One Man’s Quest for the Perfect Car
Jim Black - May 23, 2013 10:00 AM
If you asked 100 different car enthusiasts what their “dream car” would be, chances are good that you might get a hundred different answers.
Sure, there may be a few repeats and undoubtedly Chevy’s Corvette would probably make the list on several counts.
Randy Ratcliff, a recently retired schoolteacher from Ankeny, Iowa, has always dreamed of owning a classic Corvette. Not new to the hobby, he bought his first Corvette, a 1976 model L48 with a four-speed, in 1982. Although it was a beautiful car, it was far from the car of his dreams. Randy later sold it with no regrets as work, family, and other commitments forced life changes. Deep down, this initial purchase spurred a desire to get into the “Corvette Scene” at some point. As the years progressed, his desire to own another Corvette just burned deeper.
In 1986, Randy purchased a 1966 big-block coupe, a matching-numbers car in silver, for $16,000. “I didn’t take the time to examine the car’s history and it wasn’t as nice as advertised,” Randy admitted. “It looked great, but I later realized it had a re-stamped engine and some major accident history.” He sold the car a short time later once he decided that he really wanted a red roadster instead.
Randy still hadn’t learned his lesson. He continued “dabbling” in various cars, not all of them Corvettes, and making the same mistakes. Soon, the quest was put on hold as his kids reached college age and the financial responsibilities that went with it brought a halt to the process. The learning wasn’t done, however. He would soon learn another valuable lesson dealing with car auctions.
In early 2000, Randy had his first bad experience. It happened at a Mecum Car Auction in Des Moines, Iowa. “Two guys were bidding on a beautiful 1966 GTO convertible. In a moment of weakness I threw in a ‘harmless’ bid, and the other bidders promptly stopped, and I ended up buying the car,” Randy recalled. “I believe I fell victim and have no one to blame but myself.” He later sold the car and vowed never to get caught on the short end again.
In 2007, he decided he was going to buy the “car of his dreams”, but this time he would take adequate precautions, do his homework, and take his time. “I decided to take a constructive yet systematic approach, outline my priorities, and hoped to get the best results possible,” he commented. “I knew if I didn’t rush the process, that I would be successful, and this time I wouldn’t just settle, I’d get what I wanted.”
First, priorities were established and the car of choice was a 1967 Corvette roadster in red with a small-block V-8, four-speed transmission, and already professionally restored to stock “as-built” condition. “I considered several different options, but the SB 327 (L79) would be more affordable, easier to maintain, and more driver friendly,” Randy explained. “I had no intention on buying a NCRS high point car or trailer queen. I wanted to drive this car.”
By many accounts, the 1967 Corvette was considered the best looking of the early Sting Rays, which was basically unchanged from the previous 1966 model. The ’67s had several minor changes that only “true” Corvette enthusiasts can identify. “It didn’t take me long to figure out that my favorite Corvette was the 1967 model,” Randy explained. “It has a refinement that no other Corvette year has from my perspective.”
Second, Randy had learned from previous mistakes that knowledge was the key to success. “I purchased books on Corvettes, studied codes, options, production figures, and learned all I could,” he said. “This information is vital when looking over a potential car to purchase.”
Third, the “knowledge” continued as Randy attended car shows and auctions to get a buyer’s feel for the market, market values, why some cars were more popular and why. “Talking with owners of ’67 Corvettes was most helpful, especially NCRS judges,” Randy noted. “Who better than those in the business?” He also took the opportunity to attend Bloomington Gold in Illinois, Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, and other larger auctions so he could compare large groups of Corvettes in the same setting.
Finally, after doing his homework, Randy set out to find his “dream car”, searching through hundreds of ads, visiting several classic car dealerships, etc. “In the fall of 2010, I located a 1967 Corvette roadster in eastern Pennsylvania and it was in excellent condition,” Randy said. “The seller had owned it for several years, so I knew he wasn’t just flipping the car to turn a buck.” The seller wanted a firm price, and after negotiating the transportation fees, Randy made the purchase.
This car is equipped with a numbers-matching L79, 327ci V-8 backed with a Muncie M-20 four-speed transmission. The L79 was a cast-iron block with overhead valves and had a bore and stroke of 4.00 x 3.25 inches and a compression ratio of 11.0:1. The engine delivered 350hp at 5,800 rpm and torque at 360 lbs-ft at 3,600 rpm and included five main bearings, a high performance camshaft, hydraulic valve lifters, and was topped with a Holley carburetor. The L79 engine was restored to factory specifications by the previous owner.
Additional options include tinted glass (A01), headrests (A82), auxiliary hardtop (C07), factory air-conditioning (C60), Posi-traction 3.36 rear axle (G81), side-mounted exhaust (N14), redline tires (QB1), speed warning (U15), and AM/FM radio (U69), with Rally wheels as standard equipment. Production totals in 1967 included 22,940 cars, with 2,341 produced in paint code 974 Rally Red. This example is one of just 34 red 1967 Corvette convertibles with the L79 (350hp) with factory air.
These days, Randy enjoys driving his Corvette whenever he can and displaying it at local area shows. “The big problem now is that I spend six months a year living in Arizona, and it’s not long before I’m looking to the spring when I can cruise in the ’Vette again,” Randy admitted. “It’s just too much of a hassle to try and move it back and forth between both residences.”
After a teaching career spanning some 35 years, Randy has taught himself to enjoy the good life, complete with the ownership of his “Dream Machine”.
“I can honestly say that I’d do it all again in a heartbeat,” he said.
We should all be so lucky!