This round of restoration and refurbishing didn't last long. "After attending a few concours shows, I decided that having a '63 Corvette that was exactly like everyone else's '63 wasn't for me. What's made 'Corvetting' so much fun was how the car lends itself to self-expression." That, in turn, has led to the Sebring Silver coupe's latest stage of evolution.
"My main focus has been to refine the car into a comfortable touring car. I've tried to incorporate upgrades from newer Corvettes, as they were introduced, in the '63 while retaining its vintage look." Those refinements include, "...a few common chassis upgrades..." like a fiberglass composite rear monoleaf spring, adjustable shock absorbers, larger front and the addition of a rear anti-rollbar, urethane bushings, and radial tires. One of Jeff's favorite enhancements was when he managed to transplant the internally boosted, quick-ratio steering box from a later GM car into the '63, which give the car, "...modern day handling and driving characteristics."
The heart of the '63's evolution lies under the hood rather than beneath the floorboards. A certain numbers-matching, original 327 small-block is once again sitting in storage, but this time, there's no hot rodded engine up front. Refinement calls for smooth applications of power, minimal temperament, and reasonable fuel economy, all of which obviates traditional approaches, like lumpy cams with lots of overlap and huge or multiple carburetors. Refinement, in this instance, is a '91 L98, the marvelous Tuned Port Injection small-block with a torque band that seems at times to be as big and flat as Texas. Jeff reports that the setting up the L98 in his Sting Ray was a snap, thanks to an installation kit from Street & Performance, located in his hometown of Mena.
For the moment, Jeff and his wife, Penny, are content to savor what their old Corvette has become. Proving to themselves-and any doubters-that an almost 40-year-old Vette, with the proper refinements and enhancements, can make a comfortable long distance tourer, the Montgomerys have embarked on a series of road trips in the '63, with the stated goal of driving the old car in every state, and taking a picture of it with a "Welcome To" sign for every state. To date the trio (Jeff, Penny, and Sting Ray) has covered 28 states, but Jeff admits that "we may have to skip Hawaii." Along the way, they've participated in numerous shows and carted home some impressive awards including a Best of Show at the Black Hills Classic (in Spearfish, ND) and a Best Engine at the annual Lone Star Classic.
Meanwhile, the odometer has now rolled over the 300,000-mile mark and is "better than ever." Jeff and Penny told us that they have a lot more fun meeting and talking to Corvette admirers all around the country, getting waves and thumbs up as they drive their vintage Vette around the country, than in receiving awards at shows. Says Jeff, "I'd encourage Corvette owners across the country to pull those vintage Vettes out of the garage or museum, and start driving them. They might be surprised at how much fun it is to see the USA in an old Chevrolet!"