You've heard stories about how someone buys someone else's project, and what follows is horror story after horror story, including misrepresented, mismatched, or missing parts, frames of questionable integrity, fiberglass repair work done with cut-up Budweiser cartons as backing (and the content of those cartons as . . . well, never mind!) and paint schemes that are a horror story, not only in design but also execution. (Which should have happened to the designer and painter -Ed.)
This Corvette is none of the above, even though when Gary Ricketts bought it, it had been someone else's project. A long-time Corvette lover and street rodder, back in the mid-'90s he had a '30 Model A Ford with a supercharged small-block Chevy engine that he was looking to sell, and he had a potential buyer. Around that time, Gary went to the Super Chevy Show at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania-an easy trip from his Mannington, New Jersey home-and he spotted a '65 Sting Ray coupe for sale in the show's swap meet. "The owner was out of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, and he had another guy selling it for him," Gary recalls. "So, I looked at it and I said, 'This is my next project-I've got to have this car!'"
Gary got the contact information for the '65's owner, then a couple of weeks later he sold the Model A-minus engine. "He wanted another blower motor in it, we made a deal, and I kept my blower motor," says Gary of the first phase of his project changeover. "As soon as he pulled out with the Model A, I called down to where the Corvette's owner was and found out that car was still available." Soon after, that Midyear was in Gary's garage. "It had a big-block motor in it," he says. "I sold the big-block, because I knew I was going to complete the Pro Street theme with my blower motor."
You heard right-Gary's '65 had already been modified to fit big rubber inside its stock body profile. The frame had been narrowed in the rear, and large wheel tubs replaced the original Sting Ray rear wheelwells. Says Gary of the remainder of the mechanical work needed to complete this Pro Street-flavored Vette Rod, "I did everything on that car, other than the back half on it." That included swapping in the Daryl Fithian-built engine from his Model A, a 350-inch small-block that had been bored 0.030-inch and fitted with TRW pistons on GM steel connecting rods, a GM steel crank, a Comp Cams hydraulic roller camshaft, and a Weiand 6-71 supercharger with a pair of Endurashine-plated 600-cfm Edelbrock four-barrel carburetors on top. The blown 355-incher also received an MSD 6AL ignition system, Hooker Headers with 17/8-inch primary tubes and 3-inch collectors, and a 21/2-inch aluminized-steel exhaust system with Turbo Tube mufflers.
Del Trans in Newark, Delaware, built the manual/automatic shift Turbo 400 with a 10-inch, 3,000-rpm-stall torque converter and B&M shifter. Why not a Muncie or other manual gearbox? Gary says, "Because you only have nine or ten seconds in the quarter-mile, you can't shift that fast!"
The '65's current color scheme is far from the color black that was applied after it was finished and kept on it for about six years, until Gary decided he wanted something different. For the look you see here, he turned to painter Fred Green-and to his own son Steve. "My son laid out those flames," says Gary of the part of the '65's build that he really loves. "He's very much the artist, very much the painter. Back then, he was doing artwork for tattoos and doing small work laying out flames and artwork on motorcycle fenders and gas tanks." This would be his first car, and Gary told Steve that he wanted him to lay out the flames on the Sting Ray's body (which by then had been painted PPG Metallic Silver by painter Green.) "After it was set and ready to go, my son went in the paint booth and in about four hours, he laid out those flames by hand," Gary recalls. "Then, Fred came back with three coats of the Apple Red from House of Kolor, and he went over that silver with three coats."
But that's not all, says Gary. "After that had set up, my son loaded up the small spray gun with black, and he put the shadows in." Once that was done, the '65s got several coats of clear that were then sanded down and polished; the final result was what you see here.
Gary can't say enough about the job that Steve did, not just laying out any old flame pattern on this car, but the right one. "He has a knack of looking at the size of the flame, and the thinness of the flame-depending on the contour of the car," Gary says. "Of course, as low and sleek as the Corvette is, it needed these low, sleek flames."
Along with Steve and Fred Green, Gary has one other person to thank for his contribution to this Pro Streeted '65. "Phil Scarfo from Carneys Point, New Jersey, did the metalwork in the engine compartment," Gary says. "If you notice, the flames go into the engine compartment's sheetmetal work. Phil really helped me out big time, setting up those stainless panels so they're easy-in and easy-out."
No doubt you've also noticed that the hood is hinged differently than on a stock Midyear-at the back, instead of at the front. "It gives you an altogether different dimension of the engine compartment versus the original Corvette," says Gary. "So, with this hood opening up the other way, you get a much better view of the motor. People walk up to it, notice it, and love it." They also notice the interior's changes, which include a rollbar and Corbeau racing seats, which replaced the stock buckets.
What's it like driving this tubbed, flamed, and blown Sting Ray? "It's a good car to drive," Gary says. "It's very street worthy." But there's a limit to how far he and his wife Patty drive it to shows. "When we take it to or from a show that may be a couple hours away, we'll put it in a trailer and take it down. But, if it's no more than about an hour to get to, in the area where we live, which is New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware-and sometimes down into Maryland-we drive it. I do have to stop at several gas stations along the way, but I get there!"
Before too long, there'll be another Midyear in the Ricketts' garage-a '64 that he's building for Patty to drive. It was far from original when he swapped a '79 Corvette for it, but he'll bring back the original body lines by getting rid of the fender flares that were on when he bought it. "It's a frame-off build, and it's going to have a Corvette small-block motor that I'm going to rebuild, and it's going to be a beautiful cruiser," he says of the Sting Ray that will also have air conditioning and a four-speed. "I just love doing that as a hobby," he adds.
His advice is simple, if you're thinking of doing a Corvette project. "I don't mind modified cars-I love modified cars," he says. "However, if it's a complete original car, keep it that way." As for his '65, while it isn't original, it's certainly distinctive. "When I pull into a show with the blower whining, it's an eye catcher, and I just love that," says Gary. And that beats a vehicular horror story any day!