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Mickey Thompson, Doug Hooper, & the 1963 Corvette

In the Interim

Brian Brennan Dec 11, 2017
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Oftentimes in life we hear that truth is stranger than fiction. Mark Twain once wrote that, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Sounds like something we could apply daily to politicians, but I digress.

In the interim, I was recently conversing with the keeper of knowledge on all things Corvette, which would be Franz Estereicher. The conversation turned to how it seems that when it comes to all things Corvette—especially the historical aspects—fact and fiction sometimes intertwine until one day fiction is accepted as truth and the truth is challenged. We find it best to go back to those who have taken the time to learn and to keep the facts straight, hence the lengthy conversation with Estereicher.

The weekend of February 16 and 17, 1963, was an eventful weekend for many. It was a weekend in which Chevrolet entered 10 brand-new 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupes and two 1962 models in the upcoming Daytona race. Mickey Thompson had the highest hopes himself, having entered four Corvettes, two with the 427 Mystery Motor in Z06-equipped cars, for Saturday’s race called the American Challenge Cup. Sunday’s Continental race featured two Sting Rays, cars #3 and #4 with Doug Hooper driving #3 (having enjoyed success earlier at Riverside, coming home a winner) and Bill Krause with his silver #4.

In the early going, Hooper in the #3 was running in 11th spot, 10 steps behind teammate Krause driving the #4 car, which had captured the outside pole position. As the laps clicked off Hooper kept moving up through traffic until the proverbial “wheels fell off.” But as the saying goes, “It’s racing.”

Hooper was working his way through the field, just ahead of Jerry Grant driving Alan Green’s #7 Corvette, and spun as he entered the infield section, right in front of Grant who was now heading directly at Hooper at speed. It was only 14 laps into the race and right then and there Hooper knew his day was done. Pedro Rodriguez took the checkered flag with his #18 Ferrari 250 GTO when the “laundry” dropped after 81 laps.

So, where is this story going? Well, I was always fascinated by the fact the Green #7 Corvette Sting Ray didn’t have front turn signals attached to the lower outside portion of the body as all of the other ’63 Sting Rays had from the factory. It turns out the #7 car while racing at Riverside (at the same time Hooper was driving his #3 Sting Ray) was involved in a minor mishap. Rather than repair and restore the turn signals, the #7 car was put back together sans turn signals. The removal, or shaving, of the lights became somewhat of a popular modification. Hence, the reason why this Sting Ray looks different and, I might add, a welcomed modification. (While a natural born hot rodder such as me sees this mod as an enhancement I would be willing to bet that the restoration crowd would frown upon such an “improvement.”)

So, should you find yourself rummaging through old magazines, race programs, or shoe boxes filled with black and white photos (remember black and white, heck remember prints?) take a close look as there’s a wealth of great information to be found in those old photos. I spend hours just going over old race photos as I find any number of great racing moments. Vette

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