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1964 Chevrolet Corvette - Miss Mako

On Tour For Charity

Jerry Heasley Sep 1, 2001
0109_VEMP_01_z_24 26 MissMako 2/1

To fulfill in me what no other person, place, or thing can fulfill"

"I love my family", Joan Spoerndle says to us over her cellphone. As she talks, she folds clothes at a Flying J and repeats her first sentiment again, "I love my family."

Joan has docked her motor home and enclosed trailer, with her '64 Corvette "Miss Mako" inside, to settle down for another night between car shows. "I was on the road today and getting a little teary-eyed because Mother's Day and my son's birthday are coming up."

About noon, Joan crossed the bridge at St. Petersburg, Florida, and looked out across the waters and the scenery was so beautiful. As she listened and looked, Joan was sure God was guiding her and she was doing the right thing with her life. A string of her favorite songs from the '70s came on the radio. Joan was encouraged to hear Elton John's "Daniel" and B.J. Thomas singing "Hooked On A Feeling".

She continued, "I love my friends. But, this kind of satisfaction I am getting now is not like anything else I have received. And to see the faces on the people thanking me for raising money for their charity and how appreciative they are is astonishing."

Joan is living the dream she started several years ago. In 1980, when she bought her first Vette, a '77, she had no idea. After she raised her son, she bought a white '96 coupe and joined the Corvette Club of Connecticut which, with more than 400 members, is the largest in the state.

Corvettes and shows were fun. Then, four years ago at Carlisle, Joan saw the original Mako Shark on display. She liked this factory show car so much that she actually tried to buy the vehicle from General Motors. Although the car wasn't for sale, Joan figured she could build one on her own, starting with a mid-year convertible.

Right from the start, Joan had the idea to show her Mako Corvette for charity. She got encouragement from Sandy Labaree, a lady who drove her Corvette to shows and had begun "Corvettes Conquer Cancer". Labaree was battling breast cancer and gave talks to various groups as a representative of the American Cancer Society. With her husband Ben, she raised money for the ACS at various Corvette shows.

Joan called on Dave Secaur at Final Finish in nearby Branford, Connecticut, to do the work. Dave, who has been working on Corvettes for 30 years is 30 minutes down I-95 from Reeves Callaway in Old Lyme and painted the illustrious Callaways. Dave told us, "We used most of the visuals of the original Mako. The front parking lights, which are shaped like a gill, have lenses. Those were a little tricky to do. They are operating turn signals. We had to make a mold first and custom lenses to fit."

The most important part of the job was the colors, varying from the white belly of the shark to the light blues on the side and dark blues at the top. Where the original Mako Shark used solid colors, Secaur went with micas and pearls. Dave explained, "It's like a metallic. Metallics reflect little silver specks. The micas are similar, but they have a reflective quality and they can reflect different colors. And then these paints have pearls in them, actual pearl, and that also acts as a reflected media."

The front grille and bumpers are a major departure from stock and really give Joan's Corvette a Mako Shark look. Dave remembered, "There was a lot of work done to the front quarters where the side pipes come out. They were completely re-worked. The wheel opening is quite a lot different from stock. We copied the bumper design, but here again it is not exact. The grille has slats that go straight across. The original Mako slats are much tighter than the ones we have, but we were doing a car that needed to be driven on the road and needed airflow. We were also doing a car to pass inspection and we needed headlights. The car had to be streetable."

The side pipes are made of stainless steel which has been bent, welded, and polished. They feature an inner core muffler and a fabricated outer shielding consisting of grates, not as closely spaced as the originals on the Mako Shark.

The hood is Mako-like. "We took a '64 hood and made it work. It's not as large as the original Mako. We scaled it down. It's a little more petite."

The rear end is also very special. "We copied their treatment of the rear quarter, re-worked the back of the car for the tail lights, and completely re-made the license plate surround and the lower rear pan to make it smooth."

This Vette wasn't a replica of the Mako Shark and needed a different name. Dave said, "How 'bout Miss Mako?" Joan said, "I like that." The Miss Mako lettering on the fenders is classy, cut from aluminum and hand polished. Then, right below is a shark emblem sculptor Dan Ricco cast from solid silver.

Miss Mako and "Mako Mama" (credit Corvette Mike for this moniker) go together very well. Joan likes to wear blue and white, similar to her Vette. With blond hair, light green eyes, a brilliant smile sparkling white teeth, a bubbling personality and a show car fame of her own, Joan Spoerndle is a real hit at car shows.

"I'm living day-by-day on the road, going from event to event, seeing and meeting a lot of people. They tell me about people with relatives with the same disease and how nice it is to have somebody on the road helping out."

Joan raises money by holding "50/50" drawings. People buy tickets and at the end of the show the holder of the winning ticket gets back 50 percent of the proceeds. The other half goes to a local charity. At a recent show in Louisiana the charity was the local St. Jude's Children's Hospital, in Nashville the Red Cross, and in Orlando the American Cancer Society. You can see Miss Mako at many small shows and the big national shows, such as Corvettes at Carlisle, Bloomington Gold, and the National Corvette Museum's Big Bash in September. For more information, go to her web site,

"This is not my entertainment," Joan wants everybody to know. "It is my passion. It started with Sandy Labaree. I wanted to give back something for my life. It fulfills in me what no other person, place, or thing can fulfill."

Engine Specifications
* Power: 304hp @ 5000 rpm
* Torque: 340 ft lb @ 2250 rpm
* Type: 90 degree V-8 Cast iron block, Cast iron heads
* Compression Ratio: 9.1-1
* Crankshaft: Nodular iron
* Connecting rods: Chevrolet Pink rods
* Cylinder Heads: Chevrolet PN 125238060 Vortec cast iron design
* Valves: Intake 1.94-in/ Exhaust 1.50-in
* Intake manifold: Edelbrock Performer PN 2104
* Fuel delivery system: Accel PN 74135 750 cfm 4 bbl throttle- body fuel injection with speed density management
* Fuel requirement: 87-octane or better
* Engine oil: Mobil 1 5w30 synthetic, 5.75 quart capacity
* Oil filter: A/C Delco PF1218
* Fuel filter: A/C Delco 845

Makin' Miss Mako Run
The V-8 in Miss Mako is a 350 fuelie built by Paul Koerner, not so much for extreme power as for extreme reliability. He also replaced the original four-speed with an automatic. Joan expects to get in some low-speed traffic from time-to-time and doesn't want to fiddle with a clutch.

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