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.

Vemp_0612_02_z 1969_big_block_corvette Engine 4/8

Five hundred forty cubic inches of Shafiroff-prepared aluminum big-block grunts out in excess of 700 hp. The cool thing here is that you'd never know it by just looking. Check out the trick serpentine drive assembly, complete with air-conditioning.

Since 540 inches of big-block need significant breathing accommodations, Shafiroff went with a pair of Dart Pro1 cylinder heads with 325cc runners. The heads were stuffed with 2.30/1.88-inch stainless valves and topped with Comp Pro Magnum rocker arms. The valvetrain takes its orders from a Comp Street Roller solid cam. A Barry Grant 950-cfm Mighty Demon carb is perched atop an OEM L88 intake manifold and works in conjunction with a factory cowl-induction system. MSD supplies the fire to light the fuel with a Pro-Billet distributor, a Blaster coil, and a 6AL box for rev limiting. Burly Hooker 4-inch side pipes with Car Chemistry muffler inserts provide the soundtrack. According to Andrew, "Side pipes on C3 Corvettes were a '69-only option, so I had to have them. It roars like it means business."

Knowing the stock four-speed was probably in over its head with the killer big-block, Andrew took the preemptive step of replacing it with a Tremec TKO five-speed. Hurst provides gear-rowing bliss. A McLeod street twin clutch supplies the hookup, and a Lakewood scattershield is there too, just in case. The stock driveshaft has been replaced by a custom chrome-moly unit, but the stock differential remains, equipped with 3.73 gears.

Vemp_0612_06_z 1969_big_block_corvette Gear_shift 5/8

One thing all predatory species have in common is a high degree of maneuverability, and Andrew's shark is no exception. Though good for its time, the C3 suspension isn't exactly canyon-carving material by today's standards. To remedy this, Andrew began an extensive "down under" modernizing project. A chrome-moly X-bar fortifies the chassis, giving the upgraded suspension a solid foundation from which to do its job. The A-arms were replaced with fabricated square-tube units, and composite mono springs were added. Polyurethane bushings are in place throughout, as are larger sway bars and Bilstein shocks to damp the motion. For now, refurbished stock disc brakes are in place, but plans call for massive 6-piston, 14-inch units in the near future. Andrew chose gigantic Intro 18-inch wheels, so the big brakes will fit without issue. Michelin Pilot Sports provide an enormous contact patch. "This Corvette flies around corners," exclaims Andrew. "The handling is unbelievable; it stays perfectly flat."

Containing the huge wheel-and-tire package would present a problem for the stock wheel openings, so Andrew found some correct-style L88 race flares to do the job. To complement the widened stance, he added a functional L88 hood. The headlight and windshield-wiper doors have been updated to electronic movement. He also added a Le Mans fuel-filler cap to the rear deck to further establish the race-car influence.

Vemp_0612_07_z 1969_big_block_corvette Andy_felton 6/8

When the time came to choose paint for the project, Andrew's decision was an easy one. "There were many yellow ZL1 Corvette replicas in the United States already, and of course I wanted to be different. I wanted to build the big, bad brother of the second white-and-black-striped ZL1 Vette, so [I figured] why not make a replica but invert the colors, using a black body with a white stripe? I had never seen anyone do this." The interior remains factory-original, with only a set of Auto Meters hiding behind a smartly modified radio-delete panel.

Andrew credits Jason Cavenagh and his crew at Classic Fabrications for the majority of the restoration and modification of the car. "There were very few problems with the build, apart from the long wait for parts. He and his team did an unbelievable job in transforming my ideas to reality." While the rest of his list of credits is enough to fill most of this magazine, special thanks need to be extended to his CFO and girlfriend of 10 years, Moanie.

"Though I built this Corvette with racing in mind, I haven't had the chance to take it out on a track yet. The Corvette has stock ACDelco brakes at the moment, and I'm waiting until I can install some big stopping power." Probably a wise choice, considering the big go-power on tap. This hasn't prevented plenty of cruising and showing, however. "The 2006 National Corvette Convention was held over Easter. There, I secured my first trophy for Best Corvette in the 1968-72 'Personal' category and the 'Penrith Panthers Choice' award. It made all the work and wait worthwhile."

Vemp_0612_05_z 1969_big_block_corvette Cruising 7/8

"I am a member of Digital Corvettes (an online forum) in the United States. When I showed pictures of my ZL1, the Americans went nuts over it. When I drive the streets, the Corvette is constantly pointed at by kids and adults alike. People with no idea what kind of car it is always compliment it. Drivers swerve in and out of traffic to catch up for a look. There are many pictures taken from cell phones as passengers contort themselves through the window to get a snap. It's just amazing!" And whether or not they recognize the car as a Corvette, these people are smart to keep their distance, 'cuz this shark's got teeth.

SPEC SHEET

Car: '69 Corvette Coupe
Owner: Andy Felton
Block: Donovan D500 aluminum
Pistons: Mahle forged
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Crankshaft: Callies 4340 Dragonslayer
Rods: Eagle 4340 3D steel
Displacement: 540 ci
Heads: Dart Pro1 aluminum, 325 cc
Valves: 2.30/1.88-in severe-duty stainless
Camshaft: Comp custom street roller
Rocker Arms: Comp Pro Magnum, 1.7 ratio
Intake Manifold: Stock L88
Carburetor: BG Mighty Demon
Ignition: MSD Pro-Billet distributor, Blaster coil, & 6AL control
Exhaust System: 211/48-in Hooker headers, 4-in side pipes
Transmission: Tremec TKO five-speed
Clutch: McLeod Street Twin
Suspension: Tubular A-arms, composite mono springs, Bilstein shocks
RearEnd: Stock w/3.73 gears
Brakes: Stock four-wheel discs
Front Wheels: Intro Pentia 18x10
Rear Wheels: Intro Pentia 18x12
Front Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35-18
Rear Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 335/30-18
Output (Flywheel): 713 hp @ 6,100 rpm, 589 lb-ft @ 4,600

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