“Astoria-Chas” Snyder – The Buddy Holly of Corvette Racing
As a lad growing up during the muscle car era in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, CARS Magazine was my favorite car mag. The publication had a definite East Coast flavor and the magazine slightly favored Chevys, which was perfectly fine with me at the time. One of my favorite cars of the day was the 1967 427 L88 drag racer, “In Memory of Astoria-Chas” 427 L-88 Corvette roadster. The story has all the elements of legend; brutally fast, quick car, great looking, owned and driven to national prominence by a young fellow, not much older than myself and my Chevy pals.
Fortunately, the car is still around and looks the way it did when it set the AHRA Nation Record of 11.04 @ 129 mph. Later, the car ran a best-ever 10.47 et. While the L88 still runs, the current owner, Glen Spielberg, does not “run” the car on the strip, as he has given his word to the Snyder family that he would not restore or race the car. Besides, the car still has its original, 40-year old tires! A stock ‘67 L71 427/435 Corvettes were solid high 13-second cars. A Mid-10-second version was MIND BLOWING back then!
Since the Astoria-Chas Corvette was a Motion performance prepared car, it got lots of ink in CARS Magazine. Below is one of many CARS articles on the car. Unfortunately, I do not have the end of the story on page 74. However, I did cover the car as Illustrated Corvette Series No. 129 back in early ‘08. The story copy is below the CARS article scans.
Also, at the bottom of this post are links to some other interesting Astoria-Chas material. CARS editor, Marty Schorr often took his little daughter, Collier to the drags to see the KO-Motion Corvette. Collier had an art show in ‘07 featuring her drawings and recollections of Chas Snyder. I’ve included links to two articles that covered Collier’s show.
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 129 – 1967 L88 Corvette Drag Racer “In Memory of Astoria-Chas”
From its earliest days, drag racing was the little guy’s motorsport. Shade tree mechanics and weekend warriors wrenched on their street cars during the week and were weekend warriors at their local drag strip. The story of Charley Snyder’s “KO Motion” L88 ‘67 Corvette reads like the Buddy Holly story of drag racing.
During the late ’60s, Long Island, New York was a hot bed of muscle car activity. Speed shop owner Joel Rosen had a sweet deal with owners of the local Chevy dealer, Baldwin Chevrolet. Joel was building brand new Chevy Phase III supercars while his business partner and friend, Marty Schorr, editor of CARS magazine, kept Chevy fans drooling with a continuous stream of articles about Motion Performance’s street and strip activities. These were very heady days.
Charley Snyder was a local guy that lived in Astoria, New York, just a few miles from Rosen’s operation. In February ‘67, 19-year-old Chas took delivery on a new Marlboro Maroon, 427 Corvette Roadster and took it straight to Rosen’s shop for some serious tweaking. It wasn’t long before Charlie’s Vette was winning races at the local strip and was a regular at the late-night street racing scene on Connecting Highway in Queens on Friday and Saturday nights. Rosen’s enhancements were proved to be more than Duntov envisioned when designing the frame of the C2 Sting Ray. The twisted chassis was replaced with a new chassis that was gusset welded. Also, a new L88 427 engine was installed.
Just after the car was worked over and actively raced, 20-year-old Snyder was drafted into the Army, so his racing exploits were in between his Army duties. Rosen was putting every trick in the book into the KO Motion car and had it running solid low 11s. Chas volunteered to for Airborn Ranger training and was sent to Vietnam in the Spring of ‘68. One month after the 21-year-old’s arrival, he was killed by a mortar round.
Needless to say, the Snyder family and his friends at Motion Performance were devastated. A year later, Rosen and driver John Mahler got permission from Chas’ mother, Grace, to continue racing the L88 Vette with the objective of winning the national record for Chas. When Rosen was ready for the AHRA record run, the L88 was chock full of the hottest parts from Chevrolet and lots of speed parts. The L88 was balanced and blueprinted, the bottom end beefed up, had modified aluminum heads, a performance camshaft, a 850 cfm Holley double pumper, Hooker headers, 4.88 rear gears, a Hurst shifter, and 10-inch slicks. With Bill Foster at the wheel Charlie’s L88 took the AHRA A/Corvette national record with a 11.04 et @ 129 mph. The official listing in the record book reads, “In Memory of Astoria Chas.” Later, Mahler ran a 10.47 et at a local track. Then the car was trailered to Chas’ sister’s house, garaged, and covered for the next 31 years!
Long Island businessman Glen Spielberg was just 8-years old when he first saw the KO Motion car and knew he just had to have that car. After three decades, the Snyder family finally agreed to sell the car to Spielberg, on the condition that he would not restore or modify the car. Today, the car is as it was the last day it was raced. The Buddy Holly of Corvettes lives on. – Scott
PS – Vette Magazine covered the KO-Motion Astoria-Chas Corvette in the July 2001 issue. The story is by Marty Schorr, with photos by Schorr and John Nelson. To read the story, CLICK HERE.
Enjoy the slide show. Photos by Glen Spielberg.
Unfortunately, the KoMotionCorvette.com website is no longer online, but the car is frequently shown at Corvette car shows.