Corvette Drag Racing History - Remember When...

Thoughts From The Automotive Past

Doug Marion Dec 14, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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In 1965, I was employed at Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago. The very first 396 Corvette I remember seeing in for warranty service was a red roadster with piston noise. Seeing its huge rectangle port heads told me it was Chevy's engine of the future. A friend of a friend bought a Daytona Blue 396 coupe complete with 4.56 gears and Positraction. It ran good and had a great top-end. After a super-tune, it really ran good. We then installed a set of Bill Thomas headers, some Cure Ride 90/10 front shocks, and removed the front sway bar. With my old 8-inch recap slicks, the car ran 12.30s at 112 mph in A/SP.

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My '62 409 was running mid 12s early in mid-summer. On the street through glasspack mufflers, it probably ran 13.30s-13.40s. A friend named Earl Moloney (presently of Illinois limo building fame) had a new Marina Blue 350 hp L79 327 Corvette roadster with 4.56 gears. One day we were messing around, and I gave him a three-car-length lead. He won by 1. Fast 'Vette! My valve adjustment was off (loose) but Earl didn't want to run me again. Another friend had a new '65 L79 Malibu SS that ran 13.80s with a factory four-speed, headers, recap slicks and 3.31 highway gears. He crossed the finish line in 3rd gear!

Perhaps the biggest owner doings nationwide during 1963-1965 were what all the '55-'62 Corvette owners were up to. Most were not drag racers and high performance fans like me. But many were. A neat '55-'59 Corvette did not cost that much during that time. A lot of dealership and private used car lots made a lot of scratch from pre-owned, high performance Corvettes and Chevys. This actually continued well into the 1980s, but that's another story. In short, guys bought used Corvettes, hopped them up, then went cruising looking for street digs and cool chicks. Many even married as a result of meeting at a Dog & Suds, A&W Root Beer, McDonalds, Bob's Big Boy or at a famous local establishment like the legendary Skip's Drive-In on North Avenue in Chicago.

The closest "acceleration contest" I had in 1963 was in Park Ridge, Illinois on Highway 14. I went to visit a summer time co-worker named Arlene who attended Bradley University. In high school, she was a classmate of one Hillary Rodham. Arlene had some other guy friends who had dropped a 389 into a '62 LeMans. It had a heavy-duty three-speed transmission and a stock, puny, rear end. I got them one car-length off the line and we stayed that way for the quarter-mile. They couldn't believe they got beat by a 270hp 283 '61 Corvette with headers and traction bars. I then told them it was a roller-cammed 327. Word is they still talk about that race today. The fox got out-foxed! More to come. Stay tuned.




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