This individual kept the car for just a few months (maybe the teeth scared him!), then sold the old Sting Ray to Mike Sepe. Mike began to research the history of the car, ultimately contacting Lynn Butler's grandmother. Amazingly, she had saved many of the photographs and newspaper clippings from the old Vette's heyday, and it wasn't long before Mike had compiled a book stuffed with all kinds of pictures and info on the car, including the original order sheet, and the bill of sale. Sepe decided to right the wrongs inflicted on the old racer over the years. He replaced the huge flared fenders with stock panels and refurbished the interior with original-style components. And, in a move that was vital to the old racer's character, yanked out the small-block, placing a mighty 427 in its rightful place in the engine compartment. "Leonard" was returned to 1966 "as raced" condition, right down to the white and purple paint and Gordon Wilson sponsorship. Then in '96, it went up for sale once again.
Jack Gersh of Thousand Oaks, California, was already up to his eyeballs in vintage racing. He owned two small-block-powered '65 Corvette vintage race cars, and was looking for a big-block Vette from the same era to race. When he heard about "Leonard," he had to check out the old car. In many ways, it was a typical old race car with the usual wear and tear, but the one thing that caught his eye was the book put together by the previous owner. "When I saw the book, I bought the car." Jack said. However, the "as raced" condition didn't measure up to Jack's standards. "It wasn't even close to race condition...we basically pulled the car completely apart," Jack explains. The 427 was pulled out and sent to Marconi Automotive, where it was treated to a full blueprinting, complete with Brodix heads, a Brodix intake, and a Holley 850 carb. A Jerico four-speed handles all 550 horses. The "Gordon Wilson" paint scheme was freshened up at Tom's Auto Body in Anaheim, California, with a new coat of Pearl White and purple striping. The suspension was refurbished with aluminum bushings, 800-pound front coil springs, and Penske nitro-charged shocks. A set of PS Engineering five-spoke wheels and Goodyear slicks provide grip in the corners. Jack and his buddy Jim Johnson performed most of the work on the car. Stewart Racing, based at Willow Springs International Raceway, finished off the race preparations, and Carlos Vivas of C&S Restorations in Torrance handling the final detailing.
Once the car was restored to its former glory, Jack wasted no time getting the Vette back on the track. But instead of competing against much newer cars in SCCA production-class races, "Leonard" is saved for vintage racing. There, with its thunderous exhaust and explosive speed, it races with some of the same cars it battled over 30 years ago. When Jack's on the track, he doesn't hold back, and he has an impressive collection of checkered flags to prove the point. You could say that "Leonard" has come full circle. The old racer underwent a lot of changes-good and bad-over the years, but has ended up close to how it began-in its glory days.