1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Second-Chance '61

A few years back, Robert McNerney went to the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction in hopes of finding a C1 that he could buy as a weekend driver. He missed this gem the first time around.

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One of 358: Robert McNerney's '61 Corvette is one of just 358 '61s painted in the optional Fawn Beige Metallic/Ermine White two-tone color scheme. This view highlights the Sting Ray-inspired rear styling, which debuted for the '61 model year.

Do you believe in second chances? Robert McNerney does. A few years back, he went to the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction in hopes of finding a C1 that he could buy as a weekend driver and occasional show car. "I was looking at '58s and '59s, but when I saw this car, the color grabbed my eye right away," he says from his Mahwah, New Jersey, home. "And the condition-it was impeccable."

What he'd found was a Fawn Beige Metallic with Ermine White coves '61 set to cross the auction block, originally sold in New York, meticulously maintained and in great condition. Unfortunately, when the hammer came down, the auctioneer didn't point to Robert. "I was outbid on it," he recalls. "The car went back to the auction the subsequent year, and I bought it off the second owner. He was trying to sell it there, but he didn't. I'd left my number with him, and he called me, and we ended up making the deal. I wasn't going to miss it the second time!"

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Not only did Robert buy a distinctive-looking C1, but he also bought a late-production car built in July 1961, the last month of model-year-'61 production (per its VIN number and Mike Antonick's Corvette Black Book) with some fairly rare factory options. There's the two-tone paint, which-in these colors-was only applied to 358 of the nearly 11,000 '61 Corvettes built. Underneath is an RPO 469, highlighted by dual Carter AVS four-barrel carburetors atop the hydraulic-lifter-cammed, 245hp 283-an option which only 1,175 Vettes received that year.

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Second Chance: Robert was outbid on this '61 at the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction. A year later, he saw it there again and was determined to take it home with him-which he did.

Being a '61, there are plenty of "firsts" and "lasts" on the car. It was the first year for the Sting Ray-influenced rear styling with four taillights, a horizontal-pattern grille up front minus the chrome "teeth" that had been a Corvette hallmark, a narrower transmission tunnel atop an aluminum-cased Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed (with an aluminum case for Powerglide on its way for '62), and an all-new aluminum crossflow radiator from GM's Harrison Radiator Division that appeared early in the model run. Also, formerly optional items such as windshield washers, sun shades, a parking-brake warning light, and a temperature-controlled radiator fan were now standard equipment. Meanwhile, 1961 was the last year for the 283 in its five carbureted and fuel-injected versions, as well as for the two-tone paint and wide whitewall tires-replaced, respectively, by the 327 (with one high-output carbureted and one fuelie variation optional), single-color paint, and 1-inch-wide whitewalls.

Step By Step

Going Out In Style: Robert's Vette was built in the last month of the '61 model-year production; one of the last ones out the door at St. Louis with two-tone paint and wide whitewalls.

By The Numbers: Original '61 gauge cluster includes 0-160 mph speedometer and 0-7,000 rpm tach with 5,500 rpm redline.

Robert's '61 now has about 76,000 miles on it, and it's an eye-grabber everywhere it goes. "It's unbelievable, the attention," he says. "You pull up, and you have two, maybe three people asking you about the car." What's it like to drive? Robert puts it simply: "It's pretty powerful!"

When asked if he plans to seek NCRS Top Flight certification for it, Robert replies, "I did have an NCRS judge look at it, and he gave me a breakdown of what I had to do," he says. "Again, it's not something that I'm pursuing, but it wouldn't take very much to do it. I'm just enjoying it at this point."

That enjoyment includes showing it locally with his son, Ryan. "He loves it, as well. We've been to several car shows with it, and we've won trophies with it. It's something we do together." Does that show-going-and subsequent highway beautification-include trips to events like Corvettes at Carlisle in the future? Robert says that showing at Carlisle isn't in his plans, for now, and selling it is definitely out of the question. "I have a couple friends who are really into restoring cars, and they're trying to talk me into selling it, but I told them, 'I waited too long for this one, I'm not selling it.'" With this late-production '61 filled with firsts-and-lasts, who can blame him?

>>> DATA FILE::: '61 Chevrolet Corvette
Owned by Robert McNerney, Mahwah, New Jersey
Total '61 Corvette production: 10,939
Built: July 1961 at Chevrolet's St. Louis (MO) Assembly Plant, in the last month of the '61 model year production.

>> BODY
Production '61 Corvette fiberglass body
Modifications: None
Options: Two-tone paint (RPO 440)
Color: Fawn Beige with Ermine White coves, one of 358 '61 Corvettes painted this way
Paint: Original DuPont acrylic lacquer
Top: White convertible top (original), body not equipped for optional hardtop

>> CHASSIS
Production '61 Corvette
Modifications: None
Suspension: Front: stock C1 Corvette coil springs and Delco shocks; Rear: stock C1 Corvette leaf springs and Delco shocks
Steering: Original GM/Saginaw Gear recirculating ball, 16:1 ratio, nonpower-assisted
Brakes: Original GM/Chevrolet drum-and-shoe brakes all around, nonpower-assisted
Wheels: Stock 15x5.5-inch steel, with standard chrome full-wheel cover
Tires: Reproductions of original-style 6.70-15 whitewalls (RPO 290) all around (1961 was the last year for OEM "wide band" whitewall tires, industry-wide)

>> ENGINE
Chevrolet overhead-valve V-8, Gen I small-block (RPO 469)
Displacement: 283 ci
Compression: 9.5:1
Induction: Two Carter four-barrel carburetors: Front: Carter 3181S No. 3785554; Rear: Carter 2627S No. 3744004
Camshaft: Stock Chevrolet, hydraulic lifters (per RPO 469)
Block: Stock Chevrolet cast iron, casting No. 3789935
Heads: Stock Chevrolet cast iron, casting No. 3774692
Radiator: Original GM/Harrison crossflow aluminum with aluminum expansion tank and temperature-controlled fan (new for 1961)
Modifications: None, other than factory 2x4 carburetor option and stock finned aluminum valve covers
Horsepower: 245 (Chevrolet factory rating)
Torque: 300 at 3,800 rpm (Chevrolet factory rating)

>> TRANSMISSION
Original Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual (RPO 685), with new-for-'61 aluminum case and original shifter with reverse lock-out
Clutch: Original
Rearend: Stock C1 rearend with Posi-traction differential (RPO 675), 3.70:1 rear gear ratio

>> INTERIOR
Original production '61 Corvette
New features for '61: Narrower transmission tunnel for more interior room. Windshield washers, sun shades, and parking-brake courtesy light made standard for 1961
Seats: Production '61 Corvette bucket seats, upholstered in beige vinyl
Gauges: Production '61 Corvette, with 0-160 mph speedometer and 0-7,000 rpm tachometer (5,500 rpm redline), plus gauges for fuel level, battery (ammeter), engine temperature, and oil pressure
Sound system: Optional GM Delco signal-seeking pushbutton AM radio (RPO 102)
Other options: Heater (RPO 101)

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