I knew at a young age that I liked cars. To me, the best thing about the television program Bonanza was seeing Pernell Roberts (AKA Adam Cartwright) drive a Corvette in Chevrolet commercials. Like many people who grew up in the '60s, I loved musclecars but could not afford one. I developed a taste for cars that looked original, but were modified and improved. In 1985 I found myself single with very little furniture and a four-cylinder ride. While saving for furniture, a friend told me to "forget the furniture and buy a Vette." This seemed very irresponsible, but after a week of thought it became an obsession. I read up on Corvettes and started looking. I had to limit my search for budget reasons, but it had to have chrome bumpers and a good body. The mechanicals I would enjoy working with
After looking at some junk, I found a '71 four-speed L48 coupe that drove well and had the original paint. When I called about the car I neglected to ask about the color. During the two-hour drive I thought, "Any color but orange." Well, when the door went up, the car was orange-but the basic good condition won me over. In the last 16 years I've been through most typical Corvette mechanical items, upgrading when possible. Articles from VETTE have helped on many occasions.
The suspension has been slowly upgraded with new springs, shocks, and sway bars. In 1998 I decided it was time for more power. I ordered a 383 stroker motor from an out-of-state builder. During the swap I replaced or rebuilt everything in the driveline except for the original 3.36:1 gears in the differential. Upon initial start-up it was apparent something was very wrong. The engine vibrated so badly that I was afraid to drive it. I won't go into details, but I will say, "Always check references." After months of struggle with the original builder, I took the engine to a local machine shop, which did a great job rebuilding it. As it turns out, the engine was never balanced as promised. On top of that, it needed to be internally balanced. The initial builder just assumed that the parts he assembled were close enough to not notice. I experienced many of the same difficulties that Loy McKendrick experienced in your "Size Matters" engine build up (July, August, September 2000): carburetor tuning issues, crank hitting the pan, etc. My engine is similar to that one, but uses a mixture of parts including Performer RPM heads, 6-inch rods, and a Crane cam. On the Hennessey Motorsports Dyno-Jet in Houston, the car pulled 299.2 rear-wheel horsepower and 355.8 lb-ft of torque. This is with a cam that provides 14 inches of vacuum at 600 rpm. Using a G-TECH performance meter, I have run a 4.92-second 0-60 mph and a 13.20 at 110 mph in the quarter-mile. This is with 225/70 tires. It's very traction-limited, but once it gets going it's really quick.
In the summer of 2000, after recovering from the engine ordeal, I decided the 30-year-old paint had to go. I stripped all the brightwork, had the car media-blasted, and then delivered it to Doug Leopold of Classic Restoration in Bryan, Texas. I made the decision to go back to the original orange color because I had grown to like it. The results have been rewarding
This is the short version of 16 years of ownership. I hope the next 16 years will be just as enjoyable. Thanks to Vilas Motor Works of Bryan, Texas, for their patience and help in balancing and reassembling the engine. I would also like to thank my buddies Dean Wile, John Beltrand, and Curtis Bolton for their help.