As automotive enthusiasts, we sometimes find ourselves perusing the crowd of cars at a show and for one reason or another one just happens to speak to you. We don’t know the science behind this, and maybe there isn’t any, but it could be a multitude of things. Maybe it’s a particular year, the perfect application of your favorite color, a specific limited edition car, the way it sits, or even a memory of the past.
When we were cruising the Plastic Fantastic in San Diego, California a few weeks ago, we saw one such car parked towards the perimeter of the show grounds. We don’t know exactly what pulled us in originally, but we are glad that we went for a second look and we think you will be too.
Greg Raymond, a San Diego resident is the proud owner of this gorgeous 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible. As it turns out, Raymond purchased this jewel in the form of a trade though it was not exactly in the condition that you see here–in fact it wasn’t even close.
As nearly every Corvette owner we run into does, Raymond greeted us with a big smile and and an open palm. After some shop talk and joking, he filled us in on a little bit of his own Corvette history. “I had been looking for a 1968 or 1969 Corvette for several years, my search began in 1994. I let several Corvettes slip through my fingers before coming upon this one, which was sitting in a barn, next to a horse, on a ranch in Ramona, California; it was the winter of 1997. The seller was looking for a truck at the time and needed to unload the Corvette to fund the purchase.”
Raymond continued, “I just so happened to be driving a 1989 Chevrolet Z71 4×4 at that time and a deal was struck to trade straight across. The truck only had about 60,000 miles on it and was in immaculate condition. At the time, I would say the truck was worth $10,000. With an uneducated smile on my face, I drove the Corvette home thinking I had just won the Corvette lottery.”
“When I got the Corvette back to its new home I brought in a great Corvette enthusiast and friend of mine–Bob Hurst–to give me his assessment of my newfound glory. He looked the car up and down and in short order said, ‘Greg, Drive this thing for two years without spending a dime on it. If you still love it… then start your restoration.'” His advice, drawn from years of experience owning and restoring Corvettes, was good advice intended to allow me to discover the hurdles that he could see in a moments notice. As you will see, I remained blind.”
We know all too well how easy it is to get wrapped up in a car, and unfortunately this can lend itself to some surprises later on down the road. Luckily, Raymond had the determination to see this project through.
Raymond explained, “Despite Bob’s advise I had Ed Hansen’s Muffler Service install a set of side pipes and headers for me–this was part of the look I had always loved about the third-generation Corvettes. I kept my investment at that while I enjoyed the 1969 Corvette convertible for the next two years. At that point I still had blind Corvette fever and on New Years Eve, 1999, I pulled the car into my garage and started the disassembly process. Just beyond the point of no return I began to discover all of the elements that Bob saw immediately that first evening two years prior.”
“This little red Corvette had some history, and none too impressive. It had seen several accidents that in today’s world would have totaled the car several times over. All of the paperwork that came with the car reflected all body repairs being done by GM dealerships. Despite that, we pulled chicken wire, beer can tabs, and staples from every panel as we dug deep into the cars 30-year old fiberglass. I wasn’t going to be discouraged. Eighteen months were needed to correct all the wrongs. Every inch of the car was taken down to the glass and restored using the correct compounds and procedures. Three coats of Torch Red was applied with a final coat of clear, resurrecting the Corvette to its appropriate glory.”
But that’s not all… while the drivetrain was functional; the original engine was long gone. The motors numbers indicated it was from a mid-1980s Chevrolet truck. It was clear this Corvette would never be a “numbers matching” car so the search for all of the period correct parts was on! We located a correct 1969 427 Tri-Power manifold and carburetors in Texas. A correct block, rods, and crank were sourced through the local JBA speed shop and JBA assembled an incredible 427 for the Corvette that put down 448 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels on a chassis dyno.
With a correct 427ci Big Block back between the fenders and bolted to the M21 Close Ratio four-speed, the entire suspension and brake system was removed, reconditioned and replaced with all the correct pieces. Raymond continued, “Every nut and bolt was re-plated to the correct colors. I had never undertaken a restoration to this level and became quite educated in all of the elements that make up these amazing cars. The interior was restored to original and all the correct glass was located and installed.”
“The total time to complete the work was just under two years. The bright side of this experience is that everything was done correctly with no single detail overlooked. The downside was that when the task was complete I ended up spending more than I would have had I bought one already done at Barrett Jackson! For this reason I have refused to tally the receipts.”
Engine and Drivetrain
- Engine Make/Year: 427ci Chevrolet 1969
- Bored: 4.2825
- Camshaft: Crane hydraulic roller cam
- Rotating parts: Correct GM steel crank and rods
- Cylinder heads: GM Performance Parts Signature Series aluminum rectangular port
- Intake manifold: Correct 1969 L71 Tri-Power manifold
- Carburetor/Injection: Correct 1969 Holley L71 Tri-Power carburetors
- Header/exhaust: Doug’s headers and side pipes
- Ignition: MSD
- Transmission: 1969 GM M21 Close Ratio Transmission
- Rearend type: 355:1
- Dyno results: 448 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque
- Performed by: JBA Racing
Raymond explained, “When we built the 427 we were able to add some performance without disrupting the look and feel under the hood. We installed aluminum heads, but milled off manufacturer logos and painted them correct Chevrolet orange. Lightweight, high-quality forged pistons, hydraulic roller camshaft and lifters; high-volume oil pump, and even electronic ignition, were all added but hidden from the discerning eye.”
“What you get is incredible performance and reliability without losing the look of “correctness” under the hood. This was important to me. What brought me to the Corvette world was the Corvettes timeless style and design that stands out in these cars even when lined up with cars 45 years newer. It was always part of my goal not to change anything that would detract from those qualities, ” Raymond said.
This C3 is currently wearing period correct, 15×8-inch Rally wheels, which have been wrapped in BFGoodrich 235/60/15 tires. While the wheels are original, the tires are not… and that’s probably for the best!
Other notable mentions to this gorgeous build include a full polyurethane bushing swap, the magnificent Torch Red paint work performed by Magnolia Auto Body & Paint, a Flaming River tilt column with Billet Specialties wheel, and an Alpine amplifier with subwoofer to accompany the Kicker speakers–and factory speaker locations were used to maintain authenticity.
Corvette Online: “How long have you been into Corvettes and how did you get started?
Greg Raymond: “One of the first cars I ever shifted was a C3 Corvette. I was only 9 or 10 years old and would shift the car through the gears, as a friend of the family would perform the clutch and acceleration duties. It’s an early memory but one that will never fade. As with most of us my love affair with the Corvette started in high school. I was sure that I would have one in my future, but it wasn’t until well after college that I was able to realize this dream.
CO: “What motivates you to build?”
GR: “Being a ‘car guy’ is a unique affliction. You have to be born with it. Some people like to race, some people like to show, I have always had a passion for the build. I respect and admire the art form that is the musclecar. Vehicles built between 1964 and 1971 have unique style and form. It was a time when manufacturers were competing in style and appeal. U.S. automakers lost that for decades and only now are we starting to see this become a priority again. While I have done my fair share of racing, and enjoy a day at the park showing a car, you will find me most content pulling these cars apart, putting them back together right and driving them on the streets as they were intended.”
CO: “What are some of your previous builds?”
GR: “I have had the pleasure of building and owning a 1964 Pontiac GTO Convertible, 1965 Ford Mustang, and a 1968 Chevrolet SS Camaro.”
CO: “Do you have any car club affiliations?”
GR: “Throughout my years of owning some great cars, I have become a member of North County Corvette Club (NCOCC), San Diego Pontiac Oakland Club International (SDPOCI), and the Mustang Club of San Diego (MCSD).
CO: “Lastly, are there any folks that you would like to extend a special thanks to?”
GR: “Absolutely, a lot of this was made possible thanks to Bob Hurst, Leo Marques, John Elderhorst, Scott Case, Fred Galloway, and JBA Racing.”
While this 1969 C3 may have only cost $4,438 when originally sold, it is worth far more than that now. A true dollar amount could be obtained through an in-depth appraisal, but we aren’t talking about a money here. The real value in this Corvette is that it shows how far a bit of determination and persistence can get you. The best part about Raymond’s investment is that he can drive it!
He concluded with, “I am proud to say that I drive this car regularly, as living in Southern California affords us many perfect days for seat time. As a result, this Corvette may see another restoration in its lifetime, because I intend to wear out the work I have done while I am the current caretaker for this piece of American automotive history.”