Is there such a thing as The Perfect Corvette? For many long-time Vette lovers, the answer is an emphatic YES, as they point to the '67 Sting Ray as proof. Five years of refinement and continuous production had taken a very good car and made it the symbol not only of sports-car superiority, but also of American automotive engineering, styling, and production in general. Starting with an all-new platform that beat its three closest rivals-the Jaguar E-Type, A.C./Shelby Cobra, and Studebaker Avanti-in terms of build quality, availability, affordability, street drivability, and gotta-have-it ability, Chevrolet improved the Corvette each year by adding new features such as four-wheel disc brakes, a four-speed gearbox made by GM's own Muncie Gear Division, optional air conditioning, the Mark IV big-block engine, and side exhausts.
When those features, in any combination, were added to the '67-edition Sting Ray, they made for an even more desirable version of America's Only True Sports Car. That's thanks in part to the build quality at St. Louis Assembly-after building just over 94,000 Sting Rays from 1963-1966, they were getting good at it, at a time when some domestic car-assembly plants' build quality was getting worse.
Milt Robson's '67 Sting Ray convertible has many of the features that became available on the second-generation Corvette during its production history, plus one extremely noticeable feature that arrived for 1967: the optional 435hp, triple-Holley-two-barrel-carbureted RPO L71 427. Built at Chevrolet's Tonawanda (New York) engine plant, the L71 represented the highest-output engine ever offered for sale in a streetable Vette (if you don't count the '66 L72 427, whose factory horsepower rating was dropped from 450 to 425-by picking a lower number on the engine's power curve and changing a sticker on the air cleaner-in a bid to silence car-industry critics). It was one of only two multiple-carbureted engines offered by any General Motors division for 1967, after some upper-level GM-management arm twisting got Oldsmobile and Pontiac to discontinue their triple-two-barrel carburetor options after 1966. The second multi-carb engine option was the L68 400hp offering in the Corvette.
Milt's '67 looks much like it did when it left St. Louis. "It's a neat little old car," Milt says. "It had about 40,000 original miles on it before it was restored. We've got all the original paperwork-the order form, invoice, window sticker, and the original gas tank sticker." He's owned it for over two decades, and during its lifetime, this particular Sting Ray was featured as the cover car on at least one Corvette restoration-parts catalog.
During its restoration, this midyear didn't need to have any features or options that weren't originally on the car added to it. That's because this one was outfitted right the first time. "If you could go back, that's the way you'd order it," Milt says. That restoration not only included refinishing it in its Rally Red splendor; it also included keeping the L71's original 11.0:1 compression ratio, which isn't compatible with many of today's commonly available pump premium gasoline. "We don't run it on today's gas," Milt notes. "We keep high-octane fuel in 55-gallon barrels."
There's one other Corvette currently in Milt's collection, and we wouldn't be surprised if it's also fueled from the same supply that keeps the '67's 427 happy. "I have a '57 airbox Corvette that Corvette Fever's also done a story on (June '07 cover car)," he says of his vintage RPO 579E first-year-283 fuelie Vette. "I used to have about eight Corvettes, but I'm mixing my collection up, and I figured that those were the two best ones that I liked." Right now, Milt's collection has about 70 cars, many of them prime examples of American horsepower.
What's it like to drive? "It's fine! Just like any '67," says Milt. If you're looking for a Corvette to add to (or start) your collection with, you can't do wrong by going with a car like this one. "You just need to know what you're doing when you're looking for 'em. That's the main thing," Milt advises. "If you don't know Corvettes, you need to get somebody who does to help you pick out what you want. That's because people change so much of them because they're bringing big bucks."
Plus, it never hurts to go for the Vette that's the most complete and in the best condition for the money. "I do that on all cars. You're better off paying the price and buying the right stuff to start with." Milt adds that it's better to pay to buy the best up front, than to pay and have to pay again to restore it.