Though it may consist of a good portion of our edit, Corvette Fever is not a "restoration" magazine. We are a Corvette enthusiast magazine, offering features, technical articles, and information touching upon every aspect of these amazing cars. To know Corvette Fever fanatics is to know that not every one of their cars is a rotisserie-restored, pampered trailer queen. Some of them snort, spit, and boil tires at will. Many of them have chips in the paint, tears in the seats, and bald spots in the carpet. Many leak some fluid or another, and a fair majority have warranted their owner a citation or two from an officer of the peace. To break it down, Corvettes are automobiles, and automobiles are made for transportation. It's just that Corvettes do it a lot faster and with more pizzazz than any other car on the road. So, when it came to this month's issue we knew we might ruffle a few feathers by showing Gregory Janko's super-rare, factory-white '65 396/425hp four-speed street thrasher.
The L78 option code added an additional $300 to the bill for a $4,300 '65 Corvette. With the addition of the 396 big-block to the engine option list, General Motors felt it necessary to "reinforce" the Corvette's overall performance, making the L78 not only an engine option, but a package altogether. Along with the 425-horse 396, the Corvette came with a slew of accompaniments marked as "standard" for the L78, including a manual Muncie four-speed, a stout live rear axle, a big four-barrel Holley carburetor, transistorized ignition, heavy-duty suspension, half-shafts, and sway bars. The sidepipes were optional (for the first time), but made the look of the high-horse Sting Ray all the more menacing with the big-block specific bulge hood.
This particular L78 came out of St. Louis, Missouri, in Ermine White with an all-black interior and was one of 2,157 cars built with the potent power package. over the next forty-one years this Corvette would journey from California to a barn in Indiana, where it was parked and covered with a large drop cloth. the years would slowly roll by before it was discovered by Gregory Janko, a Lowell, Indiana, truck driver.
Gregory's love and intimate knowledge of these cars came from his father's very own '65 396 Sting Ray (featured in Corvette Fever in September 2005). The red with black interior L78 would be the benchmark in performance for young Gregory before he ever heard about the mysterious white Corvette in a neighboring barn 27 years later. When a friend mentioned the location of the white car, Gregory had to investigate the rumor immediately. What he found was an all-original L78 396 big-block Sting Ray, unmolested, unaltered, and for sale. It took nearly every imaginable penny that Gregory could scrounge, but he came away the owner of an almost untouched Vette. Astoundingly, he was able to twist the key in the ignition and listen to the coupe fire right up. He drove his newly purchased turnkey big-block straight home. Further homework would uncover that his new acquisition was, in fact, the real McCoy. The Corvette sported everything that it came from the factory with: engine, cylinder heads, carburetor, ignition system, transmission, and independent rear suspension. With such a complete piece of American nostalgia sitting in front of his house, Gregory knew exactly what to do.
Teaming up with his brother, Chuck, Gregory sought to "restore the car, but on a real budget." Father Jay guided his sons in the rebuilding of the Vette by using his gorgeous convertible Sting Ray as a template. Gregory and Chuck tooled on the car as much as their schedules would allow, running back and forth between wrenching on the Corvette and consulting with several restoration guides, judging manuals, and vehicle documentation. The powertrain was pulled, and Gregory was put to work detailing the engine compartment. Chuck, utilizing his mechanical skills, began work on the engine and transmission. The two opted for a chassis-on restoration, as the usual chassis-off would require the use of a rotisserie and render the Corvette undrivable for quite some time. Gregory sanded, primed, and painted the framerails, undercarriage, and suspension components that didn't need to be pulled off. Chuck replaced the A-arm bushings, front springs, and rebuilt the factory disc brakes. The carburetor was rebuilt as well, while a new clutch was slipped in between the flywheel and gearbox. With enough resources to build the car correctly, the two rebuilt the Corvette using all correct paint, parts, hoses, belts, clamps, and other hardware.
A thorough cleaning and a couple coats of wax on the weathered original paint made it luster a bit more, but not enough to bring home any trophies. The body is still slightly ripped, the paint is showing its age, and the fiberglass could use some attention with a couple sheets of sandpaper. Gregory admits it's still a little "rough around the edges," but he wasn't looking to win awards, he just wanted to get some attention. with the baritone note reverberating out of the side pipes from the high lope camshaft, plenty of attention is nearly guaranteed.
Once reassembled, the Sting Ray was ready to run. Gregory attended some Corvette shows last summer and reveled in the experience of being the only father and son duo with matching 396/425-horse L78s. With the biggest portion of his first restoration completed, Gregory is just getting to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He says, "General Motors built this car for one purpose-to go fast. With the new Pirelli P4000 tires and a tank full of 110 octane race fuel, the car came back to life. With all 396 ci pushing out 425 ponies and a 4.11 posi rearend, the car is faster than a bolt of lightning."
Sure, there's a world more work to be done, but like any good driving project, it's happily never finished.
The first year for a big-block in a Corvette, the 396 L78 made one hell of a first impression, making well over 400 hp (an estimated 425 at the flywheel) in 1965. Only the Super Stock Hemi-powered Dodges and 427 side-oiler Fords made comparable power in those days, and they couldn't handle worth a darn.
Where's The Radio? Designed for performance over luxury, Gregory's Sting Ray was ordered without a radio. The sound of the side pipes would probably drown out the sound anyway. TIRES ::: Gregory boasts that these Pirelli rubbers are made for smoking. The stout 4.11 positraction rear gears promise it. UNVEILING ::: Found in a barn under a drop cloth, the L78 still brandishes its original California plates. BREAK TIME ::: Brothers Chuck and Gregory take a break from thrashing on their chassis-on restoration.
Gregory Janko's '65 Corvette by the Numbers
Engine: 396 ci
Transmission: Four-Speed Muncie
Engine Code suffix: IF
Casting No.: 3855962
Casting No.: 3856208 (Cast Iron)
Intake/Exhaust Valve Size: 2.19/1.72
Combustion Chamber: 108.98
Intake Manifold (Aluminum)
Casting No.: 3866963
List No. 3124
Casting (Left Hand) No. 3856301
Casting (Right Hand) No. 3856302
Stamping No.: 1111093
Engine/HP/Application: 396/425 hp
Housing: Cast Iron External Adjustment
Point: Mag Pulse
Notes: Tach Drive
1100696, 42 Amp, All 396 IT
Four-Speed Close Ratio Muncie M21
Extension Housing: Aluminum
Type: Synchromesh, all forward gears
Maincase Casting No.: 3851325
Extension Housing Casting No
3846429 (until 2/65)
3857584 (after 2/65)
Sidecover Casting No.: 3831707
This transmission is a basic carry-over from the '64 model year. Like the '63 Muncie close ratio, the original '65 input shaft should have one identification groove. 1964 and later Muncies used a first gear sleeve on the mainshaft for better lubrication. Early Muncie characteristics (1963-65) are as follows: 71/48-inch cluster gear pin, 51/416-inch coarse thread studs to attach shifting rods, speedometer gear on left side, thin blocking rings.
1965 Rear Axles
All '65 Corvette rear axles are stamped with an alpha-numeric identification code. The 7-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 rear end 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).
From Corvette by the Numbers by Alan Colvin, used with permission of Robert Bentley Publishers.