How do you define excellence on the racetrack? If you use the standard of races or trophies won, then this '62 Corvette not only meets it, but a picture of it could go in the dictionary next to the word "excellence."
Back in 1962, this C1 was the most dominant car in SCCA A/Production racing. It started 14 major races that year, including the Daytona Continental and the 12 Hours of Sebring, and scored 12 class and/or overall wins on its way to the SCCA's national A/Production title (see sidebar).
There was another purpose at work here, along with showcasing the then-latest version of America's Only True Sports Car on the racetrack. Grady Davis, who was Gulf Oil's head of research and development back then, had used Corvettes he owned as rolling test beds to study how well Gulf's lubricants stood up under on-track conditions that couldn't be duplicated in a conventional research laboratory. In essence, the car became the lab when it went to the track.
Davis had some help inside General Motors and Chevrolet in getting the car he wanted. "At that time, GM was 'officially' out of racing, but there was a lot of 'back door' stuff going on behind closed doors that no one really knew about," says Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair, in Valley Stream, New York. "Those GM guys could've lost their jobs over it, but they did it anyway, and everything was hush-hush."
That meant selling a race-equipped car to a retail customer through a dealer. Guess which one?
"It was ordered out of Yenko Chevrolet," says Mackay. "Knowing that Gulf Oil research got involved with that car, and guys like Dr. Dick Thompson, Duncan Black, and Doc Wylie drove it; knowing that it had all the heavy-duty options on it like fuel injection, heavy-duty brakes, the endurance tank in the car-it's a pretty neat piece."
The heavy-duty equipment doesn't stop there. After the car was delivered through Yenko's to Davis, it received more updates and modifications to prepare it for endurance racing. The "endurance tank" Mackay mentioned was a special 37-gallon fiberglass one that replaced the RPO 488 24-gallon tank; the former necessitated a special rear window on the '62 hardtop to make room for the fuel filler. Also going on were an aluminum driver seat, a set of Stewart-Warner gauges, Plexiglas side windows, a Motorola two-way radio, FIA-specified outside marker lights, a longitudinal blue racing stripe, and blue paint for the '62's coves (as the factory two-tone paint option was dropped that year). At the same time, off came the stock front and rear bumpers, replaced by tubular steel ones located just under the valances.
When this C1 was race ready, it was shipped to Daytona, where it debuted in the Daytona National. With Dr. Dick Thompson driving, it came home Second in the A/Production class. Next up was the three-hour Daytona Continental a couple weeks later, where Thompson and this car scored their first A/Production win of the year.
Then, in March, with Doc Wylie and Duncan Black driving, it not only went the distance in the 12 Hours of Sebring, but it logged its second class win (and third podium finish) in a row.
However, a DNF the next time out likely led to the separation of the '62's original 327 from the car, replaced by another fuel-injected 327. "They had a problem with the engine, and they just pulled it out and put a replacement block in there and ran with that block all these years," says Mackay. With the new engine, the No. 2 car, with Thompson driving, reeled off 10 more first-in-class finishes, with the '62 record adding up to a total of 10 wins in 14 starts.
The end of the 1962 season marked the end of the line for this car and Davis. As he had in seasons past, Davis sold off the "old" car to Tony Denman (who'd then race his hand-me-downs the following year), and replaced it with an all-new RPO Z06-equipped Sting Ray-the first factory Z06 split-window.
After its racing heyday with Davis and Denman, it became just another used car, spending the next 16 years as a daily driver. In the late '70s, close examination revealed some filled-in holes that weren't original equipment, and a search began to document the car's history. That search turned up Tony Denman, who not only verified the '62's racing history, but also had its original engine (which he'd acquired when he bought it), big fuel tank, original hood, and other race-specific parts that he'd taken off the car following the 1963 racing season.
Fast forward several more years, when the car-and its original parts-were brought to Kevin Mackay's shop. "When we got the car, it actually had all of the original body panels on it," Mackay says. "It had been hit in the front one time, and they spliced a piece into the front nose area. But from the middle of the wheelwell back, it was all original." With all of the No. 2's original components present and accounted for, it was time for a frame-off restoration. "We did the undercarriage; all the bodywork, paint, graphics, and striping; and got it really dialed in to the way it's supposed to be." Mackay says that the resto at Corvette Repair followed earlier work on the car in a shop in California, and the now-repaired OEM fuel-injected 327 that was installed at St. Louis Assembly (and removed years before) is now back in the car. He also adds that this is one of only a handful of vintage Corvette race cars he's aware of that still has its original engine.
Once restored, the No. 2 '62 Corvette proceeded to make history again, much as it did when it owned the road courses of America. At the Goodings collector-car auction held during the Monterey Historics/Pebble Beach Concours weekend in 2008, it sold for a world-record price for straight-axle Vette race cars. Then, when it was shown at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 2009, it won the David E. Davis Jr. Award as the most outstanding postwar American car. Soon after, it graced Bloomington Gold's special collection of historic racing Corvettes.
Nowadays, this history maker shares a garage with other significant race cars in Chris Andrews' collection. "I've also got an old Sprint Car, an old [Watson roadster] Indy car, this Corvette, and I have one of the first racing Shelbys," says Andrews. "I'm focused on getting one of each significant car in racing history."
Andrews is a long-time student of automotive racing history, and it was that interest that led him to this car. "I read about it for years," he says. "It's been one of my favorites, both visually and performance-wise, and I was quite surprised to see it come to auction."
Andrews does take No. 2 out once in a while. "We drive it around our parking lot, and I drive it home every now and then," he says. There's a reason why he doesn't run it in any historic racing events. Actually, there are four reasons. "The tires are next to impossible to find," he says about the long-out-of-production Goodyear Blue Streak Sports Car Special biasplies. He'd asked one reproduction tire maker if it was ever going to make them. What did it tell him? "They said it was only $35,000 to build the molds-if I was willing to chip in, they'd be more than willing to do it!"
Soon, the car will have company-a track-ready '62 that Corvette Repair is building for Andrews. "They're doing it in black with white stripes, instead of white with blue stripes," he says. "I don't want to confuse the history of the car. We're putting an Art Morrison chassis under it instead of a stock chassis, to make it kind of a fun car versus a historic race car."
If you're looking for that special Vette, Chris has some easy-to-remember advice. "I would talk to Kevin Mackay," he says. "He certainly keeps more tabs on the Corvette race cars, and the Corvette world, than I do." That includes the rare Vettes Mackay says are now in his shop, or are scheduled to go in before long. "We have the class-winner Penske Corvette and the class-winner that also won Sebring and Daytona back-to-back the same year," he says. "A C1, a C2, and a C3, all Sebring and Daytona class winners, all significant pieces of Corvette history, and all restored by Corvette Repair in Valley Stream."
Though the Gulf Oil team ran its last race in 1963, as long as the cars that it raced-and won with-are still around, Corvette lovers will remember just how excellent these machines really were. And, thanks to Chris Andrews and Kevin Mackay, they can see why this '62 deserves that place in the dictionary next to the word "excellence."
|Race Record: Grady Davis/Gulf Oil '62 Corvette|
|January 28||Daytona National||Dr. Dick Thompson||2nd in class|
|February 11||Daytona Continental (3 hours)||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|March 23-24||Sebring 12 Hours of Endurance||Doc Wylie/Duncan Black||1st in class|
|April 12-13||Washington Marlboro Governor's Cup||Dr. Dick Thompson||DNF|
|April 28-29||Virginia Int'l Presidents Cup||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|May 12-13||Cumberland Steel Cities National||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|May 26-27||Arkansas Stuttgart National||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|June 2-3||Bridgehampton (NY) National||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|June 13||Road America Elkhart Lake, WI||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|June 16-17||Road America Elkhart Lake, WI||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|July 7-8||Lake Garnett Grand Prix||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|August 4-5||Wisconsin Grand Prix||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|August 26||Connellsville, PA||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
|September 21-22||Watkins Glen Grand Prix||Dr. Dick Thompson||1st in class|
Spec Sheet: '62 Corvette
Owner: Chris Andrews; Fort Worth, TX
Block: Chevrolet small-block V-8, cast-iron
Displacement: 327 ci
Compression Ratio: 11.25:1
Heads: Ported production '62 Corvette RPO 582 cylinder heads, cast-iron
Valves: Chevrolet RPO 582
Camshaft: Chevrolet RPO 582
Rocker Arms: Chevrolet RPO 582
Pistons: Chevrolet RPO 582
Crankshaft: Chevrolet RPO 582
Rods: Chevrolet RPO 582
Intake Manifold: GM/Rochester fuel-injection manifold
Throttle Body: GM/Rochester fuel-injection
Fuel Injectors: GM/Rochester
Fuel Pump: GM/Rochester
Ignition: Restored GM/Delco-Remy points-style
Exhaust System: Custom race system
Transmission: Restored Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual
Driveshaft: Restored production '62 Corvette
Front Suspension: Restored modified production '62 Corvette; heavy-duty coil springs with Koni shocks
Rear Suspension: Restored modified production '62 Corvette; heavy-duty leaf springs with Koni shocks
Rearend: Restored modified production '62 Corvette with RPO 675 Positraction
Front and Rear Brakes: Restored RPO 687 GM/Delco-Moraine drum-and-shoe brakes with 11-in drums (OEM size) and cerametallic linings
Wheels: Restored original GM/Kelsey-Hayes heavy-duty stamped steel, 15x5 1/2 in (front/rear)
Tires: Goodyear "Blue Streak" Sports Car Special bias-ply, 7.00-15 in (front/rear)
Fuel Octane: Race fuel only
Current Mileage: N/A