That's not the alternator...
That's not the alternator at the front of the L36 427 in Bill's '66. It's the RPO K19 Air Injection Reactor (AIR) pump, required on all new Vettes sold in California that year.
Less than five months later, Bill had the '66 back together, in its original configuration, and ready for the regional NCRS event at Waco, Texas. But, he says, it was hectic in the days leading up to the show. "It was kind of like Biker Build-Off at the shop," he says. "We were really going as fast as we could, so we could get it in that meet in Waco." Their results paid off with a 96.5 percent score, good for a regional Top Flight award, despite the '66 having the wrong radiator in it-a consequence of a tight deadline and a slow-to-arrive correct radiator.
Next up was the NCRS Winter '09 meet at Kissimmee, Florida. "The Kissimmee meet was an attempt to do the P.V. (Performance Verification) test, because when a car scores as high as it did at Waco, you're thinking about the Duntov Award," Bill says. "But, first you have to pass the Performance Verification test. This is the one judging process that people get so frustrated with, because it's so difficult to pass."
Regional Top Flight-winning...
Regional Top Flight-winning '66 wears year-correct Texas plates.
Of all the things that could have been anticipated, a 31-degree overnight temperature in Kissimmee wasn't one of them. "There's a plastic component on the passenger side of the automatic choke that broke-I think because we'd had the base of the air cleaner off and on dozens of times, which cracked it and the damn thing wouldn't start correctly," Bill says. "That was pretty much all she wrote. But, it typically takes multiple times to pass a P.V."
With a laugh, Bill says that his midyear is the best car ever to fail a P.V. test. "It shows how you can take a car that can be outstanding in most all respects, yet fail the P.V.-where it has to start, drive and handle just like a new car would have in 1966. It's not like any test you would have at a Concours. It's regarded within the NCRS as being one of the most gut-wrenching processes you could endure. You check the car for weeks and weeks, and there's always some little thing that can go wrong, either sitting in the parking lot idling or on the 10 to 15 mile road test."
Bill Usher's love of Corvettes...
Bill Usher's love of Corvettes not only led him to this one, but to the NCRS, where he's a Master Judge.
But there was plenty right in the rest of the '66's appearance at Kissimmee. Along with starring in a Jerry Heasley photo shoot, it was an "example" car in an advanced NCRS judging seminar. "That's the deal where they'll take several good example cars, put them on a lift, and then have some Master Judges go around the cars and point out different features and aspects of the restoration." At Kissimmee, Bill's '66 was the only big-block C2 among the example cars, and he got a lot of kudos for it from the judges and seminar participants-especially over its correct K19 setup, and its freshly-restored engine bay and chassis.
What "example" does this C2 set on the street? Bill says that it's a magnificent driver. "It accelerates tremendously," he says with a smile as big as Texas. "This is the first big-block Corvette that I've owned, though I've owned other Corvettes. The thundering acceleration and associated sound-it's like nothing else. The car drives beautifully on the road-everything's been fine-tuned, as far as the steering and the handling go. You can drive it with no hands on the wheel. It's been prepared for a P.V., which means the car has virtually no flaws, and is 'showroom new.' And it's ready for another go-'round at the P.V. test, at the Lone Star Regional NCRS meet in Killeen, Texas this coming fall.
That's a repro Firestone "Deluxe...
That's a repro Firestone "Deluxe Champion" whitewall and a correct, one-year-only '66 full wheel cover.
Whether you're looking for your first Corvette, or your next one, Bill has plenty of advice. "I've made all the mistakes and learned a lot about how to approach these cars and the projects they create. The key is to look for originality. Certainly, from the NCRS perspective, they're looking for originality not just in the engine, but in the components, big and small. A lot of what you go through, in getting ready for Top Flight, is making sure that if each component isn't original or a restored original, then it's a reproduction that has all the features that the original had, to satisfy the judges." He adds that a prospective Vette buyer should get two reference books: NCRS Corvette Technical Information Manual and Judging Guide for the year of Corvette that they're interested in, as well as Corvette by the Numbers (written by our editor, Alan Colvin), which identifies the correct major components that went into these earlier cars. Bill says, "These reference books will help you to identify cars which have been modified, or had various components changed or replaced over the years."
He adds, "I feel this type of restoration to original specs is generally better for value preservation. If you can get a car and improve upon its correctness through better understanding of factory originality, that is a good thing. You can then develop a positive judging history; this in turn will help verify and document the car's makeup and potentially protect the market value to some degree within prevailing market conditions."