There are at least as many reasons why some Corvette lovers have more than one example of America's Only True Sports Car as there are multiple Corvette households. That holds true for DeSoto, Missouri's Terry Smith. Several years ago, Terry and his wife, Kathy, were at Corvette Funfest at Mid America Motorworks. They were proudly showing off their L79-powered '68 Corvette as part of the "Funfest 50," chosen to represent the first-year C3 in that special display honoring Corvette's 50th Anniversary. Their '68 was flanked by two other Vettes that had something that the Smith's Shark didn't have. "I had a '67 big-block on one side of me, and a '69 big-block on the other," says Terry. "I told my wife, 'I think that we need to start looking for a big-block." But, unlike some spouses who may have disagreed, Kathy went along with the idea. "I had just about talked myself out of buying it, and she said, 'Let's go ahead. It's an investment, and we might as well have fun as we're doing it," he says. "She didn't twist my arm too far, though!"
Once that arm twisting (estimated at 1/16 inch) was completed, Terry began his search for a 427-powered '68 to join the 327-powered one they already had. Fortunately for the Smiths, they didn't have to look outside of Missouri to find the car that you see here. "I got it in 2006 up at Schroeder Motors," recalls Terry. "He deals in Corvettes up in St. Charles, Missouri. It was the first car we ever bought from him, and we did OK as far as I'm concerned."
See if you think this is OK: A '68 Corvette coupe that was built with the hydraulic-lifter-equipped, 400 horsepower RPO L68 427, wearing three Holley two barrels underneath its triangular chrome air cleaner like its solid-lifter sibling (the RPO L71 427) does. A Shark optioned with a Rock Crusher and a luggage rack. This one was wearing its original Safari Yellow acrylic lacquer paint on the outside, and its original black vinyl seat covers and OEM black nylon loop-pile carpets inside. Unlike their L79-which Terry had restored himself-the L68 was complete, intact, and drivable. Sort of. "The car wasn't fun to drive when we first got it," Terry says of the 427-powered car's persistent cooling problems, which first cropped up on the trip home from St. Charles. "That was a nightmare. When you have to sit there and watch the temperature gauge spike, it's not fun." The solution-a black-epoxy-coated aluminum radiator from DeWitt's, plus a Weiand high-flow water pump. Combined, they cured the car's chronic cooling crises, and helped Terry and Kathy keep their eyes on the road (and not the temperature gauge) when they were out on the road.
There's some other non-OEM hardware on this car, along with the cooling system, courtesy of the Shark's previous owner. He'd updated the L68 with an L88-grind camshaft, while freshening up a car that had tallied 82,000 miles since its purchase in Las Vegas in 1968. "He rebuilt the engine, put all new factory-numbered bushings on it, and cross-referenced everything to verify that it's a numbers-matching '68," says Terry of the Corvette that, according to the history that accompanied it when he bought it, had been a garage queen between 1988 and 2002.
One item on this '68 is strictly for appearance's sake: the luggage rack on the rear deck. Terry doesn't use it. "I've seen people tie their T-tops to it, but I'm not going to do it," he says. "I can just see them falling off, and a semi running over my T-tops."
However, the 427 under the hood does get regular use, and Terry says it's really something to drive. "It's got more oomph than I really want to test it to," he says with a laugh about the upgraded L68's power. "I like the way the cam sounds-it lopes, and sounds good." And this car does get driven regularly. "As a matter of fact, we had it to a show this past Sunday at the AmVets in DeSoto," Terry says. "It took a first, and the other one (their 327-powered '68) took a third."
Terry says that he's learned many of the quirks of the first-year Shark, thanks to having two in his garage. "I am stumped once in a while," he says. "Recently, I tried to get the wiper motor and washer pump working. I had to get the original motor rebuilt, because it's the only one that will work. The '69-'72 wiper motors won't put the wipers or the wiper door in the proper timing." Regardless of their quirks, both of the Smith's '68s were honored at Corvette Funfest in 2007, when Mid America Motorworks founder and president Mike Yager picked both of them for his President's Choice award.
If you're still looking for your first Corvette-or if you're like the Smiths and are looking for another to complement the one already in your garage-Terry has this advice. "If you've ever dreamed about owning one, like I have ever since I was a kid, you need to go for it and get one. The more I drive it, the more I like it. "People say you either love 'em or you hate 'em, but I love mine more and more every day."
Data File: '68 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Terry J. Smith, DeSoto, Missouri
Production '68 Corvette coupe
Bodywork: Chevrolet's St. Louis Assembly Plant, St. Louis, Missouri
Paint: Original DuPont Safari Yellow acrylic lacquer; Paint preparation and applied by Chevrolet's St. Louis Assembly Plant, St. Louis, Missouri
Frame: Production '68 Corvette
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: OEM GM-Saginaw recirculating-ball, non-power-assisted
Brakes: OEM GM-Delco Moraine four-wheel disc brakes, non-power-assisted
Wheels: OEM 15x7-inch stamped steel Rallye wheels with correct-for-'68 center caps and trim rings
Tires: Firestone Super Sport Wide Ovals, F70-15 red stripe, on all 4 corners
Chevrolet overhead-valve Mark IV big-block V8 (RPO L68)
Originally Built: Chevrolet Motor Division's Tonawanda Engine Plant, Tonawanda, New York
Modifications: .030-inch overbore, forged steel crankshaft, steel connecting rods, L88-grind camshaft, Lenadi pistons, Weiand high-flow water pump, DeWitt aluminum radiator
Modifications: Bill Grimes, Peverly, Missouri (Prior owner)
Displacement: 427 cubic inches
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Cylinder Heads: Production RPO L71, cast iron
Ignition: OEM GM-Delco distributor, high-capacity coil and Holley electronic ignition
Induction: RPO L68's 3x2-barrel Holley carburetors: R3659A (front/rear), R4055A (center)
Camshaft: Production RPO L88 camshaft with solid lifters and roller rockers replaced OEM hydraulic-lifter L68 cam
Exhaust: OEM cast iron manifolds with 2 1/2-inch pipes
Horsepower: 400 @ 5400 rpm (Advertised)
Torque: 460 ft. /lbs. @ 3600 rpm (Advertised)
Muncie M-22 heavy-duty close-ratio 4-speed manual (RPO M22)
Shifter: Original '68 Corvette four-speed shifter with spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rear End: RPO G81 Positraction with 4.11:1 rear gears
Production 1968 Corvette
Additions By Owner: Head rests, teak steering wheel
Seats: Production '68 buckets with black vinyl seat covers
Carpets: Original black nylon loop-pile
Instrumentation: OEM '68 Corvette (0-160 mph speedometer, 0-7000 rpm tachometer with 5600 rpm redline, plus fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter, coolant temperature gauges)
Sound System: RPO U69 GM-Delco AM/FM stereo radio
Heater: OEM GM-Harrison heater/defroster
A/C: Before driving briskly with windows open and T-tops off, stand in front of GM-Frigidaire freezer with door wide open