Pinning the term "sleeper" to a Corvette feels rather non sequitur, butwhen a once demur '61 roadster roars by you with all the rumble and roarof a tuned, fuel-injection modern powerplant, you'll think twice. A"sleeper," as defined by any car guy, is a stock-appearing, unpresumingvehicle brandishing significant power and punch without revealing itssecret until it's too late for the competition. Chevrolet was at theforefront of the "factory sleeper" trend as far back as the late '50swith the advent of the Fuelie 283 Corvettes and the "Black Widow" '57Chevy--a stripped-down '57 with the aforementioned injected 283, customram-air induction, and tall-geared posi-traction.
While Al Kapnick's red-and-white drop-top may not be as inconspicuous asa zero-frills, 409-powered Impala, this Corvette totes a couple oftricks beneath its curvaceous fiberglass skin. Al's fascination with the'61's styling came after a series of C3s: his first, a '75 he picked upin 1979; his second, a '77; and, ultimately, an '80. All weresingle-owner vehicles before Al took over the titles, and all "gateway"Corvettes into his final obsession--this '61. Lured in by the classicside coves of the late '50s and the addition of the quad taillampstyling that would survive even until today (the first year for the fourbacklights), it was love at first sight.
This '61 began life with a dual-carbureted 283 mounted to a nondescriptfour-speed transmission. While the combination in 1961 was impressive,especially given the roadster's power-to-weight ratio, by later thatdecade, the 283 would seem anemic compared to the rocketing horsepowernumbers the Corvette and its GM brethren would boast. By the time Al'ssearch for this Vette came to a close in 1997, the 283 was long gone,replaced by a worn and weary 350.
The fourth owner explained to Al the car had a repaint andquasi-restoration 10 years earlier and only required a light buffing anda reinstallation of the original emblems to bring the decade-longcosmetic restoration to a close.