When people see Pam Walluk cruising down the highway in her '71 T-top Corvette they inevitably do a double take. "For some reason," explains Pam, "people don't understand that a female can drive a big-block, four-speed Corvette." Then she adds, laughing, "I also get a lot of strange looks when people realize the car is alot older than I am!"
By 10 years, to be precise. Twenty-year-old Pam is an English Education major in the State University of New York system and, predictably, plans to teach English when she graduates. She also will coach tennis, one of several sports in which this star athlete has excelled throughout her school career.
Like many young people who are into collectible cars, Pam attributes her interest to the influence of her father, John. He has been a lifelong Corvette fan, and has owned quite a few examples over the years.
Pam did not set out to find a '71 in particular, but was looking for an early C3 because she is partial to the way they look and drive. What attracted her to this '71 was its excellent overall condition, high level of originality, and color. Called Steel Cities Gray, it went onto only 1,591 of the 21,801 Corvettes produced in '71.
"Because it is a color that is not very common," points out Pam, "a lot of people stop me to ask about it. It's called gray and it basically is gray, but when the light hits it in a certain way you can actually see a lot of green in the color, making it very different and really beautiful to look at!"
The '71 Corvettes are very difficult to distinguish from '70 models because their exterior and interior styling are so similar. There were a number of notable changes implemented in '71, but most were inside the engines.
Though earlier Corvettes had emissions reducing equipment such as a PCV valve and, on certain cars, an Air Injection Reactor System, 1971 marks something of a turning point in this area. That's because, for the first time, emissions issues actually had an effect on engine performance.
Catalytic converters were scheduled for installation in all Corvettes beginning with the 1975 model year. Since leaded fuel is incompatible with the material used inside of converters, oil companies had to start producing and selling unleaded. To ease the enormous costs involved, the oil industry began phasing unleaded fuel into the distribution network around 1970.
One of the main functions of lead additive was to raise the gasoline's octane rating. Without lead, the octane was destined to drop, and without a readily available supply of high-octane, fuel automobile manufacturers were compelled to de-tune their high-performance engines by reducing compression ratios.
It was in 1971 that Chevrolet began lowering compression in Corvette and other Chevy engines. Along with the lower compression came somewhat lower horsepower ratings. The venerable LT-1 went from 1970's rating of 370hp down to 330, while the LS5 454 dropped from 390 to 365.
While the horsepower dip was disheartening to driving enthusiasts, actual on-the-road performance differs very little between 1970 and 1971. And 1971 enjoys the privilege of having the last optional super-high-performance engine in a Corvette until the ZR-1 came along a generation later. Dubbed LS6, this 425hp 454 was reminiscent of earlier L88 big-blocks in that it featured heavy-duty internal components and aluminum cylinder heads. It was also very similar to the legendary L88 by virtue of its price tag. Option LS6 added a whopping $1,221.00 to the bottom line, which helps explain why only 188 of the fire-breathers were sold.
In addition to its LS5 454 and M21 close-ratio four-speed, Ms. Walluk's Stingray is equipped with a number of desirable extras. Included among these are power steering, power brakes, power windows, tilt-telescopic steering column, tinted glass, AM/FM radio, and rear window defroster.
Pam's Corvette also has the optional Custom Interior Trim. Finding its way into only 2,602 cars, this package featured genuine leather seat covers, a veneered walnut trim insert surrounding the shifter, and more luxurious "plush-cut pile" carpeting throughout. It also included special door panels fitted with a strip of the nicer carpeting along the bottom edge, a piece of chrome trim where the carpeting meets the vinyl, and a band of veneered walnut trim in the area behind the door pull.
When acquired, Pam's Corvette was in good overall condition, but that did not stop her from making it even better. The carpeting and seat covers looked a little bit tired so they got replaced with correct reproductions. And while she was at it in the interior, she refinished all of the painted trim pieces.
The teacher-to-be also devoted her attention to cosmetics under the hood. All of the car's original parts were in place and the engine bay was actually quite clean, but like the interior it looked a bit long in the tooth. To remedy that Pam methodically removed, cleaned, refinished, and reinstalled the underhood components, including the air cleaner housing, valve covers, master cylinder, brake booster, alternator, and many other small parts. For those items that didn't come out, she took great pains to detail them in the car.
All of Pam's efforts have resulted in a truly stunning Corvette. This fact was not lost on the judges at several shows, where the car garnered top honors.
In addition to occasionally showing it, Pam drives her Steel Cities Gray beauty every chance she gets. "It feels great when the T-tops are off" she says with enthusiasm, "and you can look up and see the blue sky during the day and the stars at night!"