The first time we met was at the home of a mutual friend in the Washington, D.C., area in February 1998. Our friend hosted a meeting that included the two of us, two other D.C.-area men and himself, for the purpose of planning to field a car for the 1998 La Carrera Panamericana Road Race in Mexico. (Its website, www.lacarrera.com, contains considerable background on the race, some tales of the original races, which ran from 1950-54, and the official results of the 1997-99 races.) At that meeting, we reached an agreement to prepare and enter a '65 Porsche 356.
Fast forward to October 1998 in a hotel parking lot in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the five of us are working at 3 a.m. to replace the engine in the Porsche, which had blown in the third day of the six-day race. While we were working on the car, Dick commented to Bruce that the Porsche was not proving to be the ideal car for the race, and that he would love to run the race again the next year in a more powerful, better-suited car. Bruce asked Dick what his choice car would be and without hesitation he replied, "A race-prepared mid-year Corvette would be perfect." (The event is open to cars built between 1930 and 1965.) Dick's statement was duly noted.
When Bruce returned home from Mexico to Binghamton, New York, he started to look around for a project mid-year. In February 1999, he notified Dick that he'd found an appropriate '65 roadster in Buffalo. The owner of the car had purchased it from a local schoolteacher in 1985. It had been the teacher's daily driver since 1973. In the spring of '86, after owning the car for less than a year, the gentleman we purchased the car from was involved in a low-speed collision with a Pinto. The Corvette was driven from the scene, but on the way back to the owner's home, the frame broke (presumably from the stress of the accident, not to mention at least 12 salty Buffalo winters) at the rear-wheel kick-up. The Vette was disassembled to the bare frame for restoration/repair after the accident and was never reassembled.
On February 4, 1999, we hauled the '65 from Buffalo to Binghamton. The gutted interior was stuffed with boxes of parts, as was the bed of the Chevy pickup we towed it with. The frame had already been acid-dipped and sandblasted to remove all rust, the rusted sections were replaced, and the entire frame had been continuous-welded. The front and rear suspension had been reassembled. The body had been stripped of paint, and a one-piece replacement front fender/nose assembly had been grafted to it. The body had been hung on the frame, and junkyard tires and wheels enabled the car to be rolled. The original, numbers-matching drivetrain had not been touched or reinstalled. When this car came from the factory, it was Nassau Blue with a blue interior, both tops, a 300hp small-block, an M20 four-speed, a 3.36:1 rear, a teak/tele steering wheel, standard wheels, and side exhaust. All the original components were with the car and in restorable or repairable condition. The car was very complete.
Our goals for this car were to build a race car capable of competitively withstanding the seven-day, 2,400 mile race; to complete the project without modifying the body's original configuration or destroying the original drivetrain components; to make it marginally street-legal; and to win the Historic C class of the Pan Am!