Mecum Auto Auction - Kissimmee, Florida - 2009
Campaigned by Dr. Dick Thompson of "Flying Dentist" fame and known simply as Gulf One, the Gulf Oil-sponsored Z06 is the most successful factory-backed production racing Corvette of the C-2 era, with a singular history chronicled by voluminous and highly detailed documentation.
This extraordinary Sting Ray's historical significance cannot be overstated; in contrast to the non-production prototype Corvette racers of that era, whose "Grand Sport" moniker was chosen specifically to differentiate them from factory production Sting Rays, the Gulf One Z06 represents the single most dramatic advance in the history of production Corvette performance to that time. To wit: of 21,513 production Corvettes in 1963, Gulf One was
When the new Corvette Sting Ray was introduced in late 1962, the Corvette was almost a perennial national champion in SCCA racing, but Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus Duntov took the game to a whole new level by slipping an obscurely-labeled Regular Production Option (RPO) into the Corvette option list, the Z06. Equipment included large heavy duty drum brakes with cerametallic linings, vented backing plates, finned aluminum drums and internal cooling fans, along with a dual-circuit master cylinder. The Z06 also featured stiffer front and rear springs, heavy duty stabilizer bar and shock absorbers, a long-distance 36-gallon fuel tank and finned aluminum knock-off wheels. Powertrain consisted of the L84 360 HP fuel-injected 327, an M20 4-speed manual transmission and Positraction. The Z06 option added $2,480.20 to the price of the car, but for those who wanted a track-ready all-out race Corvette, it was worth every penny.
Chassis number 2227, Gulf One was the first of two Z06s delivered by Yenko Chevrolet to the Gulf Oil racing team led by Gulf Executive Vice President Grady Davis. Davis, a racer in his own right, planned to campaign the cars as part of Gulf's fuels-and-lubricants research and development program. The car was delivered to Gulf personnel at the St. Louis plant in October 1962, driven to corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, prepared to Davis' specifications and rushed to Puerto Rico for the first and only Puerto Rico Grand Prix. With Thompson at the wheel, Gulf One scored the first class win of its career. After an A-Production victory at Marlboro, Maryland's "Refrigerator Bowl" in January 1963, Gulf One was then prepared to FIA rules for Florida's Daytona Continental and Sebring 12 Hours races. In February, Dick Thompson scored a huge third place overall and first in GT3 at Daytona behind two Ferrari GTOs, following up in March with a disappointing gearbox failure at Sebring after an impressive qualifying performance.
Thompson barnstormed Gulf One across the country, winning 1st place overall at the SCCA President's Cup at Marlboro, Maryland and the A/Production class at Danville, Virginia and Road America. In all, Gulf One saw more racing combat in more venues than any of the other "Specially Assigned" factory Z-06's and was always at the front of the pack.
The Ultimate Z06
The Gulf One Z06 Corvette offered at the 2009 Mecum Kissimmee Auction has been expertly restored and appears exactly as it did on the starting grid of the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours, including the unique rear fender flares, a last-minute requirement by the FIA to cover its extra-wide Firestone racing tires. Other special features on the car include two-bar finned aluminum knock-off wheels, modified fuel filler, running lights, plexiglass windows, manually-operated headlights, rear deck-mounted fiberglass brake cooling scoops and a special hood designed to improve airflow through and over the front end.
Prominent historian and collector Eric Gill has described the Z06 Sting Ray as "one of the half-dozen most desirable American cars of the post-war era". Forty-six years after its racing debut, Gulf One remains the most storied and highly-coveted of them all.
Original 1963 Corvette Regular Production Option Z06 Specifications:
(Z06 photos courtesy Walt Thurn)