Is the sound of your Corvette music to your ears? If so, you're in good company. The percussive symphony of pistons pounding and rods rotating, while a crank conducts the rolling assembly, is the only music most Vette owners need to repeatedly hit the top of the charts.
So when Corvette owners talk about their cars having that "Motown" sound, they're not giving cred to Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder, but rather to World Products/Bill Mitchell Hardcore Racing and their Motown line of blocks, heads, carbs, and crate engines.
We'd heard of Motown engines transforming sleepy stocker street Vettes into 11second big-block bashers, but finding one proved elusive; that is, until we traveled Down Under to Australia and discovered a '69 coupe equipped with World's 427/520hp iron-block/aluminum-head crate motor. It's owned by Darren Dunn, a plant operator from Ingleburn, New South Wales.
"I have always had a passion for Corvettes," Dunn tells VETTE magazine. "I previously owned a '68 convertible and a '70 coupe, but my dream car has always been a '69 Corvette."
The '69 model year was a banner season for Corvette sales; in fact, it was the best-selling year to date in the marque's then-17-year history. A total of 38,762 units were produced at Chevrolet's St. Louis assembly line, 22,129 of which were coupes. Six engine choices were available, ranging from a base-model small-block 350/300 to a top-of-the-line, fire-breathing big-block 427/435.
With such large production numbers, finding and buying a '69 Corvette in the United States is as easy as an eBay or Hemmings Motor News search, but locating one overseas can be a bona fide challenge. "I had been searching the Web for quite some time and was lucky enough to be the first caller and the first person to get a look at the Vette that I now own," Dunn recalls. "I knew I was getting a great car, as while I was handing over the deposit, the phone was ringing constantly with inquiries from other interested buyers."
Painted in its original factory shade of Le Mans Blue with an original, matching Bright Blue interior, Dunn's Corvette was in good shape, making it a perfect candidate for a performance-focused restoration. "The body and interior were un-abused, but the 350 needed to be rebuilt or retired," he says. "I could have rebuilt it, but with the 500-plus horsepower I had in mind, it would not have been cost effective."
After looking at possible engine options, Dunn decided upon World's 427 and had it crated and shipped to Australia. "This 427 setup is the most horsepower I could get with a hydraulic cam and lifters," he says. "It has nearly double the horsepower of a stock 350."
How much power is Dunn talking about? According to World Products' Chuck Kibling, the 427 street engine produces 520 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. "It's more power than a big-block, with the handling of a small-block," he explains. "It starts with our 4.150-inch bore, 4.00-inch stroke iron block, then we stuff it with an Eagle 4340 forged-steel crank, Eagle forged 6.00-inch rods, and Manley forged pistons. Our 23-degree aluminum heads are the second part of the package, with 235cc intake runners, 64cc combustion chambers, and Manley Racemaster 2.08/1.60 valves. Our 244/252-degree-duration hydraulic cam provides 0.516/0.525-inch lift when combined with our Hardcore 1.6:1 roller rockers. The accessories include a World single-plane, 4150-style intake manifold, a Holley fuel pump, and an MSD ignition system."
In 2006, Dunn began what would become a two-year restoration. With the help of his dad, Colin, he removed the 350, installed the 427, then added Hooker headers and 4-inch side pipes. Satisfied that his Vette had the power it needed to prove its predatory prowess, he turned his attention to the car's looks.
"I wanted my Corvette to have the classic, muscular look of a Baldwin-Motion Stingray," he says. "Since it already had a big-block hood, I asked Cool Customs Body Works of Leumeah, New South Wales, to graft a Stinger scoop onto it. Then, I asked them to paint the car in a two-stage Pearl Blue, which is reminiscent of the Vette's original color. Afterwards, Ron Capitani of New South Wales applied the white stripes in paint, and a LeMans gas cap was added."
Otherwise, the Corvette remains mostly original. The factory Turbo 400 (mated to a Dominator 3,000-stall torque converter) sends power to a GM 10-bolt IRS with upgraded shafts, yokes, and 3.55 gears. Koni shocks augment the factory's transverse-leaf springs, and Wilwood calipers clamp GM discs. SS427 cloisonné call-out emblems and American Racing Torq-Thrust II 15x7 and 15x8 wheels wrapped in BFG 235/60R15 and 255/60R15 rubber round out the final touches.
Since its completion in 2008, the Corvette has regularly attended car cruises and club events in New South Wales, and Dunn has been pleased with its looks, driving manners, and performance. Not surprisingly, his biggest smiles come when he takes the Vette to the dragstrip. Having logged a best time of 11.90 at 119 mph, Dunn is confident he made the right move when he ditched the non-original motor and replaced it with World's Motown 427.
"Third time's a charm," Dunn says. "After owning two Corvettes, I finally have one from my favorite year. Thanks to the Motown 427, it has all the power I need, whether I'm cruising or bruising. And, with its Baldwin-Motion look, there's not another '69 in Australia that can compare to it."
Darren Dunn would like to thank his father, Colin, Angelo from Cool Customs Body Works, Ron Capitani, Cobb and Co., Burt Bros. Brakes, CEV Performance, and John Kuiper Race Engines for their help on his project.
Car: '69 Coupe
Owners: Darren and Belinda Dunn
Block: World Products Motown iron
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Heads: World Products Motown aluminum
Valves: Manley Racemaster 2.080/1.600
Camshaft: Hydraulic flat tappet; 244/252-deg duration, 0.516/0.525-in lift
Rods: Eagle 6.00-in
Intake Manifold: Motown single-plane
Carburetor: Hardcore 870-cfm, 4150-style
Fuel Pump: Holley mechanical, 110-gph
Distributor: MSD tach-drive
Ignition: MSD 6AL-2
Coil: MSD SS Blaster
Crankshaft: Eagle 4340 forged steel
Pistons: Manley forged
Rocker Arms: Hardcore 1.6:1 roller rockers
Exhaust System: Hooker headers and 4-in side pipes
Transmission: Turbo 400
Torque Converter: Dominator, 3,000-rpm stall
Driveshaft: Stock big-block HD
Front Suspension: Stock with Koni shocks
Rear Suspension: Stock with Koni shocks
Rearend: Stock with 3.55 gears and big-block HD axles
Front Brakes: Wilwood calipers
Rear Brakes: Wilwood calipers
Wheels: American Racing Wheels Torq-Thrust II
Front Tires: BFG Radial T/A 235/60R15
Rear Tires: BFG Radial T/A 255/60R15
Weight: 3,307 lbs
Best E.T./MPH: 11.90 seconds at 119 mph
Current Mileage: 88,000
Miles Driven Weekly: 40