The opening paragraph of the seventh edition of the Chevrolet power manual states: "The small-block Chevrolet V-8 is America's most popular and most successful production-based racing engine. Since its debut in 1955, more than 60 million small-blocks have been manufactured, a feat unmatched by any other automotive engine. The amazing small-block Chevrolet V-8 has powered more winning race cars and won more championships than any other motor." We'd have to wholeheartedly agree.
While 1971 is hailed as the benchmark year for Corvette performance (that is until the recent manifestation of the 500-plus horsepower Z06), many fail to realize that the LS6-optioned '71 Stingray was not only rare in numbers (188 in total optioned vehicles), but also had a hefty price tag of $6,717. the majority of the 21,000 Corvettes sold that year featured the potent and reliable 350 small-block. As the '70s rolled on, the big-blocks would slowly vanish from the lineup, leaving only the 350 and its smaller brother, the 305, available to future shark enthusiasts.
Randy Stone of Dallas, Texas, couldn't fork out the down payment for a new Corvette in 1979. Randy was just out of high school, working the oil fields in Texas. Cutting corners and hanging onto his change, Randy was able to scrounge up enough to purchase this '71 T-topped Stingray from the original owner in November of that year. the Vette was put to use as the 18-year-old's daily driver, college cruiser, and as an autocross car under the hot Texan sun.
Over time, the Corvette and its novice driver earned quite a reputation. But after Randy married and his family started growing, he had to do the grown-up thing and store the Corvette in the garage. But, do not be dismayed, the racer-turned-architect kept his love for American muscle alive with dual street rods: a '34 Plymouth five-window coupe and a '35 Chevrolet two-door sedan, as well as composing future plans for the yellow shark. When the opportunity for Randy to cash in his midlife crisis credits came, he did so with a vengeance.
The Corvette was extracted from its holding pen and turned inside out. Randy aimed his sights at his earlier love of competitive racing, and wanting to keep the outside reasonably stock, Randy chose to turn the Vette's internals into a powerhouse. Randy started with a crate motor from the General, a ZZ4 small-block 350 with a 4.00-inch bore. Randy upgraded the engine with a hotter camshaft, while all General Motors Performance Parts filled the insides. Lightweight aluminum heads top the block with a signature intake manifold for the specific ZZ4 engine. A Holley 750 tops the powerplant with a Davis Unified Ignition (D.U.I.) and Live Wires. Large Hooker competition headers flow into Dynomax Turbo mufflers and out 212-inch stainless steel tubing.
The wily 350 was bolted to a Richmond five-speed manual box enabling Randy to row the gears with ease. The factory independent rear suspension with the stock 3.73 Posi was left pretty much alone, while the front and rear suspension was tweaked for greater handling prowess. Randy went with a complete Vette Brakes monoleaf fiberglass performance plus suspension front and back, with the front getting a 118-inch sway bar and tubular upper and lower control arms. The aft of the Stingray got a 78-inch sway to keep the tail planted in the hairpins. The stock disc brakes were rebuilt with stainless steel sleeves.
When it came to the look of the Corvette, Randy feared turning the Stingray into an overly modified fiberglass monstrosity. Only small changes were made, and most of them were made purely for function. An Ecklers front spoiler was mounted beneath the front bumper for additional down force and Ecklers bubble rear taillight lens were placed in back for greater visibility. The body was treated with professional care at Jeff's Corvette Shop in Dallas, where the fiberglass was coated four times in the original Sunflower Yellow with an additional two coats of clear.
Throughout the five-year build and restoration, Randy personally tackled the interior. The cabin was preserved in factory Dark Saddle, purposely kept to look stock. Ecklers provided the correct carpet and interior covers, and Randy did all the labor. The seats were rewrapped in Dark Saddle leather skins as was the 14-inch custom steering wheel. Bathed in warm colors, the pilot of this shark was meant to be comfortable while shaving the corners. Looking stock, the car quickly surprises any Doubting Thomases at the track. Randy laughs that while many a street rod has come and gone, the Corvette has always remained. And we doubt it will be going anywhere anytime soon. cf
engine ::: Many will wonder why if you had a plain-Jane 350 '71 to start with you wouldn't build a big-block? Well, the answer is when you're trying to save weight. Randy Stone went with the potent aluminum headed ZZ4 350 to provide plenty of power while shaving off excess pounds. WHEEL ::: Randy opted to have the factory Rally rims paint matched to the brilliant Sunflower Yellow paint and fitted with large 255/50/16s. INTERIOR ::: There is a lesson to be learned here. See how gorgeous this interior is? Randy did it all himself. And no, he doesn't own his own upholstery shop.