carried with it some unusual styling cues that separated it from other midyear C2s. The hood indentations found on previous years' models were gone, and specific to the big-block-opted cars came a prominent hood bulge. The fender louvers were turned vertical and became a triad of functional gills that were real air outlets. The grille received additional restyling with horizontal bars blacked out, contributing to the Sting Ray's already shark-like appearance.
Performance also got a shot in the arm with four-wheel disc brakes becoming standard equipment. Each corner got a four-piston caliper, though drum brakes were available for those who wanted to cut some cost out of their final tab. Additional standard equipment included a power radio antenna and a restyled interior with newly designed black-face gauges, gauge bezels, dash trim, contoured seats, and door panels. The evolution of the mid-'60s shark was an exciting one, as the Corvette lead the performance pack for General Motors. Manual three- and four-speed transmissions were the norm for the American super car, leaving the automatic option for only the 250hp and 300hp 327 applications. This particular Silver Pearl coupe came with the optional gold-line bias-ply tires specific to '65-knock-off spinner wheels.
Jerry had stumbled across something that most hard-core enthusiasts would never dream of. A super collectible Corvette perched with one leg up on the curb of a Wal-Mart spilling its contents under the nearly nonexistent shade of a thin sapling; its owner happily tooling away on the atypical factory hot rod surrounded by suburbanites and commuters.
We don't know if Lee ever got his asking price for the '65 that weekend, nor do we know if he still wrenches on it with his friend Mike. What we do know was that afternoon a friendship was kindled between strangers over a car. It's pretty amazing what a Corvette can do to bring people together.
Lee Lasher's '65 Corvette by the NumbersGeneral InformationYear: 1965Make: ChevroletSeries: 94Model: CorvetteEngine: 327 ciHorsepower: 375
Transmission: Muncie four-SpeedEngine Code suffix: HG
BlockCasting No.: 3782870Main: Two-bolt
Cylinder HeadCasting No.: 3782461 (cast iron)Intake/Exhaust Valve Size: 2.02/1.60Combustion Chamber: 62.076
Intake Manifold (Aluminum)Casting No.: 3826810
Fuel Injection IdentificationFI Unit: 7017380Air Meter: 7017248Fuel Meter: 7017277
Exhaust ManifoldsCasting (Left Hand) No.: 3797942Casting (Right Hand) No.: 3797902
DistributorStamping No.: 1111070Engine/HP/Application: 327/375 hpHousing: Cast Iron External Adjustment/2-piecePoint: SingleNotes: Tach Drive, Vacuum Advance
Alternator1100693 37 Amp Base Unit
1965 Rear AxleAll '65 Corvette rear axles are stamped with an alpha-numeric identification code. The seven-digit code contains the axle code prefix, the month and day build code, an axle plant letter suffix code, and, on positraction axles, a letter code stamped below the axle code to provide source information. The plant code was first used in 1965.
On the '65 Corvette IRS rear suspension, the differential code is stamped on the bottom of the differential carrier housing just forward of the rearend cover. The axle code reads from left to right. The two-letter prefix designates the gear ratio and any other specific information about the axle. The calendar month is designated by a two number code from January (01) through December (12).
|1965 COVETTE REAR AXLE CODES|
|19437/67||Manual or Powerglide (327) 3.36:1||AK|
|19437/67||4-speed (327) 3.08:1||AL|
|19437/67||Manual (327) Posi 3.36:1||AM|
|19437/67||4-speed (327) 3.55:1||AN|
|19437/67||4-speed (327) Posi 3.70:1||AO|
|19437/67||4-speed (327) Posi 4.11:1||AP|
|19437/67||4-speed (327) Posi 4.56:1||AQ|
|19437/67||Wide-ratio 4-speed (327) 3.08:1||AR|
|19437/67||Close-ratio 4-speed (327) 3.70:1||AS|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 3.08:1||AT|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 3.36:1||AU|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 3.55:1||AZ|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 3.70:1||FA|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 4.11:1||FB|
|19437/67||4-speed (396) Posi 4.56:1||FC|
From Corvette by the Numbers by Alan Colvin, used with permission of Robert Bentley Publishers. CF