My first Corvette; I
still own & drive it 47 years later!
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
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 47 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
Softtop up with my Aunt Edith and my
dad - I miss them both
Click this photo to see how I made a High
Performance engine for this car
My late friend Randy Patton, helped
me move the Corvette to my new home in 2000
Cameron Park June 2004
Show & Shine at Cameron Park Airpark
Photo by my late friend Gary Haight
Cameron Park Lake 2006
Contemporary Hot Rod Magazine ad
If you have a '69 Corvette and don't have this book, you
should get one now
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. (Continued below photos)
This is the beginning of the oil pan gasket replacement
and brake line project
One Piece Oil Pan Gasket
Four bolt main lower end
Still on jack stands for project
Front caliper - notice the rotors are
still riveted to the hubs - never been off
Front stainless steel line - what a
difference in brake pedal feel they make!
Rear caliper & trailing
arm - new parking brake cables too
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
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
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.
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.
Some shots taken in 2008
Ready for a ride
In the shade
Mostly original interior
It should be called
Headlight washers &
correct original style T3 lamps
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
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
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
Storyby 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
There are countless other Corvette books out there so stop by a
book store and look them over.
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, 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 , but from now on, every part that goes into or on the
car 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. 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.
I recently uploaded this video and embedded
here to teach myself how to upload to You Tube and embed videos in web
This video was taken with an older Sony
Cyber Shot still camera.
Labor Day 2010
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
Here are a couple of shots taken in late 2012
Behind the wheel on highway 50
5th gear would be nice
The background color for this page was made from a small
section of a photo of the car's paint - Riverside Gold.