We've heard just about every creative phrase you could possibly apply to a Corvette, but when Ford Heacock, the owner of Heacock Classic Insurance, described his Marina Blue '67 Sting Ray as "pig iron under water," our curiosity was piqued. What in the world did he mean? "'Pig iron under water' is a light-hearted phrase frequently used in the insurance business when referring to ultra-low risk," Heacock explains. "The reference is that pig iron under water is not likely to burn. You could refer to a '67 Corvette--or most any midyear Sting Ray for that matter--as being an ultra-low risk from the collector's viewpoint. You're not likely to get burned, especially if the car has Bloomington and NCRS credentials."
In addition to being one of the country's leading classic-car insurers, Heacock is an avid Corvette fan. He was raised in Sebring, Florida, home to the 12 Hours of Sebring, and where factory-modified Corvettes began proving their cred on the 5.38-mile course in the mid-'50s.
"I was a pit rat when I was a kid," Heacock recalls. "I was 13 years old when the '63 Corvette Grand Sports started racing. Throughout my teenage years, I hung out in the Sebring garages and watched the race cars being worked on. That's when the Corvette Sting Rays really had an effect of me."
Four decades later, Heacock had his mind set on acquiring a Corvette that reminded him of his days learning about race cars at Florida's famous road circuit. "One of the things I learned in the insurance business is that the people who grew up with Sting Rays come back to them when they are older," he says. "I laughed when I realized my observation was also about me."
In January 2004, Heacock attended Mecum's Kissimmee auction and spotted a Marina Blue '67 Sting Ray with a factory-issued L79 327/350 engine, a four-speed gearbox, and mostly original parts. His research showed it was 1 of 22,940 Corvettes that rolled off the St. Louis assembly line in 1967; 1 of 6,375 that were powered by the 327/350 that year; and that its exterior color was the second most popular one of the model year. The midyear also had a handful of factory convenience options: air conditioning, power steering and brakes, and an AM/FM radio, among others.
That wasn't all that made this particular Corvette special to him. "It won Bloomington Gold certification in 1989 and NCRS Top Flight in 1991. I felt confident it was the pig iron under water I was looking for," he says.
Admittedly, all that was left for him to do before he committed to bidding on the milestone midyear was to get a second opinion. "The auction was on the same property as the NCRS Winter Regional, so I struck up a conversation with some judges and asked them to look the Corvette over for me. They gave it the thumbs up, so I was ready to bid," he says.
"I'm pretty savvy at pinpointing the value of Corvettes and setting my bidding limit," Heacock continues. "I was confident my high bid was right on the money.
"The morning of the auction, however, my wife had plans, and I couldn't remain onsite. I asked my underwriter/appraiser, Gary Gandy, to remain at the auction with my bidder number and my high bid, and to place my bids for me," he says.
Heacock headed back to his home in Lakeland, Florida. Still, the farther away from the auction site he drove, the more he fought a frustrating feeling he wasn't going to win the Corvette. "It was nagging me inside," he says. "I called my underwriter on the phone and told him, 'Win or lose, you have $500 more to bid on the Sting Ray.'"
What happened next was fate. The bidding on the Corvette quickly escalated to within arm's reach of the estimated value Heacock had placed upon it, then landed exactly on his high bid--and stalled. There was only one problem: He wasn't the high bidder. Before the auctioneer could bring down the hammer and conclude the sale, Heacock's backup $500 increase took the high-bidder position and stood uncontested. Going, going, gone! He won the Corvette.
"In the '60s, I fell in love with Corvettes," Heacock concludes. "Fast-forward 40 years, [and] ironically I insure the Corvettes I wanted to own when I was a teenager. Thanks to a lucky moment, I drive the one I wanted, too.
"I've owned my Sting Ray over seven years now and show it at Heacock Insurance's Lake Mirror Auto Festival Classic [held each October, in Lakeland], and at other concours events in my home state. When people see my Corvette at our display booth, it reinforces the fact that I'm a Corvette collector, too. I'm as passionate about this stuff as you are."
Tips for Insuring Your CorvetteAs an exclusive service for VETTE readers, Heacock offered six important tips to consider before insuring a Corvette, whether it's a classic Sting Ray like his, or a typical late-model driver.
1. Don't over- or underinsure the car. Try to be within 20 percent of the correct market value. If you bought recently, the purchase price may serve as that value; otherwise, invest in a professional appraisal.
2. Every two or three years, revisit your Corvette's market value and adjust your policy's agreed value accordingly. This is important in times of value escalation, such as 2000-2005, and in times of devaluation, like 2006-2007.
3. Make sure your insurance company allows you to buy your salvage vehicle back if a total loss occurs.
4. Install Lojack for Classics or other anti-theft tracking-and-locating device. Lojack for Classics now sells for less than $300 installed.
5. Major classic-car insurers have competitive rates--usually within 10 percent of each other--so choose the company that provides you with your desired level of personal service.
6. If you insure your Corvette through your family auto-insurance policy, make sure you understand the difference between the terms actual cash value, stated value, and agreed value. The method of settlement on a claim can be much different, depending on which type you select.
|Owner||Ford Heacock; Lakeland, FL|
|Block||Stock cast iron, casting no. 3892657|
|Heads||Stock cast iron|
|Camshaft||Stock L79 hydraulic (242/242-deg advertised duration, 0.447-/0.447-in lift)|
|Pistons||Stock forged aluminum|
|Intake Manifold||Stock L79 aluminum|
|Carburetor||Holley 3810 four-barrel|
|Exhaust System||Converted from stock to side-pipe exhaust|
|Transmission||Stock four-speed manual|
|Front Brakes||Stock discs, four-piston calipers|
|Rear Brakes||Stock discs, four-piston calipers|
|Wheels||Stock steel with "beauty rings" and center caps|
|Front Tires||7.75x15 Firestone Redline SS|
|Rear Tires||7.75x15 Firestone Redline SS|
|Miles Driven Weekly||Less than 10|