Where's the best place to find a Corvette that's destined to capture a Top Flight award? It all depends-it could be in a neighbor's garage, it could be in the collection of someone whose ad you've read, or it could be...just about anywhere. Nick Minoia has always loved the second-generation Corvette, and he wanted a midyear to grace his collection. Fortunately for Nick, he had some help in looking-help that found a prospective purchase within a day's drive. "I found out about it from my brother back in late-2005, early-2006," he says from his Succasunna, New Jersey, home. "The car had had a frame-off restoration by this guy in upstate New York, but it had passed to another owner who was frustrated by the fact that it had knock-off wheels on it. He'd driven the car, and one of the wheels started to come off, and it scared the hell out of him. He ended up parking the car in the garage, and he never drove it again."
That split-window had been restored by Paul Bohensky in his Elmira, New York, garage several years earlier. The car had been parked at a used-car store/body shop in Elmira, and though it didn't move through space, its journey through time left it with more than a few problems. Through his brother's efforts, Nick looked up the Sting Ray's owner. "When I called the owner, he said, 'Funny you should call right now. 'I just bought a lake house, and I frankly could use the money, so I might be willing to sell it if you want to do something quick." Nick adds, "Timing is everything in life, and this was just one of those things that happens for a reason."
Nick drove up to Elmira that weekend and checked out the '63. "We drove it around the block, and it was running rough, the brakes weren't really working, and there were a lot of issues with the steering," he recalls. "It hadn't been driven in about five or six years. The tires were lumpy-they'd never even rolled, it was like driving on square tires."
But what Nick calls "the bones of the car" were there, and he could tell that it needed to be "brought back from the dead," as he puts it. The deal was done, and Nick brought the '63 home. Over the next two years, he brought the Sting Ray into more than just drivable shape-it was ready for NCRS judging. But not before a lot of "little" things needed doing. "I must have spent about $10,000-$15,000 in parts," Nick says. "Me and Long Island Corvette got to know each other real well!"
The previous restoration was of good quality, but not a Top Flight-level restoration, so Nick set out to make his C2 worthy of the NCRS' top honors. "There were so many things that needed to be brought up to speed, like period tires, wheels and hubcaps, bolt head markings, engine detailing, finding the correct numbers-matching parts like the alternator, starter and regulator," he recalls while estimating that he did about 95 percent of the work himself that was needed to bring the split-window up to Top Flight quality. "The only things that I had done were rebuilding of the master cylinder and the wheel cylinders as well as sending out pieces like the clock and wiper motor to be rebuilt. When I found the right date-coded alternator, I sent that out to have new diodes put in and have the finish redone on it."
One thing that didn't need re-doing was the split-window's Daytona Blue exterior color. Paul Bohensky had re-painted the car in acrylic lacquer during the previous frame-off-the same type of paint Chevrolet used at St. Louis Assembly. "It's a little over ten years old, and it still has a great look to it," he says. "That's the beauty of lacquer, where you can just hit it, rub it out, and bring it back to like-new condition."
Also not needing much attention was the RPO L84 fuel-injected 327, and the RPO M20 four-speed manual transmission behind it. Nick says that the 327's Rochester mechanical fuel-injection system only needed a new diaphragm in the fuel meter, and the engine bay needed only a new radiator cap and a correct dipstick, plus new hoses and a clean-up.
When all was said and done, Nick had a Sting Ray that scored a Regional Top Flight at the Marlborough, Massachusetts, regional NCRS meet in 2006, and received the NCRS Performance Verification (PV) Award at the regional meet at Edison, New Jersey, the following year. Last year, Nick's midyear scored another Regional Top Flight at NCRS' regional meet at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. Nick takes pride in saying that he did all the work needed to bring his midyear up to PV standards. "That was a challenge, because everything had to be flawless," says Nick, who adds that he hasn't missed a point on either the PV or the operational judging when the car was Top Flighted.
What's this car like to drive, and how does it compare with his other Corvettes? "I love this car to death!" says Nick. "To me, this is the iconic Corvette. The other ones-I love them for different reasons, but this one exemplifies what Corvette is to me, personally, I'm not a straight-axle guy-I like looking at those cars, but you see the '63 split-window everywhere, in magazines and on t-shirts and hats. Everybody recognizes that car. You don't have to be a Corvette guy-when somebody drives down the road in a split-window coupe, someone always says, 'My neighbor used to have one,' or 'I knew a guy who had one,' or 'I always wanted one.' Everybody knows what that car is. The fact that it's the color that I love, and it's a fuelie, just adds to the excitement and ownership of the car."
And it makes for a fine counterpart to the other Corvettes in his garage. "I have a '72 LT-1 Targa Blue convertible which is the sister to the coupe you had on the cover in July," says Nick. "Mine is a Duntov Award car-I bought it from a guy in New Jersey, who bought it from Bill Nichols, who's the current powertrain engineer for GM for the Corvette. He'd done a full body-off restoration on the car and Duntov'ed it about nine or ten years ago. Then I have a '69 427/400hp with air, Monaco Orange with black leather and side pipes. That's a scary-looking car!" Nick also has an '07 Z06, which he says is for getting in and driving when the weather's good.
If you've got a yearn for a specific year, body style or variation of Corvette, Nick has this advice: "Just get a car that's running, that you can get in and have fun, and you don't have to pay a lot of money for it. Over time, you can fix it up to be a driver, or chase that Top Flight banner, if that's what appeals to your sense of owning one of these cars. There are so many great cars kicking around, that you don't have to take one of these cars to the level of NCRS judging, and micromanage the restoration process down to the correct bolt-head markings and those things, because the cars are such fun to get in and drive, throw the top down if you have a convertible or pop the T-tops."
Or, get in and go, in the case of his Daytona Blue Split-Window Fuelie!
Data File: '63 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray coupe
Owner: Nick Minoia, Succasunna, New Jersey
Restored production '63 Sting Ray coupe
Restoration: Paul Bohensky, Elmira, New York
Bodywork: Paul Bohensky, Elmira, New York
Paint: Daytona Blue acrylic lacquer; Paint preparation and applied by Paul Bohensky, Elmira, New York
Frame: Restored production '63 Sting Ray
Suspension: (Front) Coil springs, unequal-length A-arms, tubular shocks and stabilizer bar (Rear) Independent with heavy-duty transverse leaf spring bundle and tubular shocks
Steering: Restored OEM GM-Saginaw recirculating-ball, non-power-assisted
Brakes: Restored OEM GM-Delco Moraine drum-and-shoe brakes with 11-inch drums and, non-power-assisted
Wheels: OEM 15-inch stamped steel wheels with OEM chrome full wheel covers
Tires: Original Firestone "Deluxe Champion" whitewalls, 6.70-15
Chevrolet overhead-valve small-block V8 (RPO L84)
Originally built: Chevrolet Motor Division's Flint Engine Plant, Flint, Michigan
Displacement: 327 cubic inches
Compression ratio: 11.25:1
Cylinder heads: Production RPO L84, cast iron
Ignition: OEM GM-Delco points-style ignition
Induction: GM-Rochester mechanical fuel injection system
Camshaft: Production RPO L84 with solid lifters
Exhaust: OEM cast iron "block hugger" manifolds with 2 1/4-inch pipes
Horsepower: 360 @ 6000 rpm (Advertised)
Torque: 352 ft./lbs. @ 40000 rpm (Advertised)
Restored Muncie M-20 four-speed manual (RPO M20)
Shifter: Original '63 Sting Ray four-speed shifter with spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rearend: RPO G81 Positraction with 3.70:1 rear gears
Restored production '63 Corvette Sting Ray
Restored by: Owner and Paul Bohensky, Elmira, New York
Seats: Production '63 buckets with reproduction dark blue vinyl upholstery
Carpets: Reproduction dark blue nylon loop-pile
Instrumentation: Restored OEM '63 Sting Ray (0-160 mph speedometer, 0-7000 rpm tachometer with 6500 rpm redline, plus fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter, coolant temperature gauges)
Sound system: Restored RPO U69 GM-Delco "Wonderbar" AM/FM radio with single speaker in dash
Heater: Restored OEM GM Harrison heater/defroster
A/C: Something the original selling dealer's building likely had, but this car doesn't