Gulf Oil ’62 Corvette Racer “The Most Successful C1 Racer?”
Million Dollar Classic Corvette Racers – Intro to Part One and Two.
Race cars, for all their glory, often times are quickly forgotten as a result of faster, more modern, more outrageous race cars. Corvettes are just the same. By the end of the first generation of live-axle Corvettes, Chevrolet’s fiberglass sports car had become a solid competitor in sports car racing. When the C2 ‘63 Z06 Corvette Sting Ray racers were unleashed, there was a mad dash to the new independent suspension car. The Fuelie Sting Rays yielded to the big-block Vettes, and the adventure just rolled on.
62 and 63 Gulf One Racing Glory
But in the process, two of the winningest Corvette racers faded into racing history – the ‘62 Gulf One Corvette and the ‘63 Gulf One Z06 Sting Ray. Their racing glory came thundering back into the limelight in August ‘08 and January ‘09 when both cars were auctioned off for well over $1 Million dollars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Mecum Muscle Cars & More auctions. Sure, there have been lots of cars to sell for much more than a million dollars at auction. But anytime a car goes for over the magical $1 Million mark, it’s an event.
Where are the Old War Horses?
When we look at race cars from the early ‘60s, they are amazingly stock. Racers bought new Corvettes optioned out with all of the racer goodies Zora Arkus-Duntov offered, took their new cars back to their shops, and added racing safety gear, and some minor performance enhancements. After the teams finished the season, many were sold off as used up, old racers, or converted back to street Corvettes and sold. Who knew that two used racers, would someday sell for over a million dollars. Many a race car owner from those early years wish they had held on to their old war horses.
Gulf One Racers Part One and Part Two
The Gulf Oil ‘62 and ‘63 Corvettes are arguably two of the winningest Corvette racers of all time. Part 1 looks back at the Gulf One Grady Davis ‘62 Fuelie Corvette. In Part II we have a look back at the Davis ‘63 Z06 Sting Ray. In their day, these cars had first-class racing preparation. Today they have been beautifully restored. Driver Dick “The Flying Dentist” commented at the auction of the ‘63 car, “It sure looks a lot better than when I was racing.”
Lets take a blast into Corvette racing past…
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 153 – Gulf Oil ’62 Corvette Racer “The Most Successful C1 Racer?” Here’s the story…
After years of watching limited-production high-performance Corvettes sell at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars, we’re now seeing old Corvette race cars take off where the exotic street Vettes peaked.
Last month, we talked about the Grady Davis ’63 Z06 racer that sold for $1,113,000. As amazing as that figure was, sellers were expecting more, in part because the Gulf Oil ’62 featured here had gone for $1,485,000 a few months earlier.
While low-volume performance vehicles can be quite distinctive, there’s nothing like the one-of-a-kind status of a successful race car.
85.7 Percent Win Rate
While the Gulf Oil ’62 doesn’t have the high profile of many other racing Vettes, it is arguably the most successful single Corvette race car ever. In 1962, the car competed in the SCCA’s A/Production class with Dr. Dick Thompson behind the wheel and won 12 out of 14 races-an 85.7 percent win rate. We’re not slighting the success of the C5-R or C6.R Corvettes. Corvette Racing’s best season was actually 2004, with a 100 percent win rate, but those victories were achieved by a two-car team, with each car winning five races.
Prepped by Don Yenko’s Team
It’s amazing how close this car is to a street Corvette. When Gulf Oil executive Grady Davis ordered it, he specified four options that formed the foundation for a competitive racer. RPO 582 got him the 327/360hp fuelie engine, while RPO 685 added a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission. RPO 687 added the heavy-duty (racing) brakes and special steering, and RPO 675 brought a Positraction rear.
The total cost for a car such as this was around $5,300-a lot of money in ’62. After the car was assembled in St. Louis, it was driven to Yenko Chevrolet for race prep. It was quite common back then for cars such as this to be picked up at the factory and then driven to an owner’s shop. Don Yenko’s team was experienced in turning Corvettes into race cars, so the car was well prepared. Almost all of the prep work was bolted on and easily removable, as we’ll see later.
Off to the Races
Davis’ Corvette got the standard prep treatment. The front and rear bumpers were removed, and vents and a deflector were added to the hood. A 37-gallon fuel tank was added, and the rear glass was modified to accommodate a quick-fill gas cap. Plexiglas replaced the side windows, and an aluminum racing seat was installed in place of the stock bucket. A full complement of Stewart-Warner gauges were added, along with a Motorola two-way radio. A roll bar was installed, and the interior carpeting was replaced with rubber mats.
Chromed-steel lift bars were added to the front and rear to assist in pit stops. The engine was essentially stock, with the factory cast-iron exhaust manifolds connected to 2-1/4-in exhaust pipes that exited just ahead of the rear wheels. Koni shocks were used, and Goodyear Blue Streak 7.00-15 tires were mounted on the stock steel wheels. FIA-required marker lights were added to the roof and passenger side, and the stock Ermine White body was treated to a blue racing stripe that ran over the center of the car, from front to back. The side coves were painted with the same blue paint. From there, it was off to the races.
At its first race, at Daytona in January, the Gulf Oil Corvette came in Second. The next month, the car took First Place at the Daytona Continental. In March, the team took another First Place win at Sebring.
At the Washington Marlboro Governor’s race, the car did not finish. Then, from the Virginia International President’s Cup race in April to the final race of the season at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix, the Gulf Oil ’62 fuelie won every time to take the A/Production Championship.
Restored to its Former Glory
With the arrival of the much-improved C2 Corvette, Davis sold his champion ’62 fuelie to Tony Denman in favor of a new Z06. But the ’62 was still potent enough to take the pole position at Daytona in January of 1963. Denman raced the car a few times, then converted it back to a street car and sold it as a big-brake ’62 fuelie. For the next 16 years, the car’s owners didn’t have a clue that they were driving a former A/Production champion.
That is, until Reverend Mike Ernst bought the Vette off of a used-car lot for $3,500 in 1979. Ernst noticed a few unusual things about the car, researched its past, and discovered what he’d purchased. Fortunately for Ernst, Tony Denman had saved most of the race-car parts, and he was willing to sell them so Ernst could restore the car to its former glory.
Sold for $1,485,000
Since then, the car has had several owners and a few restorations. In August 2008, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Gulf Oil ’62 Corvette sold for $1,485,000. It’s worth noting that Davis actually purchased two identical Corvettes in 1962 and raced both. The second car was not as successful, but, like its more famous sibling, it was ultimately converted back to a street Vette. So where is that car today? No one knows. – KST
Click to Part Two that covers the 1963 Corvette Gulf One Racer. Titled:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 152 1963 Gulf One Z06 Corvette – The $1.113 Million Sting Ray
What is your favorite old Corvette racer? Take a look at my Corvette Racer Pages listed below to go down Corvette Racer memory lane.
If you had the opportunity to buy an old use up, successful Corvette race car, would you and what you do with it ? Money no object.
Save the Wave,
Prints for Sale:
If you have been reading my Illustrated Corvette Series column in Vette magazine since 1997, you may or may not know that the prints of the series are available for sale on my website, IllustratedCorvetteSeries.com. The actual version that is printed in the magazine is the basic ICS series, while the version with just the artwork is known as the ICS 2 series. Visit my 1962 Illustrated Corvette Series page to check out the specifics on purchasing these 11 x 17 Pen and Ink Parchment Paper prints. Perfect for framing in a 16 x 20 frame or since it arrives ready to display, simply pushpin the flat shrinkwrapped-to-cardboard print to your garage wall, mancave, garage mahal, or car room! ___________________________________________________________________________________Related Links:
The $1.113 Million Sting Ray