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 new level by slipping an obscurely labeled Regular Production Option (RPO) into the Corvette option list—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 knockoff 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’s specifications, and rushed to Puerto Rico for the first and only Puerto Rico Grand Prix. With Dr. Dick Thompson at the wheel, Gulf One scored the first class win of its career.

After an A-Production victory at the “Refrigerator Bowl” in Marlboro, Maryland, in January 1963, Gulf One was then prepared to FIA rules for Florida’s Daytona Continental and Sebring 12 Hours races. In February, Thompson scored a huge 3rd place overall and 1st 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 and the A/Production class at Danville, Virginia, and Road America in Wisconsin. In all, Gulf One saw more racing combat in more venues than any of the other “Specially Assigned” factory Z06s and was always at the front of the pack.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 327/360 Z06 Yenko Coupe “Gulf One”
Years Produced:1963
Number Produced:21,513 (coupe and convertible)
Original List Price:$4,968.60
SCM Valuation:$31,500–$61,500
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$19.99
Chassis Number Location:Top of instrument panel at windshield base
Engine Number Location:Pad on front of block below right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Road Cincinnati, OH 45252-1334
Alternatives:1963–65 Shelby Cobra 289 Comp, 1961–62 Jaguar XKE Factory Lightweight, 1971–73 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 non-factory Daytona Comp
Investment Grade:A

This car sold for $1,113,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Mecum Muscle Cars & More Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, on January 24, 2009.

It was a wonderful bit of showmanship, as 88-year-old Dr. Dick Thompson stood at the podium and proclaimed Gulf One looked better than when he raced it. Then noted Z06 authority Eric Gill revealed newly discovered documents that showed Gulf One would have started as the #1 Corvette in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans had GM not enforced its racing ban. The bids quickly hit the $1,000,000 mark, then stalled for what seemed an eternity. Finally a telephone bidder—a collector from Rhode Island—raised the bid by $50,000. The seller lifted the reserve and completed the sale.

A million-dollar sale is always exciting, yet I had the sense that some in the audience had hoped that the car would bring much more. The 1962 Grady Davis/Don Yenko/Dick Thompson Gulf Oil #2 Corvette that sold last August at Gooding for almost $1.5 million (CM# 117566, profiled in CM Fall 2008, p. 24) certainly set the standard, and Gulf One didn’t come close. Yet this was a landmark sale for a Z06, the first to cross the million-dollar line, and only the second mid-year Corvette to do so. Only the Pininfarina 1963 Paris show car, the Corvette Rondine, sold for more at $1,760,000 (CM# 49099).

Best of the Z06s

Z06 Corvettes haven’t really been knocking on the million-dollar door. This car previously sold at RM’s Monterey event in August 2004 for $467,500, the high mark for Z06 racers at the time (CM# 34822). In January 2006, Russo and Steele attempted to sell the Delmo Johnson ’63 Z06, but it failed to meet reserve at $900k (CM# 40449). And an unrestored ’63 Z06, another Gulf Oil car raced by Thompson and Ed Lowther, got to just $155,000 and failed to sell at Mecum’s St. Charles, Illinois, auction in October 2007.

What the Gulf Oil #2 car has that 1963 Gulf One, or any other historic Corvette racer, lacks is its extraordinary originality. Gulf Oil #2 is simply a time-warp car, while the others are all restored. Plus, it can be argued that the Z06 never lived up to its potential, partly due to GM’s untimely ban on racing in March 1963, and partly due to Carroll Shelby and his flyweight Cobras. But there is no denying that Gulf One was the best of the Z06 Corvettes, and with this sale, it assumes its rightful place with the elite of Corvette race cars

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