There are as many ways to define "fun" as there are Corvette owners. Some define it as restoring or preserving an ultra-rare Corvette, while others describe the process of turning a worn or trashed Vette into a modern-tech Vette Rod. In the case of Chris Mazzilli, his definition of fun with his Corvette is an active one. "For me, any collector car I have, I drive," he says from his home in New York City.
This Monza Red '69 is actually Chris' second Corvette, the successor to a C3 featured here in Corvette Fever back in November 2005 ("Sunfire at Sundown"). While researching that Shark's history, Chris located one of its previous owners, Bobby Chestnut-whose '06 C6 you saw here in January ("Subtle in Red"). "We became good buddies, and he said, 'Look-I love that car. If there's any way that you could sell it back to me, I'd really, really appreciate it," Chris recalls. "He said, 'I'm going to sell something else, and when I get the money, would you sell it back to me?'" Eventually, that 454-powered '71 made its way back to Bobby's garage, and Chris searched for another Corvette-specifically, another chrome-bumper, big-block-powered C3.
Only 181 '69 Stingrays were...
Only 181 '69 Stingrays were optioned with the red leather interior, and Chris' Shark is one of them.
The search took him to the Internet, and to Corvette Mike's in Southern California, where this L36-powered '69 Stingray was part of the inventory. Looking into its history, Chris discovered that it was ordered new for the original owner's wife-which explained the power steering, brakes, windows, and M40 TurboHydramatic. Also on it: rare options like shoulder belts, rear window defogger, and the red leather interior that made it into only 180 other '69 Corvettes.
A sale to its second owner, Peter Cassini (the owner of Cobra Racing Boats), took this meticulously-maintained drop-top from Ohio to Pennsylvania, where it was judged for the first time at an NCRS meet, winning its first Top Flight. In 2000, the third owner bought it at the Barrett-Jackson collector-car auction, and after two more owners, it wound up at Corvette Mike's hands with only about 54,000 original miles on it. That's when Chris bought it and shipped it across the country to his New York home.
The mid-cabin of Chris' '69...
The mid-cabin of Chris' '69 includes the "go backward/go forward switch" for the RPO M40 Turbo 400 automatic, and the RPO U79 Delco AM/FM Stereo radio.
Chris enjoyed it as he'd found it for just over a year, but he saw that some work would need to be done. "When I got the car, it had most of its original paint on it," he remembers about the original Monza Red acrylic lacquer, which was now showing its age. "I'd thought about painting it with lacquer, but it's not the same lacquer that GM painted Corvettes with." As you may know, strict environmental laws enacted in recent years all but did away with lacquer paints for restorations, forcing restorers and painters to choose more environmentally friendly ways to paint. In Chris' case, the choice was a modern basecoat/clearcoat version of the '69 Monza Red hue. "We didn't buff it out, because I didn't want it to be too shiny," he says of the paintwork done by Marty Coven at Gibraltar Collision in Floral Park, New York. "That's because I was going to have the car NCRS judged, and they're fussy about basecoat/clearcoat paints being too shiny. But he did a nice job of applying the paint."
While the '69 was being prepped for paint, Chris made another change: replacing the non-original sidepipes that were on the car with an original-style, under-the-car exhaust system. Some other needed mechanical work was also done, especially to the brakes, by Dave Weber at North Shore Corvettes in Oyster Bay, New York, who also did the NCRS prep, and Chris had a 427-powered Vette that was ready for both driving and showing. He's received NCRS Top Flight honors with it, scoring a 95.4 last May and a 97.3 this past September.
As in '68, 427-powered Vettes...
As in '68, 427-powered Vettes got their own distinctive hood in '69, but no clues to which version were underneath. (L88- and ZL1-powered Vettes wore a wilder version of this hood.)
Not only is Chris' '69 a looker, but it's a great performer, too. "The car runs great," he says proudly. "It starts right up all the time. That L36 engine is a great, streetable engine. The car is set up for cruising-it has 3.08s out back. You jump in with the top down in the summer-there's nothing better."
Like many Corvette lovers, Chris' fondness for 427s started early. "What hooked me on Vettes was that the guy who cut my hair at the time was a big Corvette collector, a guy named Mike Grignon," Chris recalls. "He took me for a ride-I had to be like 8 or 9 years old-in a '67 Sting Ray convertible, a 435-horse sidepipe car, and I can remember getting in it and him starting it up, and I felt that lop-sided idle in my gut. I said to myself, 'Oh my God, this is unbelievable!' I remember him saying to me, pulling out of the parking lot, 'Hold on!' I was so in awe of the car that I wasn't paying attention. When he stepped on it, it pinned me back in the seat, and every time that he shifted it was thrust forward/thrust backward. When we came back from that ride, it was all over. It was all over!" Chris adds that Mike gave him an emblem from a Shark that he'd restored, and Chris said to himself, "Someday I'm gonna have one of these cars!"