Here's the Corvette that owned American road racing in 1962. It racked up win after SCCA A
How do you define excellence on the racetrack? If you use the standard of races or trophies won, then this '62 Corvette not only meets it, but a picture of it could go in the dictionary next to the word "excellence."
Back in 1962, this C1 was the most dominant car in SCCA A/Production racing. It started 14 major races that year, including the Daytona Continental and the 12 Hours of Sebring, and scored 12 class and/or overall wins on its way to the SCCA's national A/Production title (see sidebar).
There was another purpose at work here, along with showcasing the then-latest version of America's Only True Sports Car on the racetrack. Grady Davis, who was Gulf Oil's head of research and development back then, had used Corvettes he owned as rolling test beds to study how well Gulf's lubricants stood up under on-track conditions that couldn't be duplicated in a conventional research laboratory. In essence, the car became the lab when it went to the track.
And they're off! The No. 2 Gulf Oil Corvette is about to take to the track in the 12 Hours
Davis had some help inside General Motors and Chevrolet in getting the car he wanted. "At that time, GM was 'officially' out of racing, but there was a lot of 'back door' stuff going on behind closed doors that no one really knew about," says Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair, in Valley Stream, New York. "Those GM guys could've lost their jobs over it, but they did it anyway, and everything was hush-hush."
That meant selling a race-equipped car to a retail customer through a dealer. Guess which one?
"It was ordered out of Yenko Chevrolet," says Mackay. "Knowing that Gulf Oil research got involved with that car, and guys like Dr. Dick Thompson, Duncan Black, and Doc Wylie drove it; knowing that it had all the heavy-duty options on it like fuel injection, heavy-duty brakes, the endurance tank in the car-it's a pretty neat piece."
The heavy-duty equipment doesn't stop there. After the car was delivered through Yenko's to Davis, it received more updates and modifications to prepare it for endurance racing. The "endurance tank" Mackay mentioned was a special 37-gallon fiberglass one that replaced the RPO 488 24-gallon tank; the former necessitated a special rear window on the '62 hardtop to make room for the fuel filler. Also going on were an aluminum driver seat, a set of Stewart-Warner gauges, Plexiglas side windows, a Motorola two-way radio, FIA-specified outside marker lights, a longitudinal blue racing stripe, and blue paint for the '62's coves (as the factory two-tone paint option was dropped that year). At the same time, off came the stock front and rear bumpers, replaced by tubular steel ones located just under the valances.
Excellence needs no explanation.
When this C1 was race ready, it was shipped to Daytona, where it debuted in the Daytona National. With Dr. Dick Thompson driving, it came home Second in the
A/Production class. Next up was the three-hour Daytona Continental a couple weeks later, where Thompson and this car scored their first A/Production win of the year.
Then, in March, with Doc Wylie and Duncan Black driving, it not only went the distance in the 12 Hours of Sebring, but it logged its second class win (and third podium finish) in a row.
However, a DNF the next time out likely led to the separation of the '62's original 327 from the car, replaced by another fuel-injected 327. "They had a problem with the engine, and they just pulled it out and put a replacement block in there and ran with that block all these years," says Mackay. With the new engine, the No. 2 car, with Thompson driving, reeled off 10 more first-in-class finishes, with the '62 record adding up to a total of 10 wins in 14 starts.
The end of the 1962 season marked the end of the line for this car and Davis. As he had in seasons past, Davis sold off the "old" car to Tony Denman (who'd then race his hand-me-downs the following year), and replaced it with an all-new RPO Z06-equipped Sting Ray-the first factory Z06 split-window.