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1960 Corvette - Full Circle

A Big Brake Fuelie That's Part Of A Family Tree

Scott Ross Aug 1, 2008

There's a special something about the first Corvette that made a lasting impression on you. Maybe it was the combination of color scheme and styled body lines. Maybe it was an exhaust note that turned your head and had you saying Wow for the next month.

in the case of Kim Ian Madsen, owner of this '60 big-brake fuelie, it's the car his father wrenched on while it was ruling the road courses and hill climbs of the East Coast during the '60s.


Leader of the Pack: Steve Elfenbein's Corvette leads the pack at a road race in New Jersey in the mid-'60s. Behind the wheel of the Mustang on the right is renowned road racer Mark Donahue.

Kim's father, Doug Madsen, was a mechanic at Konners Chevrolet in Caldwell, New Jersey, and it was there that salesman Bob Wasserman ordered the car you see here. "He ordered this car as a demo for himself, then he sold it to Steve Elfenbein, who actually wanted a red one," says Kim. Steve, who was an engineer at Bell Labs, was looking for a car to go racing with on weekends. When he saw this one in early 1961, he decided not to wait the six to eight weeks (or more) for a specially ordered red one. Kim says, "He settled for Horizon Blue because he wanted to get racing.

Under the factory colors, this '60 had the RPO 687 big-brake and RPO 579D 290hp, fuel-injected 283, as well as a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed and a 4.11-geared, Posi-traction-equipped rearend, a radio, and heater (the latter two not typically ordered on big-brake cars). But unlike the later-production '60 big-brake cars, this very-early-production '60 also received the '59 Vette's competition suspension package, with shorter front coil springs and five-leaf bundles on each side in back.

Steve got it ready-with the help of Kim's dad, who was the only mechanic that worked on the car-for the road courses and hill climbs that made up the East Coast sports-car racing scene back then. From the first race, Steve ran up front and finished up front. In 128 races and hill climbs, the car won 73 times, placed second in 21 events, came home third 18 times, and only four times did it fail to finish!


Getting Some Air: Steve's Corvette spent a great deal of time in the air at many hill climbs as witnessed by this blurry photo.

In 1966, it was the first production car to break the one-minute barrier on the Giant's Despair hill climb in Pennsylvania, and it was a perennial SCCA Regional champion during its racing days against some very notable competition. "Elfenbein wasn't a Yenko or a Donahue, but he raced against them and won," says Kim. "And my father was right in the thick of it." He also raced-and won-while competing with drivers such as Ed Lowther, John Morton, Tony Fucchi, Al Loquasto, Harold Keck, Oscar Koveleski, and many more.

Still fairly early in its racing career, one major change was made to the '60. The original fuel-injected 283 was replaced by another small-block wearing Rochester fuel injection. This one-a '62-vintage 327-put out more than the 360 hp that Chevrolet rated it at. One reason is the fuel-injection system itself, which got some help from a noted Chevy tuner and racer. "That 327 has a Bill Thomas-modified plenum [on top of the fuel-injection system]. The power-to-weight ratio was pretty phenomenal," says Kim.


Once a Race, Now a Street Driver: A small-diameter steering wheel and latter-day sound system were just two updates to the '60s interior when it was turned from racer to driver. Note the tach's 6,500-rpm redline.

Following the '66 season, the '60 was parked when Steve got a new Z/28 Camaro to race, and it didn't see a race track again until its last year of competition: 1971. Then, it sat in Steve's garage, waiting to be restored-a wait that took nearly two decades.

In 1989, Steve decided the time was right to restore his '60 Vette and turn it into a streetable driver. He enlisted the only mechanic he'd ever had work on it, Doug Madsen, to do the restoration at Madsen's restoration shop.


Still a Winner: Repro seat covers by Al Knoch cover the '60's original bucket seats. Note absence of race-related safety gear, save for a pair of lap belts.

One question that had been on Steve's mind for years was finally answered: what color should this car really be? "Steve had a blue race car. He set out to do certain things with it. he did everything he wanted to do with it as a race car, and he was done racing it," says Kim. "Now he wanted to enjoy it as a street car, and he always wanted a red one. He agonized long and hard over it, and he decided to paint the car red."

In its new color scheme, the '60 was a driver and show-goer for Steve, who brought it with him when he moved from the East Coast to Arizona.

Unfortunately, in 2004, he passed away, and about a year later, Kim bought it from his daughter-bringing the car full circle back to its original mechanic's family. It had been parked for quite some time before Kim got it, so he brought it into his Corvette Restoration AZ shop in Tempe, Arizona, and gave it a resto freshening that resulted in the '60 looking the way you see it here. He also acquired just about every item relating to its history. He says, "When I bought the car, I got boxes and boxes with it, including every trophy, all the dash plaques-hundreds of those-all the sterling-silver bowls [that it won], plus all the newspaper and magazine articles about the car."


Best of the East: This 327-inch small-block powered Kim Ian Madsen's '60 to most of its race wins in the '60s. Bill Thomas modified the fuelie's plenum, and Noland Adams autographed it.

During its time in Kim's shop, he had a question on his mind as big as the blue-or-red question that Steve had: Should he keep the 327 that was already in the car, or should he seek out a correct '60-vintage 283 block and build it into a replacement for the car's original fuelie powerplant? Says Kim, "I thought about going back to original with it, but that [327] was what the car raced with. That was the motor that it won most of its awards with." Kim adds that he has no plans to build a 283 for it. "This is what the car is and was. I would be foolish to try to go find an original 283 block and put the car back to stock because the car was a race car. This is what it was raced with. At least the powertrain is as-raced, which I feel is more valuable than as-born-with. This is the car the way people remember it."

As for those who are still seeking that dream Vette in a barn or other hideaway somewhere, Kim says to keep looking for them. "They're still out there! as the owner of Corvette Restoration AZ, I am amazed at the phone calls that I get, and I go and pull Corvettes out from behind houses or uncover them in a garage. It's amazing what's still out there." He cites an original-owner '67 roadster that's owned by the Commanding General of the Arizona National Guard, which was stored near his shop, and that he just brought in for a restoration. "He bought it brand-new; it's in original unrestored condition. We dragged it out of his house, brought it to my shop, dropped the tank, and found the sticker, which I gave to him to preserve. Now we're doing a restoration on it. Isn't that something?"

So, how does it drive? "It's a thrill! It's a handful. It's a man's car," says Kim, who took the RPO 687 quick-steering adapter off because it was just too much for him. "It's extremely powerful. My license plate says XCELR8 because that car is all about accelerating. I have respect for what Steve Elfenbein did with that car, how he tossed it around. He must have been fearless!"

And another chapter in Corvette history is rediscovered and restored just like Kim's big-brake '60 fuelie.

Data File '60 Corvette
Owned by Kim Ian Madsen, Mesa, ArizonaRestored (1989) by Madsen Auto Restoration, Mine Hill, New Jersey (Doug Madsen and Kim's late father and brother Scott); (2004) by Corvette Restoration AZ, Tempe, Arizona

Current engine produces hp/torque well above Chevrolet's published figures



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