This Duntov Award--winning '67 evokes the midyear's heyday
Corvettes have inspired the imaginations of sports-car lovers for decades. But this one goes beyond inspiration. It takes you back to another era, like a 435-horsepower time machine.
Tom Commons is more than just a sports-car lover. His devotion to second-generation Vettes began when they shone in Chevrolet dealers' showrooms and dazzled on the road and track. Back then, he knew that he'd have one someday.
Fast forward to 2002. Commons now had what he called a serious case of "Midyear Fever," so he visited Kevin Mackay at Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York (not far from Commons' home in Port Washington). He mentioned to Mackay that he was in the market for a C2--in particular, a '67 Sting Ray coupe.
Before you could say "America's Only True Sports Car," the noted Corvette restorer was showing Commons a Marina Blue '67 coupe that was in his shop. It had a 427 in itàand a "For Sale" sign in the window. Before long, Commons contacted the Vette's owner, and the deal was made.
"I bought the car from Ed Mueller, who was a longtime Corvette collector," he says. "Over the years, he's had some notable cars, including Grand Sport Chassis 002, several L88s, and a '69 ZL1. Kevin gave me the assurance that it was a real car with its original engine, and it had documentation in the form of the tank sticker that was still on the tank."
On that sticker were the unmistakable codes L71, M21, and G81, denoting the highest-output streetable engine in the Corvette lineup, the triple-carbed 427/435, with a close-ratio Muncie four-speed and 4.11-geared Positraction rear behind it. The car had been repainted once, and its 427 had been overhauled, but it was otherwise unmolested.
Commons, an NCRS member, sought Top Flight recognition for his '67, so he restored the chassis over the next couple of years before taking it to the organization's regional meet at Wildwood, New Jersey. There, it scored high enough to earn Top Flight, which thrilled him.
For a moment.
In his eyes, the car still wasn't right. It wasn't in the same, fresh-from-St. Louis condition that drew showroom-shoppers' eyes away from Chevrolet's five steel-bodied car lines back in 1967. Recalls Commons, "I was unhappy with the paint, so what started as a new paintjob turned into a full, body-off restoration."
The work was entrusted to Corvette Repair, where Mike Reed and Bill Cossin restored the chassis, and John Penachio got the body and paint just right. "Everything was restored to factory original, says Commons. "I was very happy with the job they did."
In addition to restoring the body and birdcage, frame, steering, and suspension, the project also brought the L71 back to its original 1967 form, with 11.0:1 compression. In all, the restoration took three years.
Since then, Commons' Marina Blue coupe has not only scored Top Flight honors at the local, regional, and national levels, but it's also earned Bloomington Gold Certification and the Gold Spinner Award at Chicago's Chevy/VetteFest--winning it the "Triple Crown" of Corvette awards. Soon after, it was picked for the NCRS Gallery at Carlisle.
Perhaps most impressive, the car was recognized with a Zora Arkus-Duntov Mark Of Excellence Award while undergoing the NCRS' rigorous Performance Verification Award procedure. The "Duntov Award," as it's commonly known, is one of the hobby's most prestigious honors, having only been presented to about 1,500 Corvettes so far.
Since winning those awards, Commons has treated the '67 with TLC, but he does take it out for a spin on occasion. "I run it with a mix of unleaded premium and CAM2 Racing Gasoline," he says. "That's the fuel the car was built to run on, and it likes it." With it, the big-block performs amazingly. As Commons puts it, "It brings me back to what it must have been like back in the day.
Along the way, Commons found out more about his midyear's history, in particular its New York State connections beyond the engine (built at Chevy's Tonawanda Engine Plant) and radiator (from GM's Harrison Division in Lockport). Its original owner, "Butch" Bragnaccio, ordered it from Byrne Brothers Chevrolet in White Plains, picking Marina Blue to honor his sweetheart (who was named Marina), while choosing all the "go fast" options. He sold it two years later, and in 1977 the car passed into the hands of Corvette collectors that later included Anthony Delucia and Ed Mueller.
Although Bragnaccio has since passed away, Commons was able to reunite the car with his brother, Russ. "I brought it to his shop, and he was thrilled to see it for the first time since being home on leave from Vietnam," says Commons, who adds that Russ gave him some photos of the Sting Ray from 1967, and thanked him for bringing back some fond memories of his brother.
When asked if he's got any advice for midyear-seekers, Commons says to beware of a malady that commonly affects cars in the Empire State (and other Northern and Midwestern locales): "If you're looking for one to drive, you've got to be careful about rust in the frame and the birdcage. Those are the areas to watch for--especially where I am in New York, because the rust can be a killer.
"If you want one to restore, be very sure that you have an honest car, with a real trim tag [and] the original engine," he adds. "Those are the things that will carry the most value."
And help you travel back in time, Corvette-style.
|Owner||Tom Commons; Port Washington, New York|
|Block||Stock cast-iron Mark IV with four-bolt main bearing caps, casting No. 3904351|
|Heads||Stock closed-chamber, rectangular-port cast-iron; casting No. 3919840|
|Camshaft||Stock solid lifter|
|Rocker Arms||Stock stamped steel|
|Pistons||Stock forged aluminum|
|Crankshaft||Stock forged steel|
|Rods||Stock forged steel|
|Intake Manifold||Stock cast-iron, casting No. 3894374|
|Carburetors||Three two-barrel Holleys (R3659A PN 3902353 for front and rear, R3660A PN 3902355 for center) with progressive vacuum linkage, 1,000 cfm total|
|Fuel Pump||Stock Mechanical|
|Transmission||RPO M21 close-ratio Muncie four-speed with stock shifter|
|Suspension||Stock coil springs/unequal length A-arms, rear leaf-spring bundle, and Delco tubular shocks|
|Brakes||Stock manual discs|
|Wheels||Stock 15x6-in stamped-steel Rallyes with chrome trim rings and center caps|
|Tires||Goodyear Power Cushion 7.75-14 bias-ply, redline|
|Current Mileage||Approximately 200 since restoration|