Mike and Deborah Peede's '66 Rally Red Sting Ray can eat up the quarter-mile in 12.02 seconds at 119 mph, but Mike swears he's got solid 11-second passes hidden deep within the car, except it is limited by its factory rear suspension.
What distinguishes the midyear Corvette from its domestic brethren is the independent rear suspension-standard on every vehicle. it would be this innovative platform that would hinder the Corvette's drag-racing prowess in its early stages. Desirable because of their lightweight fiberglass bodies and large powerplants between the fenders, the Sting Rays could easily compete in Super Stock NHRA classes once the IRS was removed and replaced with a stout 12-bolt solid axle. Limited by its antiquated geometry, the factory IRS for the midyear Corvettes proved to be unsuitable for aggressive driving and competitive drag racing, though quite brilliant on the road course.
Mike's got a thing for horsepower and it doesn't matter what badge it wears, just as long as it's fast. Transcending brand affiliation, Mike is the proud owner of a bevy of Mopars and Bow Ties: second-generation Dodge Charger R/Ts, a '70 Challenger SE, a '71 GTX, a '68 Road Runner, a Hemi-powered '66 Satellite, an original 18,500-mile '70 Hemi Cuda, a pair of Z28s from 1969 and 1973, and even a '70 Boss Mustang accompany the big-block 427 Sting Ray featured here.
Mike and Deborah wanted their Vette, rebuilt from a turnkey driver, to distinguish itself from the crowd of trailer queens and six-figure restorations. modified Vettes may be one thing, but super-fast Vettes are another. Built to be driven (and hard), the three-year project proved to be well worth the effort since it has taken several first place titles at a handful of car shows, as well as gracing the celluloid screen on Speed Channel's Horse-power TV.
While at the Beech Bend Dragstrip in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Mike was initially looking to build a '62 "fuelie" project before stumbling across this red hardtop roadster. Enticed by its then-owner Jim to take the '66 Sting Ray out for a spin, the temptation was too much for Mike to resist and plans for a '62 were quickly forgotten. Jim, who wanted to sell the Sting Ray because he needed the garage space, and Mike exchanged currency and car keys.
In a feat of pure Corvette enthusiast euphoria or maybe plain insanity, Mike and Deb jumped in the roadster and headed to their Atlanta, Georgia, home to begin the three-year project. It's not often that someone gets the chance to skate a classic Corvette through the hills and mountain roads of the American Southeast, and they jumped at the opportunity.
Thankfully, the car performed beautifully and made the trip home with little effort, a testimony to the previous owner's care and preservation. The fun trip inspired Mike to conduct a restoration on the Corvette with a twist. Due to the '66's condition, a complete frame-off would not be necessary, but custom alterations to the Vette's big-block and running gear appealed to Mike's insatiable appetite for American automotive grunt. The iron block was exhumed from the roadster, bored .060-over, stuffed with 11:1 compression TRW slugs and long Eagle steel rods that spin off the factory steel crank. A Comp Cams solid lifter .580 bumpstick awakened the beast within like a vial full of Dr. Jekyll's mystery elixir. Edelbrock's aluminum RPM rectangle port heads' combustion chambers were gouged out to 118 cc as the ports were matched to the factory dual-plane aluminum high-rise intake. Large Edelbrock interlocking valvesprings with hardened seats are squeezed by Crane Gold Race aluminum rockers, and a Barry Grant 850-cfm Speed Demon carburetor ingests fuel and air hungrily. A hidden MSD ignition system with a 6AL box provides the spark.
Mike employed the talents of David Bagwell in Acworth, Georgia, to assemble the 427 as per his explicit instructions. The overall plan was for the roadster to look stock and retain the highest percentage of original components, while being able to chew up the 1320 in 11 seconds. Bagwell delivered a 427 capable of solid sub-12-second timeslips, but it would turn out to be the rest of the Corvette that needed to be updated in order to attain that level of performance. As the powertrain was being metamorphosed into the surly animal it is today, the body was rolled over to Tony Bell of Winston, Georgia, who would treat the body with kid gloves and repaint it in a fresh coat of factory tinted Rally Red. Since the '66 originally came loaded up with the F-41 performance suspension, G-81 positraction IRS 4.11 rear and N-14 side exhaust packages, Mike and Deb knew it was best to keep the Vette as close to stock as they could so if the need arose they could return it to 100-percent stock with ease.
Once the big-block was lowered into the freshly repainted body, the Muncie M22 rock-crusher gearbox was bolted up behind it, rowed by a Hurst stick. Large Hedman headers were ceramic coated and bolted up to the side pipes. The interior was left untouched; it was in pristine condition when Mike purchased it eleven years ago.
Once fully assembled, the Corvette was ready to hit the pavement. Mike and engine builder David took the Vette to Reynolds, Georgia, for its first pass down the track. David had warned Mike of the '66's rear-suspension limitations and had figured that into his initial launch. The brusque big-block barked out of the box and roared past the traps at 119 mph, clicking off a 12.02-second pass. Even with the use of a line-lock, its actuator hidden within the factory shifter, it would be the best the Corvette could muster given its obsolete IRS. Knowing the capacity of his handiwork, David assured Mike that deep 11-second times were accessible with the installation of a solid-axle rear-something Mike vowed never to do.
Mike and Deb decided to test out their Sting Ray's appeal on the show circuit. So successful has the '66 been that they have raked in over 100 different awards and titles over the last eight years since the vehicle's completion. During the Corvette Museum Anniversary, Mike's Corvette was featured on an episode of My Classic Car. While attending the Dale Earnhardt event, the Peedes took home the Legacy Series Gold Award in 2004, which awarded them the honor of sitting in the DEI showroom next to Dale's famous No. 3 and a porcelain statue of the famed driver awarded to them by Horsepower TV producer Chuck Hanson. the parade of accolades and awards are nice and look good on the Corvette's resume, but it's the vibration and noise from underneath the floorboards and the rap of the big cam that is the real treat.
The red roadster has been affectionately named Godzilla. At a car club event several years ago, a young boy (who always seemed to gravitate to Mike's car whenever he fired it up) walked up to Mike and said the car sounded like his Godzilla toy. The boy pushed the button of the toy, and as the toy growled, he grinned and handed the toy to Mike to place in the car. After a big laugh and a sincere thank you, Mike kept the toy and the moniker has stuck with the Vette to this day.