When you own one of the fastest C4s in the country and you're looking for a new project, a chrome-bumper Stingray convertible would have to be close to the top of your list. The only trouble is, when you're living in Australia, finding one is another story.
Aussie Corvette enthusiast Ron Johnstone decided his second Vette needed to be a little "cruisier" than his eleven-second C4 coupe. (Ed. - See "Blue Thunder From Down Under," Nov. '03 issue)
Like many of us, Ron has always had a thing for chrome bumper Stingrays, and a rag-top would be the perfect car for boulevard cruising on the tropical streets of his home town of Brisbane. However, with just a dozen or so Stingray roadsters on Australian streets, they rarely show up on the pages of your local auto trader magazine, but that's exactly where Ron found a poorly restored but matching numbers, red Stingray roadster in 2001.
The red '69 drop-top had originally come into Australia as a disassembled "unfinished project" in 1996. Ron says the car was a "basket case," but beneath the harlequin mismatch of primered panels, was a completely original car with no major accident damage.
The car's previous owner paid $11,000 (U.S.) for the car, reassembled it, blew on a fresh coat of red paint, and sold it to Ron for $18,000 (U.S.). After months of looking, Ron decided on the car because it was an "appealing" stock original chrome-bumper car. It was still sporting its left-hand drive steering, standard black vinyl interior, 300 horsepower 350, and optional Turbo Hydra-Matic (TH400) automatic trans--and that is exactly how he planned to keep it.
Then, after just two weeks of owning his "new" red Stingray, Ron began a full restoration with the help of another avid Vette enthusiast, Brian Cox.
Ron and Brian began by disassembling the car, then polished or replaced every part. They retrimmed and repainted it, sourcing many hard to get restoration parts by e-mail and the Internet.
Many would say this car is over restored. The body and paint are much better than original--Ron owns up to this with a small chrome plaque affixed to the right-side doorjamb that reads: "Restored and improved by Ron Johnstone".
The engine and gearbox have received slight modifications for convenience and performance. The stock 350 cylinder heads received a little porting work along with a set of stainless steel valves and seats to better cope with unleaded fuel. It breathes through a Holley 600-cfm carb atop an Edelbrock manifold, and the power gets to the rear wheels through the Turbo 400 that's now equipped with a slightly higher stall speed torque converter. The result is a vintage American sports car which goes as good as it looks.
When you run your eyes over the car, you understand Ron's restoration philosophy. Door gaps, hood gaps, rubbers, glass, paint, and chrome--every square inch of the car is perfect. Even the rough factory fibre-glass inside the doors has been painstakingly smoothed and painted in the same Monza Red flowing over those gorgeous Corvette curves that signify the Stingray.
Ron's red '69 roadster really is vintage chrome at its Australian-American best.