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."
So began the search through old photos, magazines, and any place they could look to uncover the car's history. That included magazines with coverage of the '62 Sebring 12 Hours, and it's A/Production-winning, Gulf Oil-backed No. 2 Corvette. Vic picks up the story. "They started stripping the paint off, and they found numerous indications such as holes on top of the fender where the air scoops were mounted and also where a fender had minor damage during one of the races. So, they figured out-based on all the data-that this was the car." On top of that, Vic adds, Ernst did an owner search, through which he located Tony Denman. He told Ernst that he'd put the as-removed original engine, the original big fuel tank, original hood and a lot of the other race parts in his father's garage. Vic adds, "Of course, eventually, Mike ended up buying all those parts, reuniting them with the car and doing the first restoration." When Vic acquired it, he rebuilt the original 327, porting and polishing the heads, as well as balancing and blueprinting it, resulting in an estimated 400 horsepower on tap.
A second restoration was called for when a big scratch appeared in the side of the '62, following its showing in the Special Collection at Bloomington Gold. "My friend, Kevin McKay (at Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York) volunteered to paint the car and fix it properly," says Vic. "That ended up being a full-blown, fix-the-body-up-from-all-those-old-race-injuries restoration."
Last August, Vic took this car to the Goodings & Company auction, held during the Rolex Monterey Historic Races/Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance fortnight, where it set a record in selling for well over a million dollars. The No. 2 car's new owner, whose collection includes many other high-dollar and interesting-history rides, has recently sent this C1 to Kevin's shop once again, for an undercarriage redo.
One question remains for the No. 2 Gulf Oil '62 Vette: Would it have won its class at LeMans in 1962? It's possible, though the car was never raced outside the U.S. that year. "Gulf could afford it, and they later did it with the Ford GT-40s of the late '60s," says Vic, about Gulf's car sponsorships at LeMans, which also included the Porsche 917s of the early '70s.
What's it like to drive the restored No. 2? "The car is FAST!," says Vic, who adds that it occupies a place at the top of the list of vintage Corvettes with Sebring and Daytona winning race history. "I would say this car, the '66 Penske L88 car, and a couple of the '67 to '69 L88s are probably some of the top echelon of Corvette race cars, other than the C5s and the C6.Rs." If you're one who's hoping to find some yet-to-be-rediscovered Corvette racing history, you're not alone. "There's a group of us that are always looking around for old race cars," says Vic. "The key to those is being able to prove their originality and history."
As the No. 2 Gulf Oil '62 C1 has now moved out of Vic's garage, that doesn't mean that it's empty. He's got the 2000 ALMS and LeMans-winning factory Dodge Viper, plus several historic Vettes. "I own the '60 Sebring class-winning race car, which we recently finished," says Vic. "It's going up to San Jose this year for the NCRS National Convention, and it's already been accepted for the NCRS' American Heritage Award judging for racing Corvettes. I definitely like race cars!"
Data File: '62 Chevrolet Corvette
Original Owner: Grady Davis
More recently owned by Vic Preisler, Calabasas, California
Modified production '62 Corvette
Modifications: Front/rear bumpers and grille removed, chrome tube bumpers under front/rear valances, hard top secured to body, Plexiglas side/rear windows added to top, FIA-specification fog and running lights
Bodywork: Corvette Repair, Valley Stream, New York
Paint: Ermine White with dark blue coves and longitudinal racing stripe, black door/front/trunk numbers; Paint preparation & applied by Corvette Repair, Valley Stream, New York
Frame: Production '62 Corvette
Suspension: (Front) Heavy-duty coil springs with Koni shocks (Rear) Heavy-duty leaf springs with Koni shocks
Steering: Restored OEM RPO 687 GM-Saginaw "special" recirculating-ball, non-power-assisted
Brakes: Restored OEM RPO 687 GM-Delco Moraine drum-and-shoe brakes with 11-inch (OEM size) drums and cerametallic brake shoes, non-power-assisted
Wheels: Heavy-duty stamped steel, 15 x 5 1/2 inches all around
Tires: Goodyear "Blue Streak" Sports Car Special, 7.00-15 all around
Chevrolet overhead-valve small-block V8 (RPO 562)
Originally Built: Chevrolet Motor Division's Flint Engine Plant, Flint, Michigan
Rebuilt/Restored: QMP Racing, Chatsworth, California
Displacement: 327 cubic inches
Modifications: Blueprinting the rotating assembly, cylinder head porting and polishing
Compression Ratio: 11.25:1
Cylinder Heads: Ported production RPO 562, cast iron
Ignition: OEM Delco points-style ignition with heavy-duty ignition wiring
Induction: GM-Rochester mechanical fuel injection, with aftermarket electric fuel pump
Exhaust: Cast iron manifolds with side-exit exhaust system with 2 1/4-inch pipes
Claimed Horsepower: Over 400
Restored OEM Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual
Shifter: Original '62 Corvette four-speed shifter with spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rear End: OEM RPO 675 Positraction differential with 3.70:1 rear gears
Restored modified production '62 Corvette by Doug Prince, West Hills, California.
Modifications: Roll bar, aluminum driver's seat, Motorola "Mocom" two-way radio, Stewart-Warner gauges, fuel pump switch, gas pedal extended by wood block
Seats: Aluminum driver's seat and OEM passenger seat, upholstered in black vinyl
Carpets: None--rubber floor mats, instead
Instrumentation: OEM '62 Corvette 140 mph speedometer, plus Stewart-Warner 0-8000 rpm tachometer, fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter and coolant temperature gauges
Sound system: Motorola two-way radio and/or RPO 562 engine
Heater: RPO 562 engine's heat, as transmitted through floor
A/C: Air conditioning, no. AC "Fire Ring" spark plugs, yes.