TopPete Ruff's Cars & Bikes
 

1969 Corvette


XK120M Jaguar


1965 Mustang 2+2


1986 Corvette


2001 Corvette Z06


2007 Corvette Z06


The Workhorse

 

My first Corvette; I still own & drive it 49 years later!

 

Corvette!  Practically everybody who likes cars has thought about owning one.  My lucky day came in the summer of 1970 when I heard of a 2,600 mile Corvette that was for sale at a great price.  Since Corvettes had a reputation of being expensive to insure, I checked with my insurance agent and learned the insurance would be very little more than my 1965 Mustang.  That sealed my fate and I bought the car!  This is pretty much a striped model, with the base 300 hp engine, four speed transmission, tinted windows, AM-FM radio (big deal back then),  Posi-traction diff., and white stripe tires!  No air conditioning, no power steering, no power brakes.  Now 49 years later, it's still mine, and it looks about as good as it does in these pictures. (continued below)

 

These first photos were taken near Vacaville right after I bought the Corvette


How about those narrow white stripe tires?


When I was young and the Corvette was new









Convertible top
up with my Aunt Edith and my dad - I miss them both

 

Links Section


Click this photo, see how it got that way

Corvette Links

1969 Corvette Specs

Cameron Park Corvettes

Corvette Forum - C3 Section

Corvette Action Center


Click this photo to see how I made a High Performance engine for this car

More photos and History continues below

Return to Top of Page


My friend, the late Randy Patton, helped me move the Corvette to my new home in 2000


Corvette weights more in rear so loaded this way for best weight distribution.  Champ is along for the ride.


Cameron Park June 2004



Show & Shine at Cameron Park Airpark
Photo by my friend, the late Gary Haight



Cameron Park Lake 2006
Return to Top of Page


Miscellaneous Section


Contemporary Hot Rod Magazine ad
 


If you have a '69 Corvette and don't have this book, you should get one now
Return to Top of Page

History

When this car was new, I drove it as fast as it would go, just over redline in fourth gear, or about 136 mph, west bound on I-80 west of Winnemucca, Nevada in 1971.  It held the road like a Corvette should - the only thing scary was the way I came up so quickly on the occasional much slower moving car.  One or two encounters like that was enough for me!

The handling and overall demeanor improved significantly when I installed radial tires and Koni shock absorbers.  The only other "performance" modification I made in the early years was to add a capacitive discharge ignition.  Rather than improve performance, the CD unit prevented the deterioration of the spark plugs and points as the miles went by.  It was like always having a fresh tune-up.

In 1975, when the convertible Corvette was discontinued, I bought a removable hardtop for this car from GM after having determined the aftermarket tops did not have nearly the quality of the OEM top .

In 1986 I bought a new Corvette, and then got heavily involved with CBX motorcycles.  The car was stored for 13 years


Thirteen years later, in the Spring of 2004, my CBX buddy Eric ragged on me to get the car back on the road.  He offered to come down from Oregon and help me get it started in lieu of us attending a CBX rally in Carson City.  With my arm sufficiently twisted, I borrowed a pre-oiler, merely a distributor with the drive gear, points and other ignition parts removed removed.  By plugging this tool into the engine in place of the distributor and driving it with an electric drill, the oil pump pressurized the oil system thereby lubricating the engine prior to starting.  This ensures adequate lubrication for an engine that has been sitting for an extended time.  We drained the gas tank too.  Actually Eric, using the time-honored method of sucking on the siphon hose, ingested some good-tasting stale gasoline and got the flow going.  With fresh gas and a new battery the engine fired right up! 

Thus began the process of bringing the car out of it's long sleep.  New tires were one of the first things replaced since despite having plenty of tread, the old ones had severely flat-spotted from being parked so long.   A lot of tinkering with the carb, the brakes, and many small trim parts was done over the first couple of years.  In 2005 I had the front suspension rebuilt with new bushings, ball joints, tie-rod ends, idler arm, sway-bar bushings and links, and a new steering box.

Following the front end work, I had the rear suspension rebuilt with new trailing arm bushings and wheel bearings, new parking brake hardware, new strut rods, and a single leaf composite rear spring.  After a four-wheel alignment, it rides and handles like it did when it was new.  Better in fact, since modern radial tires are so much better than those bias-ply F70/15 white stripe tires the car came from St. Louis with.  The bias ply tires would trammel, or follow ruts or uneven pavement, much more than even the widest low profile radial tires, and certainly much more than the "modest" 60 series radials  on the car now.  The bias ply tires were also very hard to get balanced so the car wouldn't shake at some speed. 

Once the running gear was brought back I replaced the original 30+ year old exhaust with a chambered 2.5 inch system that was killer loud and fun to drive - the chambers were like those on the RPO side pipe exhaust.  I can't believe those sounded as loud as this system does - I think having the headers in front of this system made it a lot louder than it would have been with the factory exhaust manifolds.  Maturity finally caught up with me and I had a couple of Magnaflow stainless steel mufflers put in the stock location in the rear fenders.  It sounds much better, not stock quiet, but mellow with a snarl when I get on the loud pedal. 

The exhaust was followed by a electronic ignition system buried in the old points style distributor.  With the points eliminated, I had Dave Westgate re-curve the mechanical and vacuum advances in the distributor - this made a HUGE improvement in performance, it now runs as a well built small block Chevy V8 should!  Throttle response is excellent, it has plenty of  low rpm torque, and it has great mid-range and top end power. 

Stainless steel brake hoses and a new reproduction master cylinder (the old one functioned perfectly, but it looked terrible - that's a good excuse to replace a part, right?) took care of the brakes in 2008.  I also replaced the original clock that no longer worked with a quartz unit and restored the center gage cluster "while I was at it".  Oh yeah, the other "while I was at it" involved correcting an annoying oil leak from the engine.  I heard about FelPro's one piece oil pan gasket, since the car was up on stands what better time to replace the pan gaskets.  I'm now a true believer in this new technology.  Details are in the next section, Oil pan gasket replacement and brake line project below.

Next I replaced the corroded chrome exhaust bezels, which can hardly be seen unless you crane your neck under the back of the car.  I was going to replace the coolant hose clamps with OEM style Witek until I learned the clamps on the car are original, so I won't be replacing them.

I recently uploaded this video and embedded here to teach myself how to upload to YouTube and embed videos in web pages.


This video was taken with an older Sony Cyber Shot still camera.

 

Return to Top of Page

Oil pan gasket replacement and brake line project

The old-fashioned cork oil pan gasket had begun to seep oil.  New on the market at the time, was the Fel-Pro one piece oil pan gasket that includes the end pieces, and has small grommets in each bolt hole so the bolts cannot be over tightened which would crush the gasket. 
I also wanted to replace the original rubber brake hoses.  The brake hoses soften over time, and expand or stretch under pressure - brake pressure you cause when applying the brakes.  From experience with motorcycle brakes, I knew brake hoses with braided a stainless steel shield do not expand like rubber hoses.  The result is a much firmer brake pedal.  The brake pads react immediately to brake pedal pressure, so brake action is more immediate and firm.




One Piece Oil Pan Gasket


Four bolt main lower end


Windage tray


Still on jack stands for project


Front caliper - notice the rotors are still riveted to the hubs - never been off  - that's excellent on a C2 or C3 Corvette.  If they are separated, as is common on most modern cars, it's almost impossible to get the rotors true to the hub so the pedal will vibrate and it feels like the rotors need to be ground true.


Front stainless steel line - what a difference in brake pedal feel they make - a very firm brake pedal


Rear caliper & trailing arm - new parking brake cables too
 

Return to Top of Page

Some shots taken in 2008


Ready for a ride


In the shade


Mostly original interior


Restored seats


It should be called Shark


Headlight washers & correct original style T3 lamps



Left side


Right side


Run up to Big Hill

Return to Top of Page


A Little Corvette History

The reference to Shark above is because this generation of Corvette has become known as shark because their appearance, including the nose, grill, and gills in the sides of the fenders.  This 3rd generation is now commonly referred to as C3, a numbering scheme that didn't start until at least the forth generation which ran from 1984 through 1996, and included my 1986 model. 

In the beginning, of course, they were just Corvettes.  Then in 1963 we got the Sting Ray (notice it is two words).  After the Sting Ray we got Stingray, the C3s.  At that time the Sting Rays were known as MidYear Corvettes, and still are often called that, although nowadays C2 is preferred by most people.  The C1, or Solid-Axles ran from 1953 through 1962, or 10 model years.  C2 production run was pretty short with only 5 model years.  They are probably the most obtainable and valuable of collector Corvettes - the C1s are often worth more, but there are not as many of them,

So we come back to the C3 generation, the longest running in Corvette history, 1968 through the 1982 an amazing 15 model years!  During this time the Corvette changed a lot in many ways.  Body-wise, we have the Chrome Bumper series, '68-'73, although the '73 only had chrome at the rear.  Starting in '73 and through the end is the Rubber Bumper series, and this is further broken down by cessation of the convertible after 1975, and replacing the flat rear window and flying buttress "sails" with a fast-back bubble rear window in 1978. 

One reason for the long C3 production run was this was the period Detroit had to clean up engine exhaust to meet smog regulations.  It was also the beginning of the safety requirements, the rubber bumpers being the first visual manifestation.  So we saw horsepower reach a zenith in 1968-1969 and then slowly drop off as unleaded fuel and other EPA requirements took hold.  Big Block engines of 427 and 454 cubic inches disappeared after the 1974 model year.  What the later C3s lacked in raw power they made up in refinement and comfort options.  The cars got slower but quieter, smoother riding, and more comfortable. 

Naturally, with this long production run there were a lot of C3 Corvettes built: 542,861 to be exact, more than any other generation to date. 

My C3 or Shark, being the second model year is more of a rough and tumble car than the later ones, but it is an accurate reflection of how they were built back then.

For more information about Corvettes, some recommended books include:
Corvette - America's Stan-Spangled Sports Car - The Complete Story by Karl Ludvigsen - The original is out of print, but there is a new expanded edition available.

Corvette From The Inside by Dave McLellan Corvette Chief Engineer 1975-1992

Zora Arkus-Duntov The Legend Behind Corvette by Jerry Burton

There are countless other Corvette books out there so stop by a book store and look them over.

Return to Top of Page

Theme

Old cars are usually maintained or brought back with a particular theme in mind.  Today in the 21st Century, we have so many choices facing us it is almost bewildering to contemplate.  Electronic fuel injection, five and six speed transmissions - automatic and manual, air conditioning add-on kits, power rack & pinion power steering, hydraulic assisted power brakes, modern suspension components from newer Corvette generations, the list is practically endless. 

I thought a lot about which direction I should take this Corvette.  In the end, I decided that except for the engine, I would keep the car as near stock as I could, and keep it as original as possible.  I don't intend to have it judged by the NCRS, (National Corvette Restorers Society) an organization that sets standards for judging Corvettes, to be as close as possible to how the car left the factory, St. Louis in the case of the C3.  From now on, every part that goes into or on my Corvette will be as close to NCRS standard as possible. 

The major distractions to that concept are the entire engine, exhaust system, and the stainless steel braided brake lines. BUT, the saving grace, so to say, is that the ORIGINAL, numbers matching engine is perfectly good, and after a sympathetic overhaul, it can go back in the car, along with the original carburetor and all the smog equipment - all things that are important for an NCRS judged Corvette.  One of the major deficiencies the NCRS looks for is a NOM, Not Original Engine.  Virtually every component on an old Corvette can be had as a reproduction, with correct date code, and other identifying codes.  But an engine block MUST be the one that came with the car originally.  If the VIN stamped on the block does not match the car, it's a NOM, and the car's value is seriously depreciated.

The exhaust and brake lines can easily be replaced with OEM parts, so a future owner could conceivably receive favorable treatment by an NCRS judge if he or she desired.  With all this in mind, I have directed my energies toward making this Corvette a period-correct, early 1970s, moderately hot rodded Corvette - that's my theme and I'm sticking to it.

The next three photos illustrate how close to original the car is.  Except for the B. F. Goodrich Radial T/A tires, the car appears virtually the same as it did in the first pictures at the top of the page.  Even the license plate is the same, albeit, the front one is removed here.  Those white stripe tires, by the way, were not radials, but the last gasp of bias ply tires.

Labor Day 2010






Return to Top of Page


Power Steering

Once I had the car completely sorted out and began to drive it more, I realized that the stock steering was no longer satisfactory for an old guy like me.  Back in the day, it was easy for me to drive and park the car.  Driving on a twisty road, the best kind, became a wrestling match.  I'd brace my body with my legs and give a big push or tug on the wheel to set up for a turn.  Modern cars were much easier to drive. 

The stock C3 power steering was an add-on assist.  It consisted of a hydraulic ram attached to the steering linkage, the relay rod to be exact, that was controlled by a complicated hydraulic valve which sensed steering wheel movement and directed hydraulic pressure to the appropriate side of the ram.  GM developed integral power steering boxes that brought the functions of the ram and hydraulic valve into the steering box.  But these new boxes were too large to use on the Corvette's old chassis which dated to 1962, so the C3 cars soldiered on though the end of the 1982 model year with the old system.

I couldn't easily add a stock power steering system because the ram crossed under the oil pan, right where the larger 6 quart oil pan was.  I did some research and learned that the Borgeson company had modified smaller Delco-Remy steering box originally designed for some Jeep vehicles to fit the Corvette chassis.  This was done by gutting the housing, machining off the original mount points, mounting the box in a jig to ensure correct alignment of the internal parts, and welding on mounting brackets to fit the Corvette frame.  The internal parts were then installed and adjusted to new specifications.  I ordered the complete kit which consisted of the steering box, the power steering pump with pulley and bracket to bolt it to the engine block, hoses, and a "rag joint", the coupler to connect the car's steering shaft to the new steering box. 

I had a local Corvette specially shop install the kit because it seemed like a bigger job than I was willing to tackle.  What an improvement!!!  The car was easy to steer, and just as important, the steering ratio was speeded up from 16:1 to a quick 12.7:1. 


This is the Borgeson kit: pump, steering gear, hoses, rag joint, bracket, & pulley


Here is the Borgeson kit installed, Rag Joint on the right.  The pump is hidden below the alternator.

I quickly learned the large, thin rim steering wheel was not necessary for leverage, and felt distinctly odd compared to modern cars with their thick rims.  I found this steering wheel, which is very similar to the stock wheel, at an on-line Corvette supply house and ordered it.  It feels much better, makes driving the car easier, and as an added bonus, getting into and out of the car much easier.


Size comparison - 15" vs. 13.5"



The new wheel in place - non-C3 fans would be hard pressed to tell it's not stock
Return to Top of Page

Fuel Tank Saga

In March 2011 I had the Borgeson power steering unit installed in my manual steering ’69 convertible.  The install went well, and the owners of the shop raved about how good the car steered compared to the stock linkage assist power steering. 

While driving home, I gassed the car and felt a slight hesitation, but since the tank was almost empty I thought the pickup ran dry for a moment and that’s why it missed a beat.  When I got to town, I stopped at a busy Chevron station put about 15 gallons in the tank.  I haven’t filled it for years as the interior smells like gas when the tank is full.  As I left the station, the engine kept dying, so I had to juggle my two feet between the clutch pedal, the brake pedal, and the accelerator (it's a skill one acquires when driving a car with certain poorly functioning parts) as I moved through traffic and onto the freeway home.  

As I accelerated up to highway speed, the engine quit like I turned the ignition off.  I let off the gas and it picked up again.  I tried to gas it again, and it died, but caught when I got off the gas.  I could maintain 35-40 mph, but that was all.  I pulled off when I got to a breakdown lane and with the flashers on, opened the hood and removed the air cleaner.  I gassed the throttle at the carb and could see fuel squirting out of the accel pump squirters.  As I seemed to have fuel, I took off up the hill to home.  Same problem; it would die with a heavy foot on the gas, so I was limited to about 45mph in the breakdown lane with the four-way flashers on to get home. 

I called the shop and asked them if they had a problem with the car when they test drove it for the steering.  Both owners said it ran fine for them, they ran it up through the gears.  One said sounds like water in the fuel, try some gas treatment.  I tried that, no difference.

Since I did seem to have fuel in the carb, a friend, a very experienced engine and car builder, said it could be loss of spark.  It sure felt like the spark was going away when it lost power – no stumbling, or backfiring through the carb like a lean condition will do.  It felt like the key was turned off and then back on.  I took the distributor cap off, and checked it for carbon tracking, cracks, and other abnormal conditions.  All looked fine.

I have the One-Wire Breakerless Electronic conversion kit in the distributor that eliminates the ancient point system.   One Wire Breakerless Ignition so I called their tech dept. and asked them about failure modes.  They said unless the unit had failed, it will fire unless the input voltage drops below 4.0 VDC, at which point it shuts down to protect the internal circuitry.  Using some wire to extend the VOM probes, I hooked up a digital volt meter to the + side of the coil and ground and took the car for a drive with the VOM on the seat beside me.  I had 9.6 V at idle, and 11.3 V at 3K rpm.  I had a steady 11.3 V when the engine cut out, so it appeared that I didn’t have a bad ignition module, and since the voltage held constant, the car wiring was not the problem. 

In the past I had problems with the Holley DP (double pumper) carburetor getting “stuff” into it and causing problems, I decided to remove it, tear it down, and clean it out.  I did all that, and found no smoking gun, no crud in the carb, nothing that shouldn’t be there.  I reinstalled it, couldn’t get the engine started.  I took the fuel line off the carb inlet and cranked the engine with a hose on the fuel line going into a jar.  I hardly got any fuel out of the pump, just a weak stream so I went on to the next suspect, the sock filter in the tank.  Technically, the next component in the line is the fuel pump.  But if I had gone directly there , I would have missed all the fun with the fuel tank.

Since the sock filter in the tank is original, I thought, and was told it could be clogged.  The inside of the tank looked good, not any real rust of note; just a couple of dime sized spots.  I drained the tank using the Chevrolet Service Manual method of siphoning the gas. 


 

I had my Chassis Service Manual at hand for the step-by-step instructions, but most helpful in this entire adventure was having copies of the pages from the 1969 AIM (Assembly Instruction Manual - used by the factory) stapled together and at hand as I worked through the removal and installation.  The AIM has nice large line drawings of each assembly, and torque values are right there for all the fasteners.  The AIM was really more helpful than the Chassis Service Manual.

It was necessary to empty the tank because the ring that holds the pickup and fuel gauge sending unit is located on the bottom of the tank.  This shot shows the new tank installed in the car, looking straight up, showing the ring, the sending unit, and the fuel gauge assembly in the tank.

With the tank almost empty, I removed the ring that holds the pickup and fuel gauge sending unit, so I could remove the unit and replace the sock filter.  The sock filter was split in several places, definitely needing replacement.  While I was at it, I decided the tank was almost out, so why not remove it so I can replace the supply and return hoses.  I reasoned that the hoses were forty plus years old and probably deteriorated causing the gas odor in the car.  Also, I wanted to see the built sheet which lists the options built into the car, the recipe for the assembly crew to follow, so this was my opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to say.  Following the steps in the Service Manual, I got the tank out pretty easily.  But what I saw was not pleasant:

 
Old Fuel Tank finally on the ground

The tank appears to have been leaking at the front and rear seam as well as from that “seal” just to the left of the filler neck in the depression.  And the built sheet was toast! 

Reproduction tanks are not very expensive, so I ordered one from Paragon a Corvette restoration supply business, along with a new non-locking cap, and the anti-squeak insulators that have to be glued to the tank.  The parts arrived in about 10 days – east coast to west coast.

The tank came with a gasket for the filler neck, and new screws with O-rings under the heads to attach the filler neck to the tank, as well as a new gasket for the sending unit, and a new locking ring to secure the sending unit. 


New Fuel Tank ready to be installed

The new tank ready to go in the car, complete with new non-locking cap.  The small hose on the right is the fuel return line which comes from the fuel filter on the ‘69s, which returns excess fuel to the tank helping to keep the fuel cool.  The long hose is the overflow to catch and drain away any spillage when filling the tank. 

The tank went in pretty easily once the left muffler was dropped to the ground – an undertaking in itself as mine are welded from the header flange to the chrome tip.  The hardest part was hooking up the fuel return hose.  I found that using silicone spray on the hose and on the fitting let me easily slide the hose on, and to slide the little spring clamps into position.  This has to be done with the tank partially in place, but rotated 90° forward as it must be to remove and install in into place.  So I was on my creeper on my back, balancing the tank up in the car, and trying to use my other two hands to get the hose attached securely.  It was a learning experience I tell ya.

With the tank in, I decide that while I have the car on jack stands, I’ll take the fuel pump off and take it apart to inspect the valves.  Since I still hadn’t found a real cause for the problem that started all this, I reasoned that, perhaps the old torn sock filter in the tank had allowed some crud in the tank to get into the pump and jam a valve open, or partially open.  My pump is a GM Fuel Pump High Capacity (Small Block).  For use on carbureted engines. Pump has 7psi shut-off pressure and a free-flow rate of 30gph. Lower housing can be rotated to reposition inlet and outlet ports.

I removed the pump, took it apart and found this:


Fuel Pump Valves -  There is a big problem here!

You’ll notice both valves look the same, which is wrong.  These are one-way check valves; the input valve on the left should allow fuel to flow into the diaphragm chamber and the valve on the right lets fuel flow out of the chamber to the carburetor via OUT fitting on the right.  The input valve was not seated, and slightly cocked, so I took a small screw driver and pried it out. 

Then I put it in the correct way, tapped it home with the socket  you can see in the previous photo and staked it to keep it in place.  Note the stake  marks at o'clock 2, and 9 o'clock....


Fuel Pump Valves Staked

This was my smoking gun!  I had finally found a real problem that was causing my engine to cut out.   The pump has only a few thousand miles on it, and has always until now worked well.  What caused that valve to come out of its hole and flip over?  How did the engine even run with the valve flipped over like that?  (That rusty color is the photo, not rust in the pump.)  I hate to say this, but this failure is an indication of poor GM quality in a premium part.

I got the pump back together and back in the car – it’s amazing how something so small and easy to reach is so hard to bolt to the block.  I did use the trick I learned on the Corvette Forum where I removed the bolt on the front of the block and installed a longer one to hold the push rod in place.  That’s a neat trick, works well and eliminates the hassle of fooling with the push rod while trying to get the pump bolts started. 

One final roadblock awaited me – somehow I got some crud in the primary needle/seat during my work on the various parts of the fuel system, so when I started the car, I had fuel dribbling off the boosters, and causing the engine to run very badly.  I tried to adjust the float down but ended up with it on the bottom of the bowl, and still letting too much gas into the bowl.  I took the needle/seat out – simple on these carburetors, just loosen the lock screw and screw the needle/seat out of the bowl.  I examined it with a magnifying glass, and didn’t see anything so I put it back in but it still leaked and flooded the engine.  Then I did what I should have done the first time; I removed the needle/seat and blew it clear with compressed air - I have a dandy 220V, 5 hp, 60 gallon compressor.  Success! 

This might seem like a long and involved process to fix a bad fuel pump, but the problem was never clear, as it mostly ran well, but just cut out some of the time – and it cut out cleanly as if the ignition was turned off.  I now have a nice new fuel tank, new fuel hoses that are very hard to access, and a repaired fuel pump.  And no gas smell in the car when I have a full tank. 

Return to Top of Page


2012 & Later Photos

Behind the wheel on highway 50




5th gear would be nice



Showing off at Cars & Coffee - Folsom


This is part of a lineup of Corvettes displayed by the Cameron Park Corvette Club at the annual ShowN'Shine, September 30,2017.  Next to my '69 Riverside Gold convertible is Jim's '71 War Bonnet Yellow coupe.  Many people think the cars are the same color, but when side by side, it's obvious the colors are very different.


https://youtu.be/AvUyGKpDxxA
Corvette on the street 1019

The background color for this page was made from a small section  of a photo of the car's paint - Riverside Gold.

 

This is a never ending story so keep coming back!

 

Home   Motorcycles  XK120M Jaguar  1965 Mustang 2+2    1969 Corvette  1986 Corvette    2001 Corvette    The Workhorse