Twelve wins in fourteen starts. That sounds like a win record that today's Corvette Team would be proud to claim for their on-track efforts with the C6.R. But that 12-of-14 record wasn't generated by any of the sixth-generation Corvette road racers. Instead, it was generated by this car-a '62 Corvette, built at St. Louis but intended for racing from day one.
This C1 was sold new by a notable name in Chevrolet racing circles, to an owner who had the backing to race it in SCCA's big events. "It was sold new by Yenko Chevrolet to Grady Davis of Gulf Oil," says Vic Preisler, who recently owned this car. "Gulf unofficially sponsored the car during the '62 racing season." The car arrived at the Yenko dealership factory-optioned with RPO's 582, 685, 687 and 419. In other words, a 360-horsepower, fuel injected 327, a Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission, big brakes, and a hardtop were factory installed.
Before it hit the track, a few more additions and changes were made. Out went the original fuel tank, replaced by a special, 37-gallon fiberglass one for long-distance racing. (To facilitate it, the hard top's rear window was replaced with a re-shaped Plexiglas piece.) Off came the bumpers, front and rear, replaced by tubular steel lift bars located under the front and rear valances. A special aluminum driver's seat went in, as did a raft of Stewart-Warner gauges, Plexiglas side windows, and a Motorola two-way radio. Also, FIA-specified marker lights went on, as did a blue longitudinal racing stripe and blue paint on the body's coves (as the '62 Corvette no longer had the RPO 440 factory two-tone paint option).
Race-ready, it made its first appearance at Daytona in January of 1962 with Dr. Dick Thompson behind the wheel, placing second in the A/Production class in the Daytona National. Thompson then won A/P with it in the three-hour Daytona Continental two weeks later, followed by another class win in the 12 Hours of Sebring (with Doc Wylie and Duncan Black driving) in late March. After the class wins at Daytona and Sebring, the No. 2 Corvette-driven by Thompson-went on a terror in SCCA A/Production class racing, winning ten of the next eleven races that it entered, including the last ten in a row.
Alas, change was in the wind. A new generation of Corvette was in the works as Thompson scored win after win, and the '62's days as a Grady Davis-owned, Gulf-sponsored racer were numbered. (Especially with Davis' purchase of a '63 Z06 split-window coupe, also featured in this issue.) "At the end of each season, Tony Denman, would buy Davis' leftover car and campaign it the next season," says Vic. "Denman had a pole position at Daytona in 1963, and he had moderate success with the car-I'm going to say that he ran three or four races with it."
The No. 2 car's racing days ended with the '63 season, and it found itself converted into a road-going, big-brake '62 Corvette. That's how it spent the next couple of decades. Vic picks the car's story up in 1979. "A friend of mine, Reverend Mike Ernst, bought it as just a neat big-brake car. He got it home and with another friend of mine, Chip Werstein, they were looking the car over one day and he noticed that there were modifications to the body that weren't production."