met Bill in 1959 in Denver, Colo. where we were both attending technical
training for the Defensive Fire Control system installed in the B-52
heavy bomber. As an aside, it was a pretty sophisticated system
with search and track radars, an analog computer capable of figuring the
complex gun-laying problem of shooting down an enemy fighter, and a
closed-circuit TV. We were in different weeks, but as it turned
out, were going to both end up at Beale Air Force Base in Northern
Calif. While we were in Denver, Bill had a nice '57 Chevy 2 door
hardtop that was painted pretty wildly. As I recall forty
five years later, it was white with green scallops. Then I didnít
see it around the base for awhile, until one day it showed up painted a
kind of candy green.
Shortly after I settled in at
Beale and had my
XK120 Jaguar at the barracks with me, Bill arrived and soon
had his í59 Corvette. Bill made a lot of changes to the car, which had the
base engine of about 230 hp, and a three-speed manual gearbox, and much
tires on the back which gave it quite a rake. The large rear
tires would prove crucial to my getting out of
the hole quicker than he could. I remember hanging out with Bill and getting to drive
the Vette around Yuba City Ė the first Corvette I ever drove!
One day at the Fire Control shop during a slow
time, several of us got into a discussion about our cars, and how fast they
were vis-ŗ-vis each other. I had just got my car running after
rebuilding it. I had it bored an amazing 0.160" taking it from 3.4
to 3.8 liters, an increase of about 20 cubic inches. The forged JE
pistons I used came out of a D Type Jaguar that had recently raced at
Sebring. To say the power increase was noticeable was an
Zeke Lenn, our Tech Rep from American Bosch Arma
Ė and a hero to both Bill and me - had a new í61 T'Bird with a stock 390
engine. Zeke, Bill and I along with three sergeants, Cliff Turner, Burt
Rainey, and Stoy Wooster got into our cars and drove way out to a deserted
part of the huge air base.
When we got to a likely spot, we stopped and got set to
race. As I recall Cliff Turner rode with me, Burt Rainey rode with
Zeke, and Stoy Wooster rode with Bill. The Thunderbird and I lined up, and
somebody gave the signal to start. My Jag had an overall first
gear of about 12:1, so getting out of the hole was a simple matter of
bringing the Rís up to
maybe be 2,500 and dumping the clutch. I was able to get away nicely,
and never was threatened by the T'Bird. I guess we raced to about
100 mph, and then stopped and returned to where we started.
Then it was Bill vs. Zeke racing together. I canít say I can
remember how that went except the Vette was
in no danger of getting beaten Ė did the T'Bird beat him out of the
donít remember. But when they returned, Burt Rainey told me that I had
better come up with more top end, as the Corvette ran away from the T-Bird badly at the top, much
worst than I had.
Now for the big event! Once
again, I got a good hole shot, and was away well before Bill in the Vette.
I felt pretty good, as I could see the red car way back. Then at about 80
miles per hour, the Vette roared past me like it was shot out of a gun! Like
I put the brakes on! Like I was standing still! Pure and simple, that
283 Corvette had a top end that just buried my 230 cu. in. Jaguar.
Thatís what it was all about, giving away fifty three cubic inches. It
certainly proves the old adage, "There's no replacement for displacement.
We all went back to the shop,
knowing how the three cars ranked in acceleration; 1-2-3, Corvette, Jaguar,
Bill and I had another chance to pit our cars against
each other when we went to the drag races at Oroville one day some time
after the race at Beale. He beat me there too, but at least I got a
timing slip out of the deal.
A side note here; if you compare my quarter mile time of 16.42 sec,
85.71 mph with a 3.54:1 rear gear against the test time from the Road &
Track test of 16.66 sec., ~85mph with a 3.77:1 rear gear, my car was
definitely faster than a stock XK120M!
years later, I heard Bill's name mentioned at a large Corvette event.
I got Bill's telephone number and called him when I got home. It seems
Bill had been looking for me at any Jaguar gathering he happened to be at.
Of course nobody in the Jaguar crowds knew me, as I had made the switch to
Corvette years ago. We managed to get together for lunch in Sacramento
in the Fall of 2003 when Bill picked up the bare body of what was to
become the beauty shown on this page. So I was able to see the before
and after of this car.
Most of the
photos below were taken at the 3rd Annual Corvettes at Lake Tahoe event, June
10 - 12, 2005, where it took "Best of Show" among other honors. The car is a winner in every way!