TOM FALCONER

 

 
 

         

Restoring my 1964, part 6.
Corvette Torque

After Flight 2005 I settled down to enjoy my White 64 and to get some miles on it. Proven on various trips, its only mechanical letdown was on the 2006 Spring Shakedown when it mysteriously stopped just once, which was apparently cured by wiggling the negative battery lead. But on the way home it did it twice more, very embarrassing with Polly on board. Luckily, the total loss of ignition and starting coincided with the clock stopping, so as she sat in comfort, she could report if the second hand of the clock was sweeping or not.  The actual problem was the connector from the engine ignition loom at the bulkhead. Although this was a new loom, the plastic connectors are not that good and this one was not locking home. A tie wrap soon fixed the problem, and yes my clock stops instantly because it’s a quartz conversion!

As Flight Le Mans approached I knew I had to get the car 100% reliable - nothing could be worse than my bonnet open at the roadside with a queue of NCRS members leaning over my shoulder offering suggestions.   So training for a July 23rd cycle race in Spain was put on hold, and for a month before our 13th June departure date all my commuting was done by 1425kg fiberglass Corvette instead of 7 kg carbon-fibre Time VXRS.  I kept a snagging list in the car and numbers of small problems were rectified during those drives up and down the North Downs.  It is an enormous advantage having your own Corvette shop, so we fixed the occasional overnight battery drain, which was due to A/C wiring not yet connected, headlight aim was perfected, and the exhaust pipes readjusted. A mysterious no-charge on the alternator when hot  was traced to a poor quality voltage control box plug on the new repro wiring loom. There was no time to perfect the fit of the recently rebuilt convertible top frame, but then we were in the middle of a heat wave, and it seemed unlikely that we would use it.

At the same time, I went through my flight 2005 judging sheets and listed the worst points losers. Inevitably it is in ops that big hits happen, so these were tackled one by one, the choke adjusted to fast idle properly, the door lock barrels finally fixed (but who in their right mind would lock a convertible?), correct throttle return springs installed and the wiper sweep perfected. I still had not got all the right bits for my original A/C, so points were going to be sacrificed here. Borrowing two steel wheels from Chairman Trevor, I was able to make up a set of five and fitted these with the original hubcaps in place of my definitely repro P48 Knock-Off Wheels. I also fitted a budget priced Mallory electronic points conversion in the distributor, which improved the low end torque, allowing a taller gear round some roundabouts, and also improved the fuel consumption – overall we did 23miles per gallon over 800 miles of the Le Mans trip.

Thanks to my miles driven I at last won my coveted Top Flight at Parcay-Les-Pins. But this was not without some drama, for when Rock Mountain Chapter member Gary Steffens checked the stampings on my otherwise correctly dated and cast numbered 3782870 engine block, he pronounced it a re-stamp! Chuck Berge had previously expressed his doubts about my stamp, and now it was confirmed. When checked carefully, which I had never thought to do, the 0 figures in the vin derivative number and the RP of the engine suffix were of a typeface never used at St Louis. Re-stamping is not so rare on high horsepower Corvettes where ‘matching numbers’ can add tens of thousands to the value of a 427 tri-power, but is not what I expected to discover on my car, which had been imported here in 1968 when it was only four years old. I love my white Vette, but am happy to admit that the 64 is the least desirable of the five mid-years and the lowly 250hp must be the least desirable engine, so why would anyone re-stamp it? And when was it done? Anyway, my driven miles covered all the lost points, and I now have the full set of Fligfht Awards  - Third, Second and Top

To celebrate my Top Flight  I briefly wound the car up to 120mph down the Mulsanne Straight on the race morning track lap, and the car felt great. Thereafter we just enjoyed the car, and as we drove back up the Autoroute to Boulogne at 75 to 85 I contemplated the next stage. First, I had to remove those dull original wheels and refit the more attractive Knock-Offs, and get the convertible top perfected, both of which happened as soon as we got home.  I could live with my re-stamped block, it’s the most interesting thing on the car, but I have been concerned about the heads, whose sloppy valve stems and low-tech oils seals have caused excessive oil consumption and puffs of blue smoke.. So I have ordered a set of correct original heads from Gary Steffens, with the latest guides and stem seals, which will arrive shortly. 

Since we rebuilt the car I have been concerned about a lack of front wheel camber, and therefore castor. In a selection of new old stock parts acquired from a customer I discovered a rare set of Moog offset front upper wishbone shafts. They used to market these as ‘problem-solvers’ and they allow the upper A-arm to sit further toward the centre of car , allowing some  negative camber and 3 degrees of caster adjustment, which is really necessary with modern radial tyres. Fitting these improved the handling and also lowered the front of the car to its correct height.

We have just taken into stock a 1964 with original air-conditioning, so at last I have something to help figure out how to get my own A/C working.  Colin Chapman’s silver 1963 strangely had 1964 seat backs and my 64 has always had the more pointed 1963’s. So to complete my 1964 Corvette restoration, I was at last able to swap the seat backs before I sold his car to a London domiciled Greek princess.

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