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1972 Chevrolet Corvette - Top Flight Flyer

Charlie Carr's '72 LT-1 was a key part of the second-coming of the high-performance small-block V8 in the Corvette

Scott Ross Jun 8, 2009
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It was the second coming of the high-performance small-block V8 in the Corvette. The 1970-'72 LT-1 was the first one offered as an option in the Corvette that boasted more than one horsepower per cubic inch since the days of the RPO L79 350-horse 327.

New for 1970, the LT-1's factory gross horsepower rating stood at an impressive 370, thanks to off-the-shelf Chevy high-performance parts like big-valve heads, a solid-lifter camshaft, and a big (780 cfm) Holley four-barrel atop an aluminum intake manifold. Combine that with a "big block" hood that was marked with unique "LT-1" striping, and you had a screamer that found its way into 1,287 '70 Corvettes in that shortened model year. For '71, the advertised horsepower number dropped to 330 for the 1,949 RPO LT1-equipped Corvettes. The following year, as GM and the rest of the U.S. auto industry changed to "net" horsepower ratings, 1,742 Vettes got the LT-1 as a factory option, now rated at 255 net horsepower. Tightening Federal emission regulations spelled its demise (and "replacement" by the RPO L82 350) following the '72 model run. 1972 was also the only model year that the LT-1 could also be equipped with air conditioning from the factory.

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'72 LT-1 is Charlie's Pride

Charlie Carr found his '72 LT-1 at Carlisle back in August 1992, but not where you might think you'd find a 54,000-mile car. "It wasn't in the car corral--it was in one of the sections where the parts vendors are located," he recalls from his Randolph, New Jersey home. "The guy had rebuilt the engine and he'd painted the car, which are probably the two toughest things to do. The entire suspension and underneath was original. So, I knew when I bought it, I'd have to tear the whole underneath out to re-do it." But the Shark was drivable, and Charlie bought it, took it home, and set to work on it. Even though the mileage was low, and the body and engine had been taken care of, there was still plenty that needed doing on this now-20-year-old Stingray. "I rebuilt the entire suspension," he says of the work that replaced the aged pieces with new ones, including a set of stainless steel brake lines from the master cylinder to rebuilt calipers at all four corners.

Inside, the LT-1's cabin had been worked on by its previous owner--to a point. Says Charlie, "The interior was a little rough. He'd put new door panels and carpeting in, and that looked good." However, looks were deceiving, as there was old seat foam under the new leather covers. Charlie says that replacing that old foam with new cushions was one of the most difficult things he did on his '72. Along with the new seat foam, Charlie also rebuilt the center-stack gauge cluster and console, and replaced all the gauge glass.

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During his ongoing restoration work, Charlie joined NCRS, receiving a Second Flight in 1994, and he used the detailed judging sheets to correct more things on the Shark as the years passed. His work paid off in Chapter and Regional Top Flight awards in 2006, and the following year the LT-1 received a National Top Flight at the NCRS National Convention. "It's hard to describe the work and effort required to restore a 35-year-old car to Top Flight," Charlie says, "but the accomplishment is very rewarding, and you make many good friends along the way." He notes that his car Top Flighted without one piece of hardware that was most often removed and tossed, even before the window sticker came off: the Air Injection Reactor (smog) pump. "It was very difficult to get an NCRS Top Flight without the smog system," he says. "You lose a lot of points without that whole system. Frankly, just driving the car and working on it, you don't really want it on there."

Charlie says that he's contacted the '72's original owner, who says he still has the OEM smog pump--somewhere in a barn full of parts. "That's the reason I haven't gone out and bought it myself," he says. "Actually, I probably never will, now that I finally made it through the NCRS with a National Top Flight. That was my goal. It's hard to get to that point--I'm one of the guys who drives and enjoys my car."

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And enjoy it he does. "It has got to be one of the best engines to drive, because the LT-1 is a high-revving, solid-lifter engine," Charlie says. "It has a 4.11 rear end--it's awful on the highway, but just driving it around on country roads and small turns, it's a lot of fun." That fun driving adds up to about 2,000-3,000 miles a year, which Charlie says is a lot more mileage than some other Vette owners would accumulate. "Corvettes are meant to be driven!"

That mileage also included several blasts down the quarter-mile, at the East Coast Corvette Show & Go, held at Englishtown, New Jersey's Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. "I thought, 'You know what--this car was ordered with a 4.11 rear end--it was bought to race on the dragstrip'," he recalls about one particular trip to "The Bridge." "So, in 2005, I raced it there." Never having drag raced a car before, and with a little help from a buddy on when to launch it, his best time and speed were 14.652-seconds/95.22 mph--without taking the Rallye wheels' trim rings or center caps off. "The guys at Englishtown picked me as their favorite Corvette that drag raced that day," Charlie says of the award he brought home from that event. "I was sitting up in the stands because I'd been eliminated earlier that day, and I'd had my fun, but they called my name on the loudspeaker, took pictures of the car and gave me the "Track Selection" trophy that barely fit in the car!"

But he's received other distinctions that did fit, including three invitations to the Fun Field at Corvettes at Carlisle. Charlie's LT-1 was picked for CSP Calendars' Corvette Originals 2008 calendar, as the July '08 feature car. "I always used to see a lot of cars from the West and Midwest on their calendar," Charlie says. "I got in touch with them and said, 'Look, you've got to come East and put some East Coast Corvettes in your calendar." Which they did, and they photographed it in front of the old Carlisle Army Barracks. "It's pretty cool to have your car on a calendar," Charlie adds with pride.

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He Found It at Carlisle Charlie Carr found his '72 LT-1 coupe at Carlisle in 1992, with just 54,000 miles on it. The Targa Blue factory hue had already been repainted in basecoat/clearcoat form, as you see here.

Data File: '72 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe
Owned by Charlie Carr, Randolph, New Jersey Body
Production '72 Corvette. Bodywork and paint preparation by previous owner
Paint: Targa Blue basecoat/clearcoat; applied by previous owner

Frame: Production '72 Corvette
Suspension: (Front) Reproduction OEM coil springs with unequal-length A-arms and tubular Delco shocks (Rear) Independent rear suspension with tubular Delco shocks and reproduction OEM steel leaf spring bundle
Steering: Restored OEM GM-Saginaw recirculating-ball, non-power-assisted
Brakes: Reproduction Stainless Steel Brakes four-wheel discs with four-piston calipers, power-assisted
Wheels: OEM-style Rally wheels, 15 x 8 inches all around
Tires: Reproduction Goodyear Polyglas Wide Tread F70-15 RWL

Chevrolet overhead-valve small-block V8 (RPO LT1)
Built by: Previous owner
Modifications: .030-inch overbore
Displacement: Just over 350 cubic inches
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Cylinder heads: Production '72 LT-1 cast iron
Ignition: Delco breakerless "SE" ignition with Delco single-breaker distributor
Induction: Holley 4150 (780 cfm) four-barrel carburetor on cast aluminum high-rise intake
Exhaust: OEM cast iron exhaust manifolds with reproduction stainless steel dual exhausts
Horsepower: 255 @ 5600 rpm (Advertised net)
Torque: 280 ft. /lbs. @ 4000 rpm (Advertised net)

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Worth The Effort harlie says replacing the old seat foam with new cushions was one of the tougher jobs on this car. He also rebuilt the center gauge cluster and put new lenses on all the gauges.

OEM Muncie M21 four-speed manual
Built by: GM-Muncie Gear Division, Muncie, Indiana
Shifter: Original Corvette four-speed shifter with spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rearend: RPO G80 Positraction with 4.11:1 rear gears

Restored production '72 Corvette with optional Custom Interior Trim package (including leather seats, woodgrain trim and cut-pile carpeting)
Seats: Restored '72 Corvette buckets
Upholstery: Black leather
Carpets: Black nylon cut-pile
Instrumentation: OEM '72 Corvette (0-160 mph speedometer, 0-8000 rpm tachometer with 6500 rpm redline, plus fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter, coolant temperature gauges and electric clock)
Sound system: AM/FM Stereo radio with dash-mounted speakers
HVAC: OEM GM-Harrison heater/defroster, no A/C



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