Ken Smith's list of cars, previously owned or current residents of his garage, reads like a pedigree of America's best machines: a sequence of Vettes including a drop-top '66 427, a '67 convertible 427, a '69 L89 427, two 454-powered 72s, a pair of '74 coupes, a red-on-red '77, a '79, a black and silver '82, a '95 convertible, and a '00 yellow convertible, while two GTOs, a super rare Starlight Black '69 Judge, an Orbit Orange '70 Judge, and two Mopars--a '68 426 Hemi Charger R/T and a wild, winged '69 440-powered Daytona--top off the list. But seperate from that list is this outrageously orange '69 427 concours restoration.
A shot of horsepower was injected into Ken's veins at an early age. When he was four years old, he rode in a '58 white-and-red roadster that belonged to his father's friend, and it left a lasting impression on him. His interest in cars matured as he learned to drive his sister's '68 Cougar XR7, and as he continually commandeered his mother's '69 Charger R/T during his high school years.
When Ken graduated from high school, his father decided it was time he got his first Corvette. His '73 Ford Gran Torino Sport fastback was traded in for a new '74 Corvette. Though not a fabled '69 427 or a '71 454 LS6, the small-block Sting Ray was a great introduction into the realm of Corvette ownership. Ken, while attending college at TCU, registered his vehicle with the Corvette Club of Texas. During the NCCC meet in 1977, he laid his eyes on a beautifully kept '69 Monaco Orange coupe. It would be an iconic moment for Ken as it would become his El Dorado, the subject of a search that would take, ultimately, nearly twenty years to finally conclude.
Through the years, Ken had cars come and go but none captured his heart like the orange '69. when word came through the grapevine about a true Monaco Orange 427 coupe, Ken quickly looked into it.
It seems a gentleman named Dennis Davis in Canada had a friend who wanted to completely restore a Corvette.
Unfortunately, the task was far more than his friend bargained for. Finally weary of looking at the splintered Corvette scattered across the garage floor, he sold it to Dennis, who began thrashing on the '69 solo. It took years of dedication and thousands of dollars, but the final product was a Corvette worthy enough to take Top Flight, Bloomington Gold, Triple Crown, and the Duntov award. Then with only 50 miles on the odometer, Dennis put it up for sale. Hearing about the car, Ken forwarded Dennis $25 for a video tape of the car in motion.
It took only two minutes of film to put Ken on the phone asking Dennis what it would take to seal the deal. The orange Corvette was quickly trailered to Ken's Texas home where it would reside next to his '00 Vette, a '69 GTO Judge, and his twin Mopars.
In the past, he always made it a point to drive his many musclecars nearly to the point of breakage. But due to the delicate nature and value of his rare and insanely desirable machines, Ken now shies away from chirping the gears and hazing the factory tires on any of his current rides. He explains, "I've lived on both sides of the fence when it comes to how you should own your Corvette. At first my thinking was: Why own it if you don't drive it? But nowadays, I feel I've been there, and I most definitely have done that, plus I have spent a fortune repairing my cars. Now I am a car show nut, traveling all over the country attending and enjoying the cleaning, detailing, pampering, and basically treating them like precious museum pieces."
His trailered Monaco Orange '69 has taken home honors at NCRS, Bloomington Gold, Chevy Vettefest, ISCA Best Sports Car, People's Choice, and several Best Paint and Best Engine awards. Ken concludes, "I feel any car is a perishable item, and I want my cars to last as long as they can." CF