When Robert Redford and Paul Newman paired together in The Sting, it was a resurrection of sorts after their untimely demise in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Surprisingly enough, these legendary movies have a few parallels with Scott Mercer's 800-horse '69 Stingray.
As in The Sting, the story involves an assortment of colorful and shady characters, and like those western outlaws Butch and Sundance, Mercer's Corvette turned out to be one fearsome quick-draw gunslinger on the track. Mercer isn't what you'd call a hard-core Corvette guy from central casting, though. True, he once owned a '67 Tri-power convertible back in the early '80s, a car he sorely misses. But his main thing is Porsches, those big-dollar Teutonic turbo machines with engines of smaller displacement mounted in the wrong end. So his initial thoughts of a Bow Tie beast were not enthusiastic-at least until he witnessed some late-'60s endurance racers in action at the Monterey Historics.
"I fell in love with that 'form factor,'" he admits. "[Those cars] were just fantastic."
Bitten by the Corvette bug, Mercer had Campbell Auto Restoration-a high-end SoCal resto shop run by Mark Scwartz and Tom Dillard-scout around for a suitable platform to modify. And just like Redford's con-man character from The Sting, the results of their search were a bit scruffy when they showed up at the Campbell shop.
Not only was the root-beer-brown '69 Stingray in horrible shape, with funky shag carpeting and the triple-carb induction system sitting on the rear seat, but the car's owner appeared to be on the lam. Having diverted his financial reserves into some socially unacceptable pursuits, he was willing to part with the car for a song. Fortunately, this was not some sort of elaborate scam.
Mercer approached Campbell with a build script, as the shop had previously done resto work on his Chevelle and GT350. (It seems he hasn't always been a Porsche fan. We hear he also has a Boss 302, a '69 Camaro, a '44 Woodie, and a '58 pickup once owned by Steve McQueen).
All the performance aspects of the plotline were familiar material for the Campbell crew, but there was just one small problem. Well, actually, a big one: Mercer didn't fit the part. At six feet, five inches tall, and with legs as long as an L88 hood, he just couldn't fit comfortably in the C3's cabin.
The Campbell team went to work, not realizing what a multi-year project the buildup would become. To make more room in the cockpit, the team moved the pedal box 4 inches forward and dropped the floorpan. The bottom of the driver seat is actually built into the frame of the car to maximize headroom. The result is that if anyone of more typical size tries to drive the Vette, seat cushions have to be added to achieve a correct driving position.