1962 Chevy Corvette - Rare Race-Option Survivor

It's All In The Details

John Nelson Nov 1, 2003 0 Comment(s)
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Strange, but true: In the early '60s, some hot shoes were actually racing Corvettes competitively, and Chevrolet knew it and even supported the activity with heavy-duty and high-performance parts installed on the assembly line or were available over the counter. Who'd have thunk it?

For 1962, Chevrolet assembled only 246 Vettes (out of a production total of 14,531) with the Regular Production Option (RPO) 687, heavy-duty suspension package-HD brakes and shocks and quick-ratio steering-for an upcharge of $333.60.

Two HD brake options were offered. RPO 686 had 11x2-inch cast-iron drums and sintered-iron brake shoes. RPO 687 offered the same thing, but with an additional 10 square inches of lining area, finned brake drums, and leather air scoops that came to be known as "elephant ears" attached to the backing plates to help cool the brakes. Wider 15x5.5-inch wheels (versus the standard 15x5-inch rims) with small hubcaps aided brake cooling as well as handling. Other performance-oriented options included a four-speed transmission ($188.30), a Posi-traction differential ($43.05), a direct-flow exhaust (no charge), and four 327-cid engine choices, ranging up to the 360hp fuel-injected version.

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Dealer information for RPO 687 stated, "Not recommended for street use." Most of the 246 were ordered for racing, and, consequently, very few survive with their original equipment. Many were wrecked, and most of the survivors were converted to standard brakes after a hard track career.

That's why Iowa Corvette collector Gene West felt fortunate to become the second owner of this '62 Corvette convertible with RPO 687 and fuel injection. It had never been raced. The original owner was from the Phoenix area and apparently wanted the performance options to make his mountain drives to college in Flagstaff more comfortable and interesting. Three years worth of college parking stickers came with the car when Gene bought it in 1980. Ten years later, after completing three other Corvette restorations, he finally got around to doing a complete ground-up on this '62 over a two-year period.

Besides the rare racing option, this Vette is unusual in that the original buyer apparently preferred the "boulevard" look over a racing appearance-so the dealer ordered it with the standard 15x5-inch wheels and Corvette full-wheel covers rather than the 15x5.5-inch wheels and small hubcaps usually seen on the racing versions. Gene re-shod the '62 with original-spec 6.70x15-inch Firestone whitewalls.

The 327 engine was turned over to Bert Hillers for a rebuild. The 360hp fuelie features a compression ratio of 11.25:1 with forged aluminum pistons, 1.94-inch intake and 1.50-inch exhaust valves, and a high-lift, long-duration solid lifter camshaft. A dual-point ignition with no vacuum advance sparked the hi-po engine, and the fan was temperature-controlled to minimize drag. The Rochester fuel injection introduced in 1957 underwent slight changes for 1962 to improve cold starting and warm up.

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Although either four-speed could be ordered, the close-ratio version was usually supplied with the high-output engine, as was the 3.70:1 rearend ratio.

The body restoration and Roman Red acrylic enamel paint job were done by Corvette Nebraska. Gene himself installed the original red vinyl upholstery and matching carpet.

Gene's restored '62 has scored a near-perfect 97.3 points in NCRS judging. He is content to get it out for an occasional Sunday drive and to take home show awards. But it's also nice to know that an almost identical example, tested by Hot Rod Magazine in 1961, turned in a quarter-mile performance of 105.14 mph in 13.89 seconds with the legendary Mickey Thompson at the controls!

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