1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - Get Your Smokey On

This Corner-Carving C3 Pays Tribute To The Chevy Racing Legend

Christopher R. Phillip Nov 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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Other engine essentials include a Barry Grant Mighty Demon Road Race carb mounted atop a Brodix single-plane intake, an MSD distributor and ignition system, March underdrive pulleys, and a Be Cool aluminum radiator. Exhaust exits via 17/8-inch Hooker Super Comp headers mated to 4-inch pipes and glasspack mufflers.

The 575 (estimated) crank horsepower is transferred rearward to a Weber aluminum flywheel, a Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch, a Tremec T-5 five-speed, a stock driveshaft, and a 3.36-geared Dana diff loaded with internals from Tom's Differentials of Sand Point, Idaho. American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels wrapped in massive Michelin Pilot Sport rubber provide plenty of adhesion for road or track.

With the mechanical portion of the restoration completed, Harlan took a good, hard look at the Corvette's badly bruised body and interior. "It was in rough shape. The car had been sitting outside for many years and a consumer-grade car cover had done little to protect it from weather damage," he says.

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Accordingly, he involved Dave Groves of DG Custom Finishes in Klamath Falls, who offered to restore the body and reinvigorate the classic Corvette with fresh paint. "We stripped the Corvette completely down to the fiberglass," Groves says. "Many areas on the car were repaired with fiberglass matting and resin, [and there were] multiple stress cracks in and around the car's panel-bonded seams. It was then completely re-gelcoated and re-sanded."

Groves utilized PPG urethane and black epoxy primers to prepare the Stingray for paint. Masking after each color, he sprayed a black base coat, followed by gold, and, finally, a 1/4-inch red pinstripe to separate the two. Three coats of clear, wetsanding, more clear, and final polishing followed, accomplishing the dream Harlan had envisioned: a Corvette as beautiful as it was brutal.

If the color combination of black and gold looks historically familiar, you're correct: it was not a coincidental choice. "From the very beginning of the project, I wanted to paint the Corvette in memory of Smokey Yunick," Harlan says. "I've been a fan of his from a young age, and I often read his column in Popular Mechanics. I finally got the chance to meet him while in Daytona Beach in 1998. I went to the 'Best Damn Garage in Town,' and he was kind enough to come out and talk to me for well over an hour. He shared lots of stories about his war years flying B-17s and lots of race stories too. It was a real honor and a privilege for me to get to spend that time with him, and I wanted to convey that message in my Corvette's paint."

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For the final chapter of the restoration, Harlan installed the custom interior himself, including its most noticeable features: 17 different Auto Meter gauges monitoring everything from engine speed to differential temperature and everything in between. Other interior accoutrements include Cobra racing seats, Deist five-point racing harnesses, a custom switch panel, OE-style front carpeting, the original dash pad and door panels, and a Grant quick-release steering wheel.

Harlan also installed a Percy's Speedglass (Lexan) racing windshield to help drop the Stingray's race weight (without driver) to a wraithlike 2,850 pounds.

Since the car's completion in late 2002, Harlan has entered his street-legal road racer in the Black Hills Corvette Classic and enjoyed it at Cruise Oregon, an event closer to home. Most importantly, he's raced it yearly in the Silver State Classic Challenge (2003-2009), where it finished as high as Second Place in the 125-mph class (2005). He also enrolled it in a Hooked on Driving track event at Willow Springs, California, in 2008.

Harlan's future plans for his tribute racer include participating in the Silver State Classic Challenge for as long as he can and joining Hooked on Driving for advanced courses at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.

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