Here's a pair of the nicest Marlboro Maroon '67 big-block convertibles you're going to see in captivity. One's a two-time Bloomington Gold recipient and show car, the other is an occasional driver that was the standard used by Bloomington judges in 2004 to judge other '67s.
First up is Michael Chase of Monroe, Ohio, whose 62,000-mile convertible just received its second Bloomington Gold certification in as many years. The all-original convertible boasts a 390hp 427 under the hood that delivers the power to a 3.70 rearend via a close-ratio four-speed. "The restoration was done in Arizona during the early to mid-'90s," Michael says. "After that, the car came to the Midwest where it passed through one or two owners."
The car was in good original condition when Michael acquired it, but he had the lacquer paint touched up in a few spots by Bob's Auto Body in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. "The paint on it when I got it was good, but it wasn't up to Bloomington standards," he says. "The whole car wasn't repainted-he had to do the hood, hardtop, and there were some blemishes on the rear quarter-panels and deck. He had a computerized machine that matched the paint."
Michael, a member of the local Queen City Chapter of the NCRS, said he had been looking for a '67 big-block car for quite a while before this one caught his attention. In fact, he had looked at numerous cars and turned them all down because of quality issues or they were flat-out bogus.
"A friend of mine is an appraiser and he was helping me out doing inspections on cars," Michael says. "This one belonged to a friend of his. The owner was pretty much a perfectionist when it came to NCRS and Bloomington stuff. He bought this car, brought it up to Bloomington standards, and got it Gold certified in 2003. He also got an NCRS national Top Flight certification in 2002."
But that wasn't good enough for Michael. Even though the car was Bloomington and NCRS certified and as bone stock as they come after nearly 40 years-except for a "correct" replacement fuel pump- Michael was a man with a vision: "I wanted to improve it and take it to Bloomington in 2004, get it Gold certified in my name, and score higher than the previous owner did," he says. "And that's what I did."
His favorite aspect of this car is that it's unquestionably a "real deal" big-block car. "The first guys to come around at Bloomington are the engine judges," he says. "If you flunk that, you're done-the highest you could get would be Silver. When these guys came around and looked at the pad, it not only passed, but they wrote down, 'A fine example of typical factory production' in the Comments section and underlined it a couple of times. That means a lot on a scoring sheet, especially when you sell the car. I've got all the restoration photos of the car, the original tank sticker, and all the owner history back to when it was originally purchased. I've probably got a pile of documents 4 or 5 inches thick."
Having a "real deal" big-block '67 is becoming more and more unusual. With all the fakes and restamps and cars cobbled together from salvage parts out there, it pays potential owners to spend a lot of time doing their homework, especially given the skyrocketing prices of "real deal" cars.
"When somebody's buying a big-block car, regardless of the year, get a second opinion even if you consider yourself an expert," Michael says, adding this one is going to be a show vehicle from just about here on out. "It'll sit in the stable until I retire and then maybe I'll sell it," he says. "I've got a couple more Corvettes-the '72 coupe that I'm working on getting to Bloomington standards. I don't know whether that one will be ready for 2005."
The next '67 convertible is owned by Ben Smith of Wabash, Indiana, who's owned it since 1987. Again, the car is resplendent in Marlboro Maroon, but this time there's a slightly less-common white vinyl interior.
"Everything is original-voltage regulator, starter, manifolds-all that stuff is original," Ben says. "The only non-original part is a replacement Holley '67 390 carburetor. I even had the fan clutch sent off and rebuilt. It's a pretty correct restoration under the hood. The only other thing is the basecoat/clearcoat paint instead of the lacquer. That's pretty hard to keep up when you drive it. The years take their toll on lacquer paint."
Ben, a lift truck mechanic by trade and an NCRS member, said the only change to the paint scheme was having Larry Steiner in Gas City, Indiana, change the stinger on the hood from black to white when he repainted the car in 1992.
Ben said he discovered the car languishing at a body shop where he had work done on his metal cars. It's the same old story: The body-shop owner bought it in rough shape-a messed-up left front fender-with the idea of fixing it up "someday."
"He just never fixed it," Ben, the car's third owner, says. "He did a paint job for me and I started bugging him about buying it. I knew about the car for probably 10 years before I bought it. At the time, he was giving me a price he'd sell it for and I thought he was crazy. I ended up buying it, though."
He said the car had some issues after sitting around for some 18 years. The wheels were frozen, as was the engine. However, the car boasted so many original parts, Ben decided to go that route when he did the frame-off restoration, which took three years to complete.
This car sports a 390hp 427 under the hood and, like its "twin," the power gets to the pavement via a close-ratio four-speed. However, the revs are kept a little more in check with the assistance of 3.36 gears out back.
Interesting to note about this '67 convertible, though, is its recent role as the standard used by '67 judges at Bloomington 2004 to base their points decisions to ensure uniformity and consistency among the teams scoring the other '67s. Even more interesting is that this car, the judging standard for '67s at Bloomington 2004, isn't certified. Ben said, "I'm a member of the Bloomington 1967 judging team and, to keep the team systematically together on points scoring, we used this car as a way for all the '67 teams to get their scoring together for deductions," Ben says.
He uses the car to show and for special trips, but it's no less documented as a "real deal" big-block '67 as a result. Ben says he has the original warranty book with the Protect-O-Plate, original tank sticker, and a host of miscellaneous service and repair records.
"The car came from the factory with white sidewall tires, a white top, and a white interior," he says. "I talked to the original owner and he confirmed the stinger on the hood was white when he bought it."
Again, with the potential for making an expensive mistake when looking to purchase a big-block car-particularly of this vintage-Ben says a potential owner should bone up on the year Corvette he or she is interested in purchasing.
"You need to become knowledgeable of that particular year," he says. "And, if you don't have the time, go ahead and pay somebody who knows the car to check it out. It's well worth paying somebody $200 or $300 and maybe even a plane ticket to check out a car or its documentation. If it's been through NCRS or Bloomington competition, you can pretty much bank on it being what the seller says it is.