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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We could run through a whole list of qualities that make for an extra-special Corvette, but "attention to detail" would have to be right up near the top, because when we're talking about Corvettes, it certainly takes a willingness to go the extra mile to create an example that stands out from the crowd. Pat Beezley of Huntington Beach, California, went that extra mile-and then some-to create this stunning '62.

Beezley started off by finding what he calls "a sub-basketcase" car. The interior and all removable parts were set aside, and the body was then removed from the frame at Steve and Warren's Chassis Shop in Laguna Hills, California. Steve and Warren removed the original front suspension and crossmember and welded in a Total Cost Involved Mustang II front unit, complete with a power rack-and-pinion and 11-inch disc brakes. Out back, the stock differential and leaf springs were removed, and the rear framerails narrowed by 5 inches on each side (in anticipation of some extra-fat rear rubber).

TCI also provided the four-link rear suspension kit with coilovers; the rear setup was completed with a 9-inch Currie rearend (spinning stout 4.30:1 gears) and 11-inch drum brakes. Steve and Warren also fabricated a 2 1/2-inch diameter exhaust system that exits at the stock location. The car was then trailered home, and Pat got to work on the frame in his driveway. This detail work included grinding and sanding before painting the rails with Por-15 black rust-blocking paint. While Pat was detailing away, Russ Robinson at Action Tec in Trinity, California, fabricated a 27-gallon gas tank with the necessary electric fuel pump to fit into the factory rear sump area.

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The well-worn Corvette body shell was then delivered to Blastec in Placentia, California, where the '62's panels were completely media blasted inside and out. This cleaned things up, but also exposed trouble areas. Back at home, Beezley started off with one panel at a time, filling in stress fractures with new fiberglass mat. The rear driver-side quarter-panel had to be replaced, using a reproduction piece from Corvette Image in Gresham, Oregon. A 2-foot section of the lower rear valance panel also had to be reconstructed, while the areas around the front grille opening had several large holes that needed to be filled.

With the body shell once again solid, Beezley then tackled the task of fitting the doors, hood, and trunk lid to the newly repaired body, bolting the body to the frame so everything could be properly adjusted. The original hood was a goner, so a repro piece was purchased from J&D Corvette in Bellflower, California, and was also painstakingly fitted to the body. Beezley then had a local paint shop apply a new gel coat to the 'glass. After two weeks worth of sanding the gel coat, Pat moved on to the blocking primer, going through three rounds of block sanding, applying three coats of primer each time.

At this point, it was time for paint. Pat and his wife Janette decided on a three-stage Dupont Marino Red. The crimson hues were shot by Dave Tripplet in interconnected spray booths, with the doors, hood, deck, and trunk lid in one and the rest of the body in the other, at Apex Automotive in Huntington Beach, California. After 10 hours of shooting paint, two weeks of color sanding, and then a precise final buffing, the once derelict '62 sported a flawless coat of paint.

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It was then time for reassembly. The body was bolted on for the last time and the doors, hood, deck, and trunk lids permanently adjusted. All the old wiring had been discarded, so it was replaced with new harnesses that had been bought from Mary Jo Rohner's Corvette Parts (who provided may of the new parts needed for this project). A reproduction '62 Corvette interior was installed, with Janette helping to hog-ring and recover the stock seats. The gauges, while they look stock, are actually modern units joined to the stock gauge bezels. Gail's Speedometer modified the mechanical tach with an elctric VDO unit behind the original face.

Auto Meter water temp and fuel gauges were placed behind the stock units, creating an original-looking dash that's fully compatible with electronic sensors. Which was a necessity, given the modern powerplant that took up residence in the reborn '62's engine bay. Pacific Performance of Anaheim, California, built a 383ci stroker L98, filling it with Ross 10:1 compression pistons and an Elgin cam. Avenger heads top off the cylinders, while a TPI Specialties Mini Ram handles induction duties.

TPIS also provided the wiring harness for the engine's computer. Hooker Headers empty the waste gases through the custom exhaust and out to Flowmaster mufflers. A 700-R4 tranny, built by Beezley's friend Karl, sends the power back to that 9-inch rear. And a more than healthy dose of ponies it is, too-an estimated 450 hp at the crank. To get that power to the ground, rolling stock consists of 15-inch Centerline Hammer wheels with Corvette spinner caps, shod with 215/65R Kelly Chargers up front and fat 19x12.5-inch Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pros in the rear.

And though this car is certainly aesthetically pleasing, don't think this '62 is destined to just be a show queen. Beezley is working with Leonhardt Automotive in Anaheim, California, to get the engine programming perfected, and is also working on installing an NHRA-legal rollbar in anticipation of doing a little bracket racing. And on this very detailed '62, that's a touch we think really makes this Vette stand out.

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