1969 Big Block Corvette - Harbour Shark

From the Southern Hemisphere, yet out of this world

Chris Endres Oct 10, 2006 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0612_01_z 1969_big_block_corvette Front_view 1/8

Andrew Felton has created a new breed of shark on the shores of Sydney Harbour. No, he isn't some mad geneticist run amok in the laboratory, but he has run a little amok just the same. Drawing on fond childhood dreams and more than a little modern-day research, he has created an apex predator prone to terminate all that have the bad fortune of crossing its path. Behold what he has wrought...

Andrew's Corvette story begins in 1999, when he was shipped stateside to work as a cameraman for the Australian television network's bureau in Hollywood. Upon his arrival, he had two goals: find a place to live, and find a '69 Corvette, though not necessarily in that order. As luck would have it, not long after securing a domicile, Andrew found a white '69 427 390-horse Vette in Burbank, which he promptly purchased for $8,000. As always, there was a rub: The car's engine and interior had been removed and were now occupying a separate portion of the seller's garage. "He informed me it was a barn find and had spent the better part of 15 years languishing in that barn," says Andrew.

Not looking for a Corvette-in-a-box project, and because his Corvette knowledge was still rather limited, Andrew asked the seller to reassemble the car for him. "About three months later the Corvette had been put back together and painted a beautiful red," he recounts. "It was mostly numbers matching and never hit! I drove it home after another payment of $8,000, bringing the total to $16,000."

Vemp_0612_03_z 1969_big_block_corvette Rear_view 2/8

Fender flares got a bad rap as a result of the '70s disco-van fad. But when done right and with purpose, they can work well with a car's theme. (Witness the C6 Z06.) Likewise, side pipes can be a real hit-or-miss proposition. In this case, we wouldn't have it any other way.

In the three years that followed, Felton and his partner Moanie clocked up plenty of miles, with Moanie even using it to do her grocery shopping. Upon being reassigned to Sydney, Andrew shipped the Corvette back to Oz, where he joined the New South Wales Corvettes Unlimited Car Club to meet other Corvette enthusiasts in Australia.

By 2004, the novelty of the big-block Vette was beginning to wear thin. "I felt I needed a change, as it had been over five years since I bought the car," Andrew tells us. "And there were too many red Corvettes in our club. I wanted to make a statement!" Rather than dumping the car and starting over, he decided to work with what he already had. After looking at hundreds of other cars and researching ideas for months, Andrew thought, Why can't I just build my dream car?

"When I got out of school, I started dreaming about cars. My first dream car was the 427 Shelby Cobra-whose wasn't?-but I was a GM boy at heart. Then I read about two cars that had the potential to kill anything on the road. The first was the '69 427 Corvette L88. Better still was the Corvette ZL1 with its aluminum big-block 427, of which only three were built. I was shocked that anybody who knew of these Corvettes could walk down to the nearest Chevy dealer and order one! Remember, this was 1969, when Australia's most powerful production car would have been struggling to produce 250 hp.

Vemp_0612_04_z 1969_big_block_corvette Interior 3/8

One of the hardest parts of modifying a car is knowing when to stop. Andrew's pleasantly plain interior is Spartan by today's standards but right on point for his stated goal. The black-and-white seat skins are a perfect fit.

"Needless to say, I never thought I would own a ZL1," Andrew continues. "Well, 22 years later I built and finished my all-time dream car. It's not an exact replica or clone car; I built a restomod instead. The problem with building an exact replica is that it would be too precious to drive and enjoy. I wanted to drive it, so I researched performance parts to create the exact car I wanted instead."

In his mind's eye, Andrew was seeing a shark that could do it all: "I wanted to be able to run the quarter-mile at least in the 11s. I wanted to compete with more-modern cars on the circuit tracks and hill climbs and still drive on the street. I wanted an engine that was powerful yet streetable." As Andrew's vision slowly came into focus, the parts orders were sent.

The shock of a $30,000 price tag on a bare N.O.S. ZL1 block spurred an alternative route. Racing-engine legend Scott Shafiroff was contacted for one of his venerable Ultra-Street Classic 540ci street motors. Based on a Donovan D500 standard-deck (read: maximum hood clearance) aluminum block, the mountain motor would weigh about the same as a factory iron small-block. Filled with a reciprocating assembly from Callies, Eagle, and Mahle, it would make more power than even the authentic item.

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