1965 Chevrolet Corvette - Rough Around The Edges

A '65 396/425-Horse Driver That's Not Perfect, But Close Enough

Kevin Shaw Aug 17, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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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.

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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.

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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.


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