Harry Mann Chevrolet was the largest Corvette dealer in America when the new 1963 Sting Ray Z06 made its race debut at the October 1962 Times Grand Prix in Riverside, CA. However, driver Gary Pickens was relegated to the sidelines, as Chevrolet had released only six RPO Z06 competition Corvettes and none would be available to the Mann dealership until December.
Undaunted, Mann and Pickens took a regular 1963 Corvette Split-Window coupe with the L84 fuel-injected 360-hp engine and built their own Z06-spec coupe to campaign the following year. The car received numerous modifications including a roll cage, comprehensive weight-reduction measures, and the addition of Z06 suspension and brake components. A recreational gambler, Pickens completed his racer by painting the number 711 as a pair of dice on the doors, hood and rear deck.
Pickens raced the car throughout California in 1963, but fame really came calling in July when filming began on the new race-themed Elvis Presley movie “Viva Las Vegas.” The producers needed real race cars for the movie’s climactic scene, and Pickens’ dice-liveried Riverside Red racer was the perfect choice. It turned out to be the driver’s most lucrative payday, as MGM rented the car for the duration of filming. The studio even included a $500 bonus for the famous spinout scene, during which the car received the only racing damage of its career.
Although hunted for years by hopeful collectors, the car remained hidden until 2011, when Corvette specialist Mike Scott and restorer Gary Nabers located and purchased it. They later completed a concours restoration that helped it achieve an NCRS American Heritage Award in 2013. The restoration retained the well-preserved interior, the 1964 model-year engine Pickens had later installed, and the original BorgWarner T-10 four-speed gearbox. Period-correct Z06 components were sourced and installed as necessary, ensuring the car is configured as it ran at Riverside in 1963.
|Vehicle:||1963 Chevrolet Corvette “711” racer|
|Original List Price:||$4,252|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500–$600|
|Chassis Number Location:||Cross brace under glovebox|
|Engine Number Location:||On block in front of right cylinder head|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society|
|Alternatives:||1965 Shelby GT350, 1967 Yenko Camaro, 1968 Corvette L88|
This car, Lot 767.1, was hammered as a no-sale at a reported high bid of $330,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas, NV, on September 25–27, 2014.
I was a spectator at the 1962 Times Grand Prix at Riverside where the Sting Rays were introduced, and I have a vivid memory of the excitement that surrounded these new Corvettes. Compared to the typical road-going American barges of the day, they looked like spaceships. In the three-hour enduro on Saturday, Dave MacDonald took the pole in the No. 00 Don Steves Z06 before Doug Hooper in the No. 119 Mickey Thompson Z06 won a race of attrition while also turning the fastest lap.
The Sting Ray, and in particular the Z06, had arrived. But its domination was short-lived, as in 1963, I watched the Corvettes, including Pickens in the No. 711 car — shown as being entered by the Gardner Reynolds Tire Co. — battle an entire Shelby-American battalion to no avail. Bob Bondurant, Allen Grant, Lew Spencer and Dan Gurney decimated the field in their Cobras.
Perfection gained, patina lost?
It’s terrific when a well-known race car is discovered and reintroduced publicly after so many years in hibernation, and it’s gratifying when restorers remake the car as closely as possible to how it was in its heyday.
Nevertheless, I wince thinking that the patina and battle scars the 711 car earned in competition and its Elvis movie adventures are lost forever under a perfect new coat of paint. Generally, my feeling is this: If you want it perfect, go build a replica from the ground up; if you want it real, fight hard to preserve what’s there.
We don’t know what kind of shape the car was in when it was rediscovered, but we have to assume that a restoration was actually necessary, and in the process, what could be saved was saved. But for preservation sticklers like me, the question of what might have been lost in the process is going to linger, and that does have some impact on value, especially in the originality-driven Corvette world.
One of one, in its own way
On the positive side, this is undisputedly a period competition car connected to a well-known L.A. Chevy racing dealer, and with the swingin’ Elvis movie exposure, it has significant appeal. (Although with no disrespect to “The King,” had the 711 car appeared in a “King of Cool” movie, the upside would have likely been even stronger.)
This car’s long period underground does not hurt it one bit — in fact, it might actually help it. (I believe that overexposure can blunt a car’s value.) However, the auction information about sourcing period-correct Z06 parts during restoration suggests that the car was in less-than-complete condition when found.
Valuable, but no genuine Z06
This car was a Fuelie from new, but while it contains period-correct Z06 chassis components as it did when it raced, it’s not a real Z06. It also does not have its original fuel-injected engine, instead running the replacement that Pickens installed in ’64.
So does competition and movie history make the 711 Sting Ray more or less valuable than a genuine Z06? I’d suggest less valuable.
If this car had been in the 1962 Times Grand Prix enduro when the Z06s debuted, or else finished among the Cobras in 1963, that could vault its value closer to those of the real racing Z06s. But admission into the upper echelons of big-tank Z06 pricing requires a stronger history than this car has, not to mention Z06 options installed from the factory.
Z06s are valued between $250,000 and $700,000 or higher today, with the six original 1962 Riverside racers potentially worth far more. And so, special and unique as the 711 car is, I’d say the $330k bid that it attracted in Las Vegas should have been enough to seal the deal in the current market. And to top that off, it’s the highest offer we’ve seen compared to several other recent no-sales of this car at other auctions, including a $325k high bid at RM Monterey in August 2013 (ACC# 227352) and a $275,000 high bid at Mecum’s Houston auction in April 2014 (ACC# 252725).
But that’s just for now, because the ’63 Sting Ray world order is on fire, and that could reset the game board in the not-too-distant future.
(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.