Restoring my 64, part 5.
Corvette Torque

Driving the familiar back lanes to Tenderden late on a sunny September Friday afternoon heading for Flight 2005, I was reflecting on the work we had done to the White 64 since it last was last judged in 2003. Then it was awarded 3rd flight for all its originality and was boosted into an award by a healthy chunk of miles driven to the event, despite scruffy red paint, eight inch 1969 wheels with Jaguar tyres, and an interior that had been home to generations of mice in its long ten-year storage in a leaky lock-up garage in suburban Surbiton. Now it looked like a well-restored Corvette, smart red interior, gleaming white paint suitably ‘Saint Louised’ in the door apertures of course, and a new black convertible top neatly stowed under the deck lid. The car was running beautifully, all readouts correct on the American restored gauge cluster, and the radio, also restored across the Atlantic, playing perfect FM.

My target for the weekend was a Second Flight award, because just like on my previous Daytona blue 63 Coupe, I wanted the full set, 3-2-1.  To go straight to Top Flight is easy, and expensive, but not terribly satisfying. I had planned a long loop through Kent and Sussex to earn 200 mileage points, but work was hard to leave, and then it occurred to me that those mileage points might just tip my car into an unwanted Top Flight.

I contemplated my big points losers as I drove. First was the nice set of option P-48 knock-off wheels with radial whitewalls.  Definitely repros, I had imported them from Corvette America in 1989 for another 64, and then swapped some engine bits to get them back last year. Then there was the A/C system, now with a 100% correct pump found in my treasure trove upstairs, a repro condenser, but still missing all its pipe-work and ready to shed points.  The easy route to Top Flight is a base car, devoid of options, especially C60 air conditioning!

But another points loser was going to be operations. Mine is a ‘rolling-restoration’, put back together quickly to drive for the summer, and while the car drives great, in many respects it still does not compare to the state it was when finished by St Louis in February 1964. During a fascinating talk by Richard Harris at an NCRS UK summer workshop on Operations and Performance Verification, I winced each time I compared my car to the ideal. Sloppy quarter-light gears, stiff heater controls, heater fan not yet working on all three speeds, upside down driver’s door lock barrel, and automatic choke wound off to avoid washing fuel down my precious 4” bores on a cold engine. All these are big points losers that easily could be fixed in a morning, but first find a spare morning!

During ops judging, my driver’s window jammed down. Completely and utterly stuck down, and just after I had been boring on about the virtues of base wind-up windows, which are so much more reliable than the A31 electric options.  With other duties done and the afternoon light waning, the door panel and inspection were off, and there was nothing obviously wrong. Chuck Berge can never resist the rattle of wrenches, stepped up to my open door and he had the regulator extracted in moments, and pronounced it locked solid. So the regulator and glass were parked in the back of the car, and I just hoped that it would not rain for the Road Tour next day. 

After a suitably riotous Dinner it was time for the Judging awards and my white 1964 duly collected the Second Flight I had hoped for, ready to pop into the binder next to my Third Flight.  More importantly I had the yellow judging sheets ready to tell me in detail exactly what I had to put right to achieve it.   At the next Flight judging I will be after the big one, and I have already found a set of genuine 64 steel wheels to go behind my correct hubcaps, but there is still a long way to go with the C60 Air Conditioning.

Is it an old NCRS tradition that the Judging Chairman has to lend the Chairman his Second Flight Corvette for the Road Tour because his own Top Flight car is a trailer queen?  It had better not be, but since I had brought along a silver 62 327-340 it seemed only fair to let him drive my car, and lend him my wife Polly to navigate. As a one time Pony club mum, she has a taste for organising. Spotting that there were enough seats in the twelve Corvettes assembled at the start to accommodate all the participants present, she told the two ordinary cars to return to the car park and assigned their occupants to Corvettes. Thus our run was, for the first time ever, an all Corvette event.  Polly is also the world’s best map reader, but had unfortunately forgotten her glasses, so some early stages seemed more like a mystery tour as we all blindly followed her and Trevor down ever narrowing lanes.  A real treat was the presence of Lee Buick from Stratstone Corvette of Park Lane, the newly appointed UK Corvette and Cadillac distributors, who brought along the company’s 2005 C6 Convertible demonstrator. After the run, I had two cars to return to Claremont Corvette so Neil Bruce kindly volunteered to follow me in the 64 while I drove the 62.  He didn’t need much persuading!

On Monday morning, it was time to fix my driver’s window problem. I looked in the upstairs store and found that I had four good mid-year regulators, proving that they don’t often go wrong. We installed a fresh used one, which worked perfectly, and then drilled out the rivets to investigate the regulator that failed on the judging field. The spindle hub looked as though it was full of old Araldite, but it turned out to be dried-up grease. Well, it had lasted more than 40 years, and taught me something new too. In a lifetime playing with old Corvettes, I had never realized that the regulator hub incorporates a brake, which retains the selected window height; I had always wrongly assumed that it was the snail spring and general friction that did it.  The first 1/8 of a turn on the winder handle in either direction releases the brake which then grips again as soon as winding stops. OK, maybe you’ve always known that, and was it probably used by carmakers worldwide until they all went electric, but I was impressed.

Reprinted from Corvette Torque, the Quarterly Magazine of the NCRS.UK, the United Kingdom Chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society.