Following the '63 season, Gulf One was succeeded by the next year's racing Corvette (just as it had taken the place of the '62). Davis sold it to Doc Blatchley, who raced it before selling it to Robert Bienerth. He later sold it to Don Pulver, who owned it until 1991.Then, it was sold again-to Rich Mason, who commissioned a total restoration by Carson City, Nevada, Corvette specialist Chet Bunch. Following that, it was sold to Harry Yeaggy, who preserved the restored Gulf One in race-ready condition before selling it a few years ago.
We finally got the chance to see and shoot Gulf One this past January, when it was one of the stars (if not the outright headliner) at the Mecum collector-car auction in Kissimmee, Florida, where it sold for $1,050,000. On hand at Kissimmee was the man who knows more about how Gulf One ran on the track than anyone-Dr. Dick Thompson. We spoke with Dick about the car, which he saw cross the auction block. "That was very nostalgic, and I enjoyed seeing it again. I'd had a lot of fun with it," says Dick.
How much of an improvement was Gulf One over the '62 that he'd raced for Grady Davis? "It was a very definite change for the better. They'd done a lot of small things that amounted to a lot. "It had some obvious improvements over what I'd been driving" he recalls. "It had better brakes-still not good ones, but better. The streamlining of it was better, and the downforce was more distributed." He goes on, "There was not so much front-end lift as there was on the earlier ones. The main thing was the brakes-they weren't disc brakes, but they were the best drum brakes that you could get."
Also, Thompson recalls that he and the Gulf Oil team were doing more than just racing-in late '62 and early '63, they were also doing R&D for the Corvette Grand Sport. "We did quite a lot of experimenting just before Sebring on various things like the setup of the car, brake linings, and things like that."
When they went racing with Gulf One in 1963, Thompson says they had plenty of hardware with them. "When I was racing full-time for Grady Davis, they had three new engines for every race," says Dick. "They ran 'em on a dyno, and they picked the best one to put in the car, and the other two were spares."
What was it like to take Gulf One out on the track for the first time? "It was very pleasant," Dick says with a bit of understatement. "It was in the islands for the Puerto Rico Grand Prix. The handling was very nice, and I was so happy to have some brakes at the end of the race. It was generally a nice car at that point."
Would he have moved from this car to a Grady Davis-owned Grand Sport later in the '63 season? Dick says that was possible-until the GM racing ban hit, which cut the GS's numbers from the planned 125 down to the five prototypes built before the ban. "That was up to Grady Davis. He had connections with the factory by then, and they wanted him to take the new (Z06) car and shake it down, which we did."
Did he ever think that this car would become as valuable as it has? "I can't imagine it, frankly," Dick says. "It was a wonderful car, and things didn't get a lot better than it for a while."