Saturday, November 25, 2023

1959 Corvette: Unbeatable Purple People Eater MKIII


1959 Corvette Purple Eater MKIII

1959 Corvette Purple People Eater MKIII

Oddly enough, this Corvette was named after the very odd song - "One Eye, One Horn, Flying Purple People Eater”, a Sheb Wooley hit back in the 50s. 

There were two reasons for the paint job and the name for this 1959 Corvette. The idea for the paint job was because the Corvette racing team was having trouble finding their car in the pits and on the track - all the cars looked too similar to one another. Kind of like finding your car in a mall parking lot on the weekend, the week before Christmas.

So a standout color scheme was born. The color scheme that was created was a metallic purple for the base color and bright white for the trim and decals. Next, they needed a name for the Corvette, so they decided on the "Purple People Eater". It was kind of a no-brainer since the song itself was topping the charts in 1958-59, and the Purple People Eater Corvette was eating up all the competition on the track every single weekend.

Nickey Chevrolet In Chicago 

Back in the 50s, a lot of racing teams were owned by dealerships and this Corvette team was no different. Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago was the owner of this team and, at the time, the largest factory dealership specializing in high-performance muscle car sales and service. Their parts department functioned as a huge speed shop. 

When it came time for the Nickey Chevrolet Race Team to hire a driver and a mechanic, Nickey Chevrolet took some help and advice from none other than the legendary Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Corvette engineer and designer who made Corvette what it is today. Zora suggested they use an aggressive driver named Jim Jeffords and a talented mechanic who was known as the guy who could turn a “Javelin into a competitive race car," Ronnie Kaplan. 

The “Purple People Eater” Corvette Eating Up The Competition

The Purple People Eater Corvettes (yes, there were three altogether) raced during the ‘58 and ‘59 seasons. During that time, they won the SCCA National B-Production titles and a race at Nassau Speed Week. During the 1959 season, the cars never finished worse than second place in any race, always making the Purple People Eater the car to beat at the track.

Ordering Your Own Corvette With Race Specs

If you ordered a factory Corvette with race specs in the late 1950s, you received a Corvette with heater delete, and a heavy-duty brake and suspension package. 

285 cu.-in. Chevy engine

The Corvette came with a 283 Chevrolet V-8 with factory Rochester fuel injection and a four-speed manual transmission, the same way the Purple People Eater was raced. In an interview, Kaplan said, "GM helped with some technical advice, and I got that fuel injection figured out pretty quick." It was very reliable. I told Jim to keep that engine at about 6,000 rpm, and it never broke. He is a very big, strong man and was tough on equipment. I swear he could break off a shifter."  

Where Did The Purple People Eater End Up?

The last one known to exist is the “Purple People Eater MKIII”. It was sold for $800 to a Chip Miller and Ken Heckert, who raced the 1959 Corvette for a short time at Autocross events. Not knowing its future historical significance, it was parked and used as a workbench for a very long time.

After 14 years of being a garage workbench, the sharp eye of car expert/enthusiast Mike Philsbury notices that there were a few things different about some of the parts and options on the car. After some deep research, Mike, Chip, and Ken confirmed that they were eating their lunch every day on the 1959 Corvette “Purple People Eater MKIII”. 

The American Heritage Award In 2002

Knowing what they knew, Chip and Ken went to work and restored the Corvette back to its racing form - color and all. 

In 2002, the Corvette was awarded the American Heritage Award. Thanks to two guys who just wanted a Corvette to go autocross racing in, and a car enthusiast named Mike Philsbury, the 1959 Corvette “Purple People Eater MKIII” lives on.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

1966 Chevrolet Corvair Yenko Stinger: Rare And Cool


1966 Chevrolet Corvair Yenko Stinger

Everyone should know about the iconic late 60s and earlier 70s Yenko drag cars that donated the tracks—Camaro, Nova, and Chevelle. But would you be alarmed to know that Don Yenko was working his high-performance magic long before those muscle cars came along? 

Don Yenko had his eyes on a different type of racing before he built horsepower heavy-drag cars. In the late 50s to the mid-60s, he was into road course racing. He first was racing Corvettes professionally but was getting beat pretty consistently by the Shebly. Don realized the reason was the Corvettes had become just too heavy to compete. 

Corvair Corsa

Enter The Corvair Corsa

The Corvair Corsa weighed 500 pounds less than the Corvette, making it a very viable candidate for some of Yenko's genius power upgrades. So in true Don Yenko fashion, he went to the drawing board and came up with the blueprint needed to retrieve the success he was looking for. 

Yenko Upgrades For The Corvair

  • Forged Pistons
  • Ported Cylinder Heads
  • High-Performance Distributor
  • Stiffer Suspension
  • Cadillac Dual Master Cylinders for Brakes
  • Light Weight Flywheel
  • Four Speed Manual
  • Limited-Slip Differential (3.89 rear gears)
  • Added Oil Cooler
  • Quicker Steering Ratio
  • Removed Rear Seats (making it eligible to be labeled a sports car and save on weight)
  • Front Spoiler
  • Rear Fiber Glass Engine Cover w/Spoiler
  • Aftermarket Steering Wheel

Time To Get In Sync With SCCA Regulations 

It turns out that the SCCA didn't have too much of a problem with the new Corvair race car entering the competition. Instead of giving Don Yenko a hard time, the SCCA's two biggest requests to give the car the SCCA homologation (stamp of approval) were to have at least 100 road-capable Yenko Stingers produced and to have the car painted in white and blue. White and blue were the American colors used to identify American cars on the race course, as every country had its own color codes to follow. 

Needing to have all 100 cars done by January 1st, 1966 to compete in 1966—already being late November gave Don one month to complete the project. Don and his men worked long hours, seven days a week, all through December with the expectation of one day, and that was Christmas. Despite the grips and grimes of the overworked workers, they proudly finished the quota in time.  

Covair Yenko Engine Bay

Four Separate Power Levels

All Stingers came with a 165 cu.-in. (2.7-liter) flat-six engine setup with four carburetors that offered four different Yenko power options. The base Yenko option came with roughly 160 horsepower, from there it went up a level to 190 horsepower, then leveled up to 220 horsepower, and for the big dog of them all, you could get one with 240 horsepower. The different options were mainly so the Yenko Stinger could qualify to race in all road course classes. 

Interesting Fact 

Yenko's daughter received a Stinger to drive when she first got her driver's license. Two weeks into driving, she had an unfortunate accident that sent her headfirst into a utility poll. Because of the engine being in the rear and the spare tire being in the front trunk, the Corvair basically bounced off the poll instead of crushing the front end and sending the engine into the front seat. For the car that has been dubbed "unsafe at all speeds," Yenko's daughter calls it the car that is "safe at all speeds." 

Friday, October 6, 2023

1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 455: Ten Things To Know About The Torque Monster Muscle Car

1970 Buick GSX

From 1970 to 1072, Buick sold their rare GSX muscle car to the public, finally getting an edge over their other A-Body competitors. The Chevelle SS, GTO Judge, and Olds 4-2-2 weren’t quite their enemies, but Buick needed to bring something to the table to compete with them. The GSX and the GSX Stage 1 did that and more for Buick. Hosting more power and torque, better times at the race track, a sportier suspension, and a more comfortable interior with better materials, these classic cars put Buick at the top of the muscle car list.

1970 Buick GSX Spoiler

With eye-catching stripes, a front and rear spoiler, a hood tach, and the GS ram air hood, the GSX was definitely a car that would get you noticed when driving down the road. And if you felt like you weren’t getting noticed enough, a pedal-to-the-metal action to activate Buick's massive torque offering would burn the tires off with ease—letting everyone around you know that your Buick GSX meant business. Tough to drive when you lack traction, but fun to drive if you knew what you were doing.

All the muscle cars from this era were fun, but they were being produced on borrowed time. When the full weight of stricter emissions standards was implicated, the muscle car industry and its success in pleasing gearheads were over.

10. The GS455 Stage 1 Didn't Draw Enough Attention

1970 Buick GS455

Although the Buick GS Stage 1 shared the same A-body structure as the GTO Judge, Chevelle SS, and the Oldsmobile 422, Buick just couldn't get their sales up because they couldn't shake the stigma of being a car that your grandmother would drive. So mid-way through the production year of 1970, Buick came out with the stout, sporty-looking Buick GSX.

9. The Buick GSXs Are Limited Edition

White Buick GSX

It may not seem like it because there is an abundance of GSXs out there, but many of them are clones. If you go to the GS Nationals in Kentucky, it’ll seem like there are way more than just the numbers that are shown to be produced. But thanks to companies like T/A Performance from Arizona—people have the opportunity to own an almost identical GSX without paying the price of a low-mileage real GSX.

Black and Gold Buick GSX

Nowadays, with the way technology is, it is very hard to tell the difference between a real GSX and a clone without an official build sheet. But to put the numbers in perspective, there were 678 Buick GSXs built in 1970, 124 built in 1971, and only 44 built in 1972. Sure, building a clone for a good price as an average car guy is a good thing, but for the serious car collector, it makes it seem their super rare numbers matching GSX is a little less important or rare when you can’t tell the difference between a real one and an imposter.

8. Autmoblies to "To Light Your Fire" Buick's Slogan

Buick "Light Your Fire"

Depending on who you ask, either the Buick slogan campaign helped both Buick and the Doors or it helped Buick and hurt the Doors. The Slogan comes from a famous Doors song, “Come on, Baby, Light My Fire.” GM paid the touring band $75,000 for the use of the words in print, radio, and TV ads. 

The new GSX sport appearance package and the 1966 song lyrics were a campaign to bring the fire that the GSX needed to help Buick shake the grandma’s church-going grocery-getting reputation it acquired in the past.

Black and Green Buick GSX

On tour at the time, minus Jim Morrison, the Doors had no problem with the idea, but Morrison was furious. Apparently, Morrison was so enraged that he threatened to set a Buick on fire on stage during their next concert. He wanted his bandmates and the band’s label (Elektra) to cancel the contract, but the damage had already been done.

7. Underrated Horsepower And Torque Rating

GS Buick 455 Stage 1 Engine Bay

It was widely known that the advertised 360 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque was underrated by a lot. Of course, Buick wanted to let people know, but then they would have to worry about being restricted and ultimately forced to eradicate the building of the powerful GSX Stage 1 455 in 1970.

It was widely known that the advertised 360 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque was underrated by a lot. Of course, Buick wanted to let people know, but then they would have to worry about being restricted and ultimately forced to eradicate the building of the powerful Stage 1 455 in 1970.

Most people, including NHRA, claimed that the engine probably put out 400+ horsepower. Using the GSX's time in the quarter-mile and the weight of the car, experts who tested the Buick knew that there was more horsepower than what was being advertised.

6. Motor Trend Names the 1970 Buick GSX “The Quickest American Production Car” 

Buick GSX Moving Fast

Although the 1970 Buick GSX was named the quickest, the 1971 and ‘72 GSXs fell victim to the emission laws and received lower compression V8 engines. In fact, you were even able to order up your GSX with a 350, 400, or a 430 cu.-in motor, unlike in 1970 when a 455 cu.-in. engine was your only option. You still got the sporty look, but the power the Buick had was starting to take a huge hit. The only good thing for Buick was that everyone else in the industry had to follow the same emission rules and regulations, making your typical car guy very sad.

1970 Buick GSX

5. The Ram Air Hodd and Housing Never Really Functioned

455 Stage 1 Buick Engine

In theory, the ram air hood on the Buick GSXs should have helped whatever powerplant you had under the hood gain about 8% horsepower, at least that’s what Buick was claiming. Unfortunately, it didn’t. In fact, most experts who tested the ram air system claim to have noticed no difference. Even worse, in race testing, experts noticed that the housing and the scoops themselves were too oddly shaped and even restricted flow.

Taking the whole ram air system off and letting the carburetor breathe without the ram air housing actually promoted a little better performance. These air cleaner housings do look cool, but they don’t serve up any extra horsepower gains.

4. There was an Internal Band on Large Buick cu.-in. Engines

Buick Engine Dyno

Lifting the large engine band was a no-brainer for Buick because they weren’t just competing against their A-body siblings, but they also had to throw down with Fords and Hemis. Buick knew if they were going to keep up with all the other muscle cars, a 400 cu.-in. engine just wasn’t going to cut it. They also knew they were going to have to make more changes than just engine displacement upgrades.

3. Heavy Duty Suspension, Disc Brakes, Wheels, and Tires

1970 Buick GSX

To add to the performance of the GSX, Buick made sure that the suspension could handle the power. A front anti-roll bar was included, along with stronger shocks and rear lower control arms. All the suspension bushings were upgraded to stiffer high-performing bushing. Also included was a quick-ratio steering gearbox to give the driver a better road feel.

For the brake system, there were a few different options. There were 11-inch ventilated rotors in the front with signal-piston calipers as long as you order the Stage 1 455 GSX. In the rear, there were upgraded drum brakes and power assist was optional. On different orders, you might have received drum brakes all the way around.

2. Find That GSX Build Sheet 

GSX Build Sheet

Finding the build sheet for a GSX is a big deal. What the build sheet says will give you an idea of how much you should be paying for a particular vehicle. Even if a true GSX is a little beat up, paying big bucks for one isn't uncommon and could still be very well worth the money. But if you pay big bucks for a GSX, and it’s really just a Skylark in disguise, you can lose big money.

Buick GSX Build Sheet

There is no particular place to look for a build sheet. Buyers have mentioned finding them in all kinds of different places. If the owner hasn’t found one yet, you can try looking under the carpet, in the rear seat cushion springs, under the dash, but on top of the gas tank in between the sound deadener is the most common place to find a lost build sheet.

1. The Little Extras That Make The GSX Different From GS

1970 Buick GSX

There were some other features that you would get with the GSX that you wouldn’t get with lower-trim level Buicks. Color-matching mirrors and headlight bezels added to the colorful look of the GSX. The rear spoiler was an option on some GS Buick 455s but with the GSX package, it was standard.

Buick GSX Spoiler

Other features were a standard heavy-duty cooling system, the option of a close-ratio four-speed or three-speed manual, or a TH400 automatic transmission. For the rear gear ratio, if you order a Stage 1 package, you would get bumped up to a positraction 3.64:1 axle that would help you burn the tires and create smoky hole shots whenever you wanted to.

GSX Grille

Friday, September 22, 2023

2009 Corvette ZR1: The Era’s Most Pinnacle American Sports Car

 2009 Corvette ZR-1

Corvette ZR1 Comeback

Corvette has always made a big splash with their Z-Series sports cars. Badass Vettes such as the ZO6, ZR1, and ZL1 would receive more power and torque, handling capabilities, and all-around upgrades for better track performance than any other vehicle General Motors was pushing on the market at the time (expectation 14 and 15 Camaro Z28). 

Chatter started around 2007 about a new version of the ZR1, a ZR1 that would be so performance-packed it would give it a supercar status that would have its name mentioned in the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. 

This first 2009 ZR1 was auctioned off for a Million bucks to Dave Ressler. He is also the owner of the oldest known Corvette in existence, #003. 

6.2-liter LS9

2009 ZR1 Motor and Transmission

6.2-liter LS9 aluminum V8 with a Twin Vortices Series supercharger and a top-loaded intercooler powers the ZR1. Hand-built in Wixom, Mi., this powerhouse motor puts out 638 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 604-lb.ft. of torque at 3800 RPMs.

Sure, nowadays there are some stout performers that make more horsepower and torque, but not 13 years ago. 

Controlling all this power is easy with a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox and a high-capacity, high-performance clutch that makes anyone sitting in the driver's seat feel like they are driving a professionally-built race car. 

Performance Stats

This General Motors engine and transmission combination is responsible for the staggering numbers that it puts down while going in a straight line. This ZR1 gets from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds while reaching 100 mph in a matter of 7 seconds. The Corvette has no problem covering the quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds at 131 mph. With a top speed of 200 mph, without a doubt, this was the most capable, powerful Corvette put into production.  

Frame and Suspension

The ZR1 comes standard with an aluminum frame structure that weighs in at a mere 138 pounds. The frame was the exact frame used on the C6.R race car, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 5.2 pounds per horsepower. 

The aluminum frame rides on a Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension. The Magnetic Ride Control was the most sophisticated suspension of its kind. This ride-control system gives the driver two different driving modes to select—Sport ride-control, ideal for the racetrack, and Touring mode, which is ideal for everyday driving. These modes can be easily switched back and forth in the cockpit by the driver with a push of a button. This may not seem like much of a wow factor today, but back in 2009, this convenience was just starting to become a top technology on American vehicles. 


With all that power and such a capable suspension, you have to have some way of keeping the tires and wheels sticking to the ground, and in this department, GM spares no expense. When testing the Corvette at the Virginia International Raceway, the stock Michelin tires were eventually replaced with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. With this change, the ZR1 was able to shred a considerable amount of time off of each lap. And that’s when the decision was made, the Michelins that performed the best would come on the best Corvette ever produced.

Corvette ZR-1 Wheels


You can't have a vehicle with all that power and ability without having an effective way of stopping it. So massive Brembo Carbon Ceramic 15-inch front and 15.5-inch rear vented cross-drilled rotors were added. These rotors can withstand heat of 1000 degrees Celsius before warping. The brake system includes six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear. When this system all works together, it creates the stopping power you would need for a 200 mph supercar.

Corvettes First Super Car

The Looks Of A Supercar

With a wider stance than the average Vette, the ZR1 is designed to take corners better and get around the track faster. Sporting 19x10-inch wheels in the front and 20x12-inch wheels in the back, the look of the ZR1 says nothing but supercar. All buyers would have had the option to choose the color of the wheels, which include a bright silver coated finish, a deep black coated finish, or a chrome finish. All three colors look great, depending on the look you are trying to achieve. There are nine color options for the exterior finish, all of which are in an exotic tint, helping give the ZR1 the supercar look that Corvette is ultimately after. The spoiler on the back is both functional and proportional-looking, and the see-through carbon fiber hood really makes a supercar statement.

Interior Options For The ZR1

Corvette ZR-1 Cockpit
When it comes to the interior, the ZR1 came with an abundance of options and colors. The buyer was able to request almost everything from the steering wheel to the door panels be wrapped in rich leather. They would also have the option of different model-specific badges to be placed on the inside of the vehicle.

Power-adjustable heated leather seats with microfiber inserts could be purchased for a better day-to-day driving experience. Corvette also offered a package called the 3ZR. This package included a nine-speaker Bose system, Bluetooth wireless technology, a head-up display, and a SiriusXM satellite radio, making sure that ultimate convenience and comfort could be achieved.

Blue ZR1 20009

Price Tag And Gas Mileage

With supercar looks, power, and track times to match, this ZR1 puts otherworldly supercars to shame when you compare price tags to performance. When brand new, the MSRP price tag was $112,000.00, which was much cheaper than a higher-powered Farria, Lambo, or Porsche at the time. The ZR1 also rated very high in gas mileage for a 2009 sports car. With an EPA-estimated 14 city/20 highway mpg, the Corvette did better than most vehicles with that size engine. 

The best thing about the ZR1 is for the first time ever, Americans who were in the market for a supercar could finally buy an American-built supercar, minus the outrageous cost of maintenance, luxury tax, and everything else that comes along with owning an overseas supercar.