1959 FI Corvette -- National NCRS Top Flight


Here is my 290 HP FI Corvette with 4-speed, 4.11 Positraction. This car is loaded. Besides having two tops, WonderBar radio, visors and power windows, it has the fairly rare windshield washer. On FI cars this is mounted on the right side with a heat shield. The washer canister's bracket is riveted to the right inner fender. 
Here is a twilight shot of the car taken by Motorbooks International in 1997. A different shot of the car was used in their book, Chevrolet in the Sixties. They craftily say in the photo caption, "The exterior of the 1960 Corvette was identical to the 1959 model ..." Without mentioning that the photo is of a 59. I have several sets of wheels and tires. In this first photo is the bias-ply, wide-White set on 5" rims that I use for judging. For driving, there is another set of 5" wheels with black radials.

For the RPO 684 set up, I have a set of modified 5 1/2" wide 80-80 wheels and a set of NOS 1959 small hubcaps. The spare is an original Goodrich on an original 5 1/2" RPO rim. I had five original rims, but a fellow offered me a crazy price so I sold him four. I like the full-size hub caps. The 5 1/2" rims do not have the nubs to hold on these full-size wheel covers.


This car was purchased new from Harry Mann Chevrolet (the Los Angeles "name" Corvette dealer) in 1958. Back tracked by a NCRS member who is a PI. The car scored a 98.7 at the NCRS National in 1991. National judging is tougher than NCRS local meets. Since then the car has been driven about 1,400 miles. The odometer is original, appears to be untouched, and shows 84,900 miles. Some a quarter mile at a time.

The car is White with Silver coves and a Turquoise interior. Original Turquoise steering wheel, seat belts, etc. At San Diego local meets where people dropped their admission tickets into a cup taped to a car, it always won the "favorite car" prize. Ladies go for the Turquoise.

Since 1975 I have owned over 20 Corvettes, but nowadays I barely fit behind the steering wheel of solid-axle cars. When found in 1987, this car was sitting under a tarpaulin in a backyard in Loma Vista (San Diego). The divorcee (seller) told me her ex had raced it at Del Mar and Carlsbad in the late 50’s and early 60’s (both long-gone sports car tracks in San Diego County).

The car is fully and correctly restored – the engine compartment, interior, and final detailing were done by the then NCRS 1958-60 National Judging Chairman, Dan Holstein. It has all original RPO 684 Big Brake parts except the shocks. The car has three NCRS top-flights including the 1991 National.

The fuel injection unit was rebuilt and calibrated by Doug Hooper in LA who was the last Corvette racer to beat Cobras in a major race (using a special-order 63 FI Coupe). Restored, my 1959 still turned 14.4 at 103 at the Antique drags in San Diego County (with street tires). A quarter mile at a time -- rubber in all four gears. My high school fantasy. Sadly in 2004 developers got this land, and the antique drags are no more.

At the National at Disneyland 1991, the car was signed by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his wife, Elfi -- with a magic marker that is now pretty faded as I didn't want to clear coat the lacquer finish.

Whenever entered in the "Late Great Chevy" shows in Southern California, it has always won first prize. A large photo of this car appears on pages 12-13 of Robert Genat’s book Chevrolet in the Sixties (Motorbooks International, 1997). They couldn’t find a 1960 as nice, so they asked to use mine (without popping the hood and looking underneath, the only differences between 1959 and 1960 are the carpets, seat seams and the Red and Blue bars on the dash behind the sissy bar -- Motorbooks didn't show an interior shot). See the last photo below.

Here are the car's numbers:


Part Number  Date Code  Date Notes
Car Assembly Date J59S100336 # 336 Sept. 22, 1958 Sept. 58 total was 409
Engine Padstamp   F905CS Sept. 5, 1958 290 HP Fuel Injection
Engine Block 3756519 H288 Aug. 28, 1958  
Left Head 3755550 G248 July 24, 1958  
Right Head 3755550 G288 July 28, 1958  
Water Pump 3736493     Undated
Fuel Injection Unit 7014900R G8 July 1958 290HP
Left Exhaust 3749965 F28 July 28  
Right Exhaust 3750556 A10 Jan. 1 Undrilled heat riser
Distributor 1110914 8G15 July 15, 1958 FI - Tach drive
Ignition Coil 1115107     Original Fuel Inj. Coil
Generator 1102059 8G22 July 22, 1958 4" pulley
Starter 1107664 8H15 Aug. 15, 1958  
Fuel Pump 5594656     AC 4656
Voltage Regulator 1119002C 8F June 1958 35 amps
Radiator 3141674 8F June 1958 Copper
Transmission Assy.   WG3082 July 30, 1958 Second shift
Trans. Maincase T10-1 6-17 June 17 Cast iron
Trans. Tailhousing T10-7A 6/20/1958 June 20, 1958 Aluminum
Trans. Sidecover T10-148A     Undated
Differential Assy. 4.11 ratio   Aug. 18, 1958  
Differential Case 3743833P G18 July 1, 1958 Positraction
Rear Springs 3748143 15 E8 May 15, 1958 RPO 684, 5 leaves
Windshield   TN Aug. 1958  
Left Window   UN July 1958  
Right Window   UN July 1958  
Soft Top Window   8-8 Aug. 1958 Top is Black
Clock   7/1/1958 July 1, 1958 Rubberstamp
Master Cylinder 5456022 E8 May 1958  
Horn Relay 1116781     ID 781
Wiper Motor 5044266     Rubberstamp gone

I found this car in 1987 under a tarpaulin in a San Diego backyard. By 1990, the car was correctly restored and ready for Top-Flight judging. Over two years and a lot of money later, it received two Chapter Top Flights before the Disneyland National in 1991, where it won another Top Flight and was autographed by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his wife Elfi. At the National it got a 98.2 (with a point for distance driven). The windshield washer incident (mentioned below) and extras left in the ash tray (screws) and glove box (extra papers), cost 0.5, so I had been on top of things, the National score would have been 98.7 

The body and paint are still immaculate. The paint is all lacquer as correct for this era. No enamel or clear-coat. The interior, engine compartment, and final detailing were done by Dan Holstein (then the NCRS 1958-60 National Judging Chairman). There are very few repro parts except for the interior, fan belt, and hoses -- and the repro soft top was installed by Tom Crockett of Hemet, CA. Only the best worked on this car. The White hard top is with Mike Scott of Corvette Corrections having new, date-coded Plexiglas installed. It has a Turquoise headliner. 

At the NCRS National at Disneyland in 1991, the mechanicals (engine, engine compartment, transmission, chassis, rear axle, heater, etc.) received 1,123 out of 1,140 points for originality. Too original -- that morning the pumping disk in the windshield washer cracked in two when we were testing the car for judging. Minus 15 points on operation!
Here's Zora signing my car, the autographs of Zora and Elfi (with today's flash glare on old prints -- I don't have a scanner), the Disneyland solid-axle field, and me (younger and thinner) making sure Zora gets his hyphen correct.


Here's Elfi signing. She was very pleased and said the car looked beautiful. A warm, friendly person -- I doubt she was asked to sign many cars. At the right are the three Top Flight certificates that the car has won. With a week on maintenance and detailing, the car could do it again, but I'm too old and lazy now. The bottom award is from the National (and they are tougher than Chapter meets, with very seasoned judges).


Below are digital shots taken Nov. 29, 2003 in my San Francisco storage.
Here is some of the interior detail.

The power window ducts (below the VIN plate on this side) are all original. The windows work fine, though slow compared to modern windows. The weird strobe effects in the door panels were caused by my digital flash.

Sorry, the driver's door ajar in this shot. The car is registered with original year-of-manufacture California license plates. The shiny square you see on the plate is an original 1959 year sticker. To its right is this year's sticker.

When this car was restored 15 years ago, you could still find NOS trim. The fender top spears and cove moldings are NOS. Those are not oil spots from the car. It is an old garage.

Vrmm! Vrmm! The fuel injection was rebuilt and calibrated by Doug Hooper. He was the last Corvette driver to beat Cobra's (Riverside, Fall of 1962 in an early '63 split-window coupe). On street radials, the car's Positraction lays twin stripes for about half a block before traction locks up. I am still a kid! Hold it at about 3,000 RPM, drop the clutch, then punch it! Watch your steering. If you get off-course. let off.

I have a box of original 1959 T-3 headlights in great, working condition.

The detailing and fit of the body are almost too good. South Bay Corvettes in 1989. Big bucks.


The trunk and tools are beautiful. That's an NOS trunk mat. I lost 1 point (out of 4,500) because the judges knew it was a GM replacement as it looks brand new. The faint vertical marks on the cardboard divider are just on the surface of the lacquer and will wax off. I keep a tool box and spares, including an extra FI drive cable, in the trunk.

Here is a shot of the trunk lid with lots of flash glare. It is perfect. NOS fasteners on the emblem, etc.

An original spare tire is under the wooden cover. B.F. Goodrich. It will get you to a filling station, but I wouldn't speed as the tire is original. Note the extra big cut out in the wooden cover. The RPO wheel lifts the cover up. The bigger cut keeps the cover from interfering with the trunk's locking mechanism. The rubber you see through the cut is about 46 years old.

View of original jack crank. Under the wooden cover is an original jack and tire iron.

Here are Zora Arkus-Duntov and Elfi autographs today. Pretty faded, but less so than the flash makes them appear.

Besides 1,123 out of 1,140 points for mechanical originality, the car scored 572 out of 610 points for mechanical condition. It's hard to increase the condition of a 45-year old FI unit. Note the seldom-seen power window circuit breaker with two Red wires mounted on the right side of the firewall.


The FI air cleaner, master cylinder, its cap, the wiper motor, and FI ignition shielding are originals. Yes, the hood hold-down devices were painted black when the factory "blacked out" the engine compartment. Also the male latches on the hood were painted black.  

Here in San Francisco, there aren't many places to go with this car. You don't want to park it in a lot (side nicks) or on the street (bumpers), and you certainly cannot valet it. But we fire it up every six weeks or so and take a drive thru the Presidio.

1959 had copper radiators with no fan clutch or surge tank. Yet, the car has never over-heated. Even in a 100 degrees Palm Springs rally -  at times going so slow you had to keep de-clutching in first gear. I have a 1959 original radiator and gas cap for judging. They work fine during judging, but I use these replacements when driving any distance. 


The cockpit is immaculate, but I lost a point for a remnant of a broken bulb (small piece of glass) down below the 160 MPH mark on the speedometer. It's been there forever as we didn't take the speedometer unit apart during restoration (83,500 miles). The small stress cracks in the original steering wheel cost a few points -- see where the metal meets the plastic. But this wheel is certainly a lot more pleasing than a repro. And it won't come apart on you as the plastic has a metal center.






Here is some of the literature for the car. Four of these here are old 1959 Chevrolet/Corvette items.

I have a bunch of parts. For maintenance replacements, tune-ups, etc.

Here are the four wide wheels.

Here are the four small 1959 hubcaps for the wide wheels. Two are NOS. Bad photo.

Here are the four original stock 5" wheels with bias wide whites for judging. Dusty now, but still fine. 

Good luck getting a clear photo of the pad with the engine installed, especially with my low-tech camera.

So below is a photo of one of the car's 1991 National judging sheets. They put a piece of scotch tape on the engine pad, rub it with a pencil, then pull the tape off and stick it on the judging form. Today, looking at the forms, I found the judges miss-added. The car was scored 1,127 (not 1,123) out of 1,140 for mechanical originality: 98.9

The F means Flint engine plant, the 905 means September 5, 1958, the CS means 290 HP Fuel Injection. The block's casting date is H288 (August 28, 1958). It took eight days to cool down and be delivered from Central Casting to Flint.

For what they are worth here are some daylight shots of the engine running at its 1,000 RPM warm-up idle. I love the sound of solid lifters. When hot, the idle is about 750 RPM. The heads' ports have been enlarged and cleaned up, and the intake valves on the original 550 heads have been increased to 1.94". Don't tell the NCRS. Doug Hooper matched the FI ports to the heads. The cam is a stock 12-18 Duntov. Power shift when you see the tachometer pass 6,500. The street/strip clutch and flywheel will kick in before you exceed 7,000 RPM (or tough luck if you miss the shift). Low 14's at the antique drags on street tires. This is not a car that I could afford when 16 -- had to wait until my 30's. I have the original cast iron flywheel set-aside as a souvenir.

Not full daylight, as it was totally overcast. 

Here are some underneath shots. The frame needs to be washed. Note the finned drum and vented backing plate on the brake and the five-leaf rear springs.

Here is the 4.11 third member. Note the Positraction warning on the filler cap. The mufflers have surface rust. They were NOS GM parts bought in 1988. If the rules haven't changed since (I've been inactive in NCRS), you get one point for driving more than 100 miles to the meet. After cleaning the chassis and detailing the car, the full point for mileage will offset any remaining cleanliness deducts. 



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