Imagine an engine whose acceleration slams you into your seat every time you change gears. Imagine an exhaust note so loud you have to communicate with your passenger via sign language. Imagine a car so thoroughly outrageous it makes your jaw drop. Then double it. Welcome to the world of Paul Pavlou's 700hp Sting Ray.
Model year 1965 was one hell of a time to get a Corvette. For instance, it was the only year you could buy a Sting Ray with a 375hp fuel-injected small-block, disc brakes, and side-mounted exhausts. And starting at just over $4,000, the car was an incredible performance bargain. The buying public thought so, too: Sales reached a record (at the time) 23,564 units, 15,378 of them convertibles, according to the Corvette Black Book.
Jump forward 40 years and to a different country, where we recently came face to face with one of the 15,000-or-so '65 convertibles Chevrolet produced-albeit in a slightly different form than the day it rolled off the line.
We first heard, then saw, this '65 Sting Ray as it disappeared in a cloud of tire smoke outside the Ace Caf one summer night last year. To say the sight was impressive is an understatement. Although heavily modified, the car remained honest to the Sting Ray formula from the '60s: Small car; big, powerful engine-in this case, a really big, powerful engine. We had to find out more about this monster Vette and its creator.
A few weeks later, we met up with car owner Paul Pavlou at his house. Over a cup of coffee and a cream cake, we learned more about the blue Vette sitting in his garage among some cool-looking bikes and other toys. "It was in 1988. After having a number of fast cars, including a V-8-powered Capri and a nicely tuned Bauer BMW, I decided I wanted to get something different, something a bit special," Paul tells us with a wink.
After scouring hundreds of classified ads and driving a roughly equal number of miles, the 19-year-old Paul and his friend, Tony, finally came across an ad for two Corvette Sting Rays: a black '64 and a red '65. A phone call later, and the two friends were on the road to Aversham from North London. En route, the lads hoped they weren't going to find yet another of the "dogs" they had seen up until then.
As they pulled into the drive, the sight of a beautiful, shiny black Corvette greeted them. "We were so surprised to find something that good that we almost didn't bother checking out the other Vette," Paul says. "But we did, and were even more surprised when we clapped eyes on this bright red Vette with a huge hoodscoop and puffed-out wheel arches. It looked like nothing we had ever seen before," he says excitedly.
After a bit of negotiation, Paul and Tony jumped into the red '65, turned the ignition, and the 327 rumbled like distant thunder as they headed home. They made it, but not before suffering through a couple of detours, being caught in the rain without working wipers, despite the car's up-to-date MOT [short for "Ministry of Transport," an MOT is the UK's equivalent of a state-issued vehicle-inspection sticker], and twice being stopped by the police. It seems the bemused bobbies simply wanted to know what kind of car they'd just passed. "One of them even asked if it was an AC Cobra," Paul remembers, laughing.
More misfortune followed. A few years later Paul and Tony were belting down the road when the lefthand rear-wheel nuts sheared, sending the wheel careening into the other lane. "It bounced off the railings outside Winchmore cop shop and plowed into a Fiesta coming the opposite direction. Luckily, no one was hurt," Paul says, shaking his head.
One of the friends made a phone call, and another turned up in a Transit [a type of Ford van sold in Europe] to tow the Vette home. The only problem-they didn't have a trailer. After a few minutes of "lateral" thinking, the guys came up with the idea to "liberate" a shopping trolley from the nearest supermarket and substitute it for the missing wheel. The plan worked surprisingly well until the guys burned out the clutch on the van and were once again stranded. Finally, a passing Jeep owner took pity on them and towed the Vette home.