1964 Chevrolet Corvette - From Drags To Riches

An Elite Quarter-Miler Finds New Essentials Down Under

Christopher R. Phillip Feb 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Buy a classic car in Pomona, California, and odds are it has spent its fair share of time at the drag strip. Pomona is synonymous with drag-racing action, and drag racing is intrinsically tied to classic Corvettes. So when the guys at Corvette Queensland, of Gympie, Australia, bought a '64 hardtop from Pomona in 1996, they should have figured the Vette had a race hitory.

"It wasn't until after we had lifted the body off the frame that the car was discovered to have some sort of racing background," says current owner Kevin Silk, a plumbing contractor in Bunya, Queensland. "We found the base of a rollcage attached to the chassis." If NHRA safety rules are any indication, this Vette was at least an 11-second performer that spent much of its life on the sticky track.

According to Silk, the Vette's competitive flame was immediately reignited when the car arrived on the island continent. "The car came to Australia in late 1996. It then [went] to a local collector who used it for drag racing," he says. Silk had long had a soft spot for midyear cars, though, and he resolved to make this one his. After considerable arm-twisting, he was finally able to purchase the Vette in late 1999.

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Silk tells VETTE his goal was not to return the classic Sting Ray to its drag-racing past, but to gloriously refurbish it using only the most desirable hot-rod finery. "The chassis was found to be in good shape, but everything else...was in poor condition," he says. Facing a full overhaul, Silk decided to restore the Vette to better-than-new condition, modeling its look after the custom-car style prevalent in the '60s and '70s.

The first step of the gigantic "Down Undertaking" was the beautification of the body. Silk mounted the Vette to a dolly frame and turned the restoration job over to Sprayrite, of Brendale, Queensland. Stripping the fiberglass skin of its 30 years of layered muck and abuse, the Sprayrite crew discovered that the Corvette had suffered numerous hits in its history. They smoothed the glass until it was straight (a 250-hour project alone), reworked the classic-mod flared fenders, primed the shell with an epoxy primer, and then, using Silk's choice of custom color, flowed a beautiful base of Tiger Mica over the body. Finished off with a clearcoat and a wet-sand, the results are simply breathtaking.

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Next, Silk focused his efforts on the chassis and suspension. After having the underpinnings sandblasted down to the bare metal, he sprayed them in primer and then in a Chassis Black single-stage paint. He reinstalled the chassis and suspension components himself.

Moving on to the engine bay, Silk determined that the '69 350 small-block installed in the Vette was worth rebuilding, even though most of its internal components were in extremis. "The block was in good condition, so we decided to use it and replace everything else," he says.

Doug Stuart, also of Bunya, took on the project. After tanking the two-bolt-main 350 to verify its reusability, he stuffed it with a GM forged crank, TRW flat-top pistons, and stock GM rods. A pair of Fast Burn heads were ordered from GM Performance Parts and bolted up to the block. They feature 62cc combustion chambers and 210cc intake runners.

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GM pushrods activate 1.5-ratio roller rockers, compress factory dual springs, and open and close 1.94/1.50-inch factory valves. A mild GMPP cam orchestrates the valvetrain to the tune of 222/222-degree duration, 0.450/0.460-inch lift, and a 114-degree lobe-separation angle. The compression ratio is a modest 9.4:1.

Silk went the aftermarket route for his Vette's fuel and intake systems. He chose an Edelbrock Performer intake topped with a Holley 650-cfm double-pumper; the combo is fed by a stock GM fuel pump pushing 6 1/2 psi. The finished long-block was installed in the car by Carson Automotive, of Brendale, Queensland.

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The ignition was upgraded with an MSD chrome-billet distributor and 6A amplifier box feeding MSD 8.5mm wires and NGK BP 5S plugs. The exhaust exits through 1 5/8-inch Hedman headers and flows into 2 1/4-inch glass-pack mufflers mounted in midyear-style sidepipes.

To get this classic Vette rolling, a replacement '64 Muncie M20 with a 2.56 First gear was installed and linked to a GM bellhousing, flywheel, and stock clutch. A similarly stock driveshaft moves the power to a 3.55 gearset (the Vette came to Silk with 3.71s installed) housed in a rebuilt factory rearend equipped with a stocker GM Posi.

The front suspension remains stock as well, save for the addition of Koni performance shocks. A power-steering box from an '80 Vette abets handling precision and road feel. In back, a fiberglass monoleaf spring installed by Corvette Automotive and another pair of Konis supplant the archaic original setup.

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Braking power comes from '80 Corvette discs and GM two-piston calipers at all four corners. Silk also upgraded the Vette with a polished-chrome C4 master cylinder and booster. The classy Sting Ray rides on 15x8-inch American Racing wheels wrapped in BFG 245/60-15 front and 255/60-15 rear rubber.

When it was time to address the interior, Silk decided to get personally involved once again. He installed the mods himself, using SAAS racing seats with five-point RPM harnesses, an '80 Corvette steering wheel, and a Pioneer sound system. "When the car was purchased, the dash and instruments were never fitted, and some of them didn't work," Silk says. "After much perseverance, all were repaired and recalibrated."

After the laborious, 13-month rebuild was complete, Silk entered his reborn classic in numerous large car shows throughout Australia. Not surprisingly, he came away with a bounty of successes, the more notable of which are listed below.

Silk says his Vette is a ringer at the shows. "There are too many [accolades] to list," he says. "My Corvette has around 40 trophies."

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As fun as all the trophies and the attention are, Silk says he derives comparable enjoyment from the unorthodox (for Australia) positioning of the steering wheel and pedals. While most Australian Corvettes are converted to right-hand drive, Silk's C2 remains in its original, U.S.-spec configuration. "Australian road rules specify that a car over 30 years old can be left-hand drive. It was a little odd to drive at first, but now I just love it."

Although he has a second Vette-a '66 small-block convertible-and has owned three Corvette coupes-a '77, an '86, and a '90-in the past, Silk's richly adorned midyear is the most cherished of the bunch. "I have had several Corvettes, but the '64 is my favorite. I know it had some sort of interesting life. She drives so well and is very responsive for such an old car. She gets the looks and appreciation she deserves. She is a classic.

* Best '63-'67 Modified, Australian National Corvette Convention (2001, 2002, 2004, 2007)
* Second Best Paint and Best Engine Bay,Queensland Corvette Club Concours (2000)
* Best Coupe, All American Car & Bike Show (2000)
* Best Exterior Overall, Australian Corvette Nationals (2004)
* Grand Champion, People's Choice, and Best '63-'67 Corvette, Down Under Concours (2000)

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