Euclid, Ohio, manufacturing engineer George Lesefky's last name may not legally be Yenko, but he's about as hardcore Yenko as any Yenko can get! We'll explain. George's grandmother Kate was Frank Yenko's sister. The oldest of two Yenko daughters born to nineteenth century Slovenian immigrants Katarina and Johann Jenko, Kate would marry one George Lesefky. The couple's only son, George Lesefky Jr. was Don Yenko's cousin, and the father of George Lesefky III. And yes, there's also a George Lesefky IV. Take that, George Foreman! Anyhow, George III owns this beautiful Code 932-A Saddle Tan '63 Corvette Sting Ray VIN # 30837S108115; and in a manner of speaking, it too is a Yenko; as the '63 split window was sold not once, but twice through Canonsburg, PA's Yenko Chevrolet. But we'll let second cousin George tell the rest of the story.
"To make a long story short, my father and I grew up loving Corvettes. When the '63 Corvette Sting Ray came out, my father George decided he had to have one. Like my second cousin Don, my father really loved fast cars, especially Corvettes. In 1963, my father ordered a black '63 Corvette convertible from Uncle Frank who was one of the biggest Corvette dealers on the east coast. Unfortunately, once my grandfather George found out that my dad was buying a Corvette, he said, 'Hell no, you have a wife and seven kids; how do you plan on fitting them all inside a Corvette?' That was the end of that. Actually, I think I was more broken hearted about it than my father was!"
Undaunted by the setback, second cousin Don Yenko did his level-headed best to keep the fire burning inside both father and son. In fact, Lesefky will never forget one particular Corvette incident. "We used to take my grandmother Kate to visit her brother Frank quite often in the summer time. Back in 1966, my dad ordered a brand-new '66 Chevrolet Impala SS from Uncle Frank. In fact, every car we ever had was bought from Yenko Chevrolet. Once a Yenko, always a Yenko! Anyhow, I remember it took quite awhile to get this car because of the special order teal exterior color and white interior color combination. Chevrolet kept kicking the order back, but that's the way dad wanted it. Finally, cousin Don flew up to Detroit and made the deal happen!"
"I remember it was almost like yesterday. Uncle Frank picked us up at the train station driving a brand-new blue-on-blue '66 390 HP, 427 Chevrolet Caprice four-door; so here it is Sunday, and the family is inspecting Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's house which had just appeared in Home & Gardens magazine. Suddenly, cousin Don stands up and asks the family if they were ready to go down, pick up their new car, and take a tour of Yenko Chevrolet. That was one (of many) tours I'll never forget!"
"We pulled into the parking lot, and on one wall there must have been thirty brand-new big-block '67 Corvettes. They had just been delivered! Then we went inside. Cousin Don's showing us all around the showroom and garage, and then he says, 'c'mon around back, I've got a Corvette I want to show you that we're getting ready for Daytona!' And there sat the (just completed) Sunray DX '67 L88 Corvette coupe which was sitting up on jackstands."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the very same '67 L88 Corvette that Don Yenko and Dave Morgan finished 1st in the GT class and 10th overall at the Daytona 24-HR, as well as winning 1st at Sebring, and 10th overall. The following year, the same car set the class record with Dave Morgan & Jerry Grant driving at 190 mph, a record which stood for quite a few years.
Lesefky continued. "As near I can remember, that thing has 3 1/2-inch side pipes on it. I mean, that car was a monster! Then cousin Don says "You want to hear this thing run?" He didn't have to ask us twice. He whacked the throttle a couple of times and before you know it, he blew all the window panes out of the shop. In the process, he scared the heck out of my grandmother. I don't think she ever heard correctly after that!"
Grandma Kate may have suffered a temporary loss of hearing, but there's no mistaking that George II and George III heard the message loud and clear!
Lesefky continued. "A year later, (1968) we had an opportunity to buy another Corvette. It was a triple black '63 Corvette roadster. My dad met some guy that was selling a '63 Corvette that had been stolen and recovered. The guy had bought the car back from the insurance company, but he had such a bad taste in his mouth he just wanted to sell it! That was the first Corvette we owned," said George. "We thoroughly enjoyed that car. It was in the family up until 1998.
"However, my father George always wanted what he called a 'married couple,' namely a '63 Split Window as well as a '63 Corvette convertible. We looked for a while and couldn't find anything. Then in 1978, cousin Don called us one Sunday evening and said 'George, we have a '63 split window coupe here that we think you would like to come and have a look at.' At the time, my father had just had an operation, so me and my younger brother Phillip drove up to Pennsylvania in a blinding snow storm to look at this car. The following Monday morning we went down to the dealership and bought the Corvette on sight!"
According to Lesefky, the Sting Ray had been owned by a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, who traded the split window in on a brand-new '78 Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car! "Once we started digging deeper into the car, we noticed a couple of things that needed fixing. Cousin Don suggested that we leave the car there, and he would call us when he had fixed everything to our satisfaction, and we drove back home to Euclid, Ohio. Cousin Don kept the car for around six months. In the process, he gave the Corvette to Doug Ward who was one of his co-drivers and said, 'Drive it around and tell us what it needs!' "
"We picked the car up in the spring of 1978. Actually, we bought four cars. I bought a new '78 Caprice, my brother Tom bought a '78 Caprice Landau, and my sister Cori bought a Malibu SS. In actuality, my father and I bought the Corvette, and my brother Phillip drove it home. We also went up there to attend Don's oldest daughter Lynn's wedding, so we killed two birds with one stone. We drove the Corvette for about two years. Then we decided that it was time we restored both cars. Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say that my father George died of a massive heart attack in June of 1980, and we had a sudden change in plans."
Lesefky went on to relate that with three mouths to feed, he couldn't afford to restore both Corvettes. In the end, George kept the coupe and sold the '63 roadster to his cousin in Houston, Texas. "The split window sat for quite a while, at least until 1990. Finally, in 1991 we started putting the car back together. The car was completed in 1994, and this is the way the '63 looks today."
You can credit George for the majority of the Corvette's restoration. He completely rebuilt the '63's 3.36:1 geared 9-leaf sprung IRS and short-long "SLA" coil spring front suspension himself. "The totally numbers matching chassis uses all NOS Corvette components," says George. "You must remember that in terms of time, this is an early restoration, and I had been collecting parts for quite a few years. Of course, the rebuild also included all new Delco-Moraine four-wheel-disc brake components right down to the factory original tin dipped-steel brake lines." Lesefky's Corvette also makes use of the optional 15x6-inch GM Knock-Off wheels complete with correct spinners and new 6.00x15-inch Coker Tire vintage Goodyear rubber.
Powering the '63 is the original serial numbers matching L-76 327-cid Corvette engine (factory rated @ 340 HP) machined up by Dean Gellner Engineering (Parma, OH) and owner-assembled. Internally, the solid lifter cammed small-block features a set of 11.25:1 compression TRW forged-aluminum pistons, GM camelback cylinder heads, Corvette L-76 cast-aluminum intake and Carter AFB carburetor with chrome-plated open-air/air cleaner, and Delco-Remy conventional ignition, the factory cast-iron rams horn exhaust, a six-quart capacity oil pan, the original Harrison aluminum radiator and Delcotron 37 AMP alternator. Backing it up is the original serial number Borg Warner T-10 and factory shifter.
Inside, George's '63 makes use of an owner-installed Eckler's Code 490-898 Saddle Tan leather interior, complete with the stock Delco Electronics push-button AM radio, and paper Yenko Chevrolet floor mats. When it came to massaging the coupe's Owens-Corning fiberglass outer shell, Excalibur Auto Body & Paint's Mitch Wilson was the man of the hour, re-painting the '63 in the original Code 932-A Saddle Tan color. Of course, this coupe features a number of visual nuances reminding us of the fact that this '63 Split Window is a "Genuine Yenko." For example, there's the YENKO chrome and black letter dealer badge located above the taillight on the driver-side rear fender. There are the YENKO CHEVROLET license plate frames front and rear (the State of Ohio Vanity Plate reads, "SPL 63 IT,") and of course, a YENKO TUNED sticker located inside the lower front corner of the passenger side rear window. At NCRS Corvette Only events, Lesefky's genuine Yenko Corvette has scored a total of 94.6 points for originality. George and his wife Annette also own a '66 427 Chevrolet Caprice executive demo car with 37 listed options!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob McClurg has just finished his book, Yenko! The Man, the Machines, the Legend (Car Tech, Inc.) due for release Spring 2010.