Big-Block ’69 Corvette Stingray Is A Dream Come True

“I wanted a big block car and the shark redesign is my favorite body style,” says Phil McCormick of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. “The ’65 was my favorite for many, many years. But then I saw the ’68 and I fell in love with that body style. So when I started hunting I said, “I’ve got to get a big block car – there’s too many small-blocks, I want a big block, four speed car. I heard about this car and it had everything I wanted in a Corvette – right color, motor, and transmission, and to top it all off, it is a matching numbers car.”

McCormick’s C3 at the Antique Auto Club of America’s annual gathering in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Though the car has been given awards at a number of shows since McCormick took possession of it, he says that this numbers-matching big block, four-speed car is no trailer queen.

It’s hard to find fault with McCormick’s logic, as this LeMans Blue C3 boasts a 427-cube L36 big block V8 paired with the M20 four-speed manual transmission, making this example a Stingray that was built to go as well as it shows.

But for McCormick, this was an acquisition that nearly passed him by. “My brother, who lives in Washington, told me about this Corvette for sale,” he recalls. “I said no way.” It wasn’t for lack of want, though. “I grew up in southwest Detroit – the Motor City – where I saw all makes of American-made cars,” McCormick says. “And the Corvette was the epitome of American Muscle. My favorite year was the 1969 model.”

Still, with C3 values quickly climbing into the stratosphere, ownership of such a sought-after Stingray seemed beyond his reach, as family responsibilities would of course come first. “I’ve never been a numbers-matching kind of guy when it comes to hotrods.

When my brother told me about this one, I told him there was no way I could afford it – I said, “That’s a number-matching car, I know exactly what that car is worth.” But the stars aligned and I became the proud third owner of a numbers matching big block 1969 427 Corvette Stingray!”

The car rides on 60-spoke Truespoke Wire Wheels, which are wrapped in Goodyear high performance rubber. But apart from the rolling stock this C3 is more or less all original, and McCormick tells us he plans to keep it that way. “I’m a firm believer in “if it’s not broke, don’t mess with it,”” he says.

It would take a team effort by the McCormick family to put this C3 stunner in Phil’s driveway, but he wouldn’t waste a moment of time getting this big block ‘Vette out on the road once the opportunity came his way.

A Family Accomplishment Provides A New Opportunity

Good things, as they say, come to those who wait, and the story behind how McCormick took ownership of this C3 is proof of that.

The car had roughly 83,000 original miles on it when McCormick took the keys in Washington. After the road trip back and plenty of cruising and commuting back in Pennsylvania, the odometer is at just over 89,000 now. “People were like, “Phil you’re crazy – I know you’re a car guy and you know cars, but why are you going to drive that car across the country?”” he recalls. “I said, “Why not?””

“This car is painted in my daughter Jordan’s favorite color,” McCormick tells us. “Which is appropriate, because without her, I would not have this Corvette.” While owning a big block C3 was always a dream of his, putting Jordan through college obviously took priority. Fortunately, Jordan’s accomplishments in academia would allow the McCormick family to do both.

“While Jordan was attending college in central Pennsylvania, she was selected to receive the NOAA Hollings Scholarship, which enabled me to redirect funds for a hotrod,” he says. “Once that happened, the search was on.”

Getting this particular C3 would prove to be something of a journey in more than one way though. “The guy called me up and I said, “I don’t want to insult you or anything like, but here’s what I have. He said he was looking for a bit more than that. I told him I totally understood that, and he said that if anything changed he would give me a call back. Six hours later he rang me up again and asked how quick I could get the money there for the car.”

Everything You Need, Nothing You Don’t

“I was amazed when I received the original order sheet from Kluge Chevrolet in Bremerton, Washington, with far more documentation than I ever expected to go along with the car,” says McCormick. “Turned out that the car was purchased new from Klug Chevrolet in 1969, and had remained in that area throughout the years until I purchased it.”

This C3 has obviously been well cared for throughout its life, as evidenced by the fact that the interior you see here is all original. "I found a little surprise when I pulled the seats out to clean the carpet," McCormick says. "I pulled the back seat covers off and I found the original certification tag from General Motors when they put the seats together."

The options sheet reads like a veritable wish list for Corvette grand touring. Equipped with a single 650-CFM four-barrel Rochester carburetor paired with an aluminum intake manifold, the high compression (10.25:1) L36 big block dished out 390 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque while keeping the fuel system tuning to a minimum.

While the L36 was not the most potent iteration of Chevrolet’s 427-cube big block V8 in 1969, with 390 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, it still offered no shortage of scoot. “It’s quick,” says McCormick. “Red light to red light, this thing is crazy. But gotta be careful – you jump on it too much and it’ll go completely sideways. I did that… once.”

Mated to the 2.52:1 ratio M20 Muncie gearbox, this combination would translate into a dash to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in less than six seconds while keeping the revs low during highway cruising. “I lucked out on the t-tops,” adds McCormick. “Getting the car with those was simply happenstance. But the power and the color combination are what I love most about it.”

 Made To Be Driven

The fact that the car was on the other side of the United States presented a bit of a dilemma for McCormick. “When I made the decision to drive the car home from Washington everyone said I was crazy – ship it,” he explains. “I said, “What’s the point of having a Corvette if you don’t enjoy it?” I figured that, considering what it would cost me to ship it across the country, I’d just drive it and if it broke I’d just call AAA. And this was a once in a lifetime trip.”

Before McCormick sealed the deal on the C3, he had his brother and friend who is a Corvette specialist go check out the car, both mechanically and to verify that was what the seller claimed it was. "I said, "Send me the numbers." So my brother sent me pictures of the block numbers, the VIN and all the other data we could find. I bounced it all up against the Black Book and everything checked out. I told him I'd take it, sight unseen!" So before he'd even had a chance to sit in it, McCormick took the plunge. "I got in it and said, "Is there anything that needs to get done?" And told me that we might want to change the valve cover gaskets because there was a bit of a leak, so we changed those in my brother's garage and had a nearby shop change the diff fluid before I hit the road."

With the help of his brother and McCormick’s good friends Frankie and Ron, who both live out near Seattle, he was able to both verify the authenticity of the car’s numbers-matching claim and get it road worthy for the 3200-mile trip back to the east coast, which included a new set of valve cover gaskets, an oil change, and some fresh fluid for the rear differential.

After flying out to take delivery of the Stingray and get it road worthy, McCormick immediately embarked on a cross-country road trip in his new ride. “What an amazing trip – the car ran like a champion,” he tells us. “The weather was perfect and the car was outstanding to drive. I had to replace two tires along the way, but that was it. We’d just gotten over into Idaho and one of the tires went bad. The way it happened was fortunate though – you could feel it, but the tire didn’t totally let go.”

“You’ve got to do a little bit of tinkering with any car,” McCormick points out. “Frank and Ron have been a huge help along way – they’re life savers. You have a lot of acquaintances in your life, you know, but you don’t have very many people that you can call family that are friends.”

After securing two new front tires for the Stingray, the two brothers were back on the road. “Driving cross country in a car that was made for the road was awesome,” McCormick says. “Seeing the states, feeling that pure American muscle, having some Kansas City barbecue, and then visiting with family in Indiana made the whole experience priceless.”

Upon arrival back in Pennsylvania, McCormick says he gave the C3 a thorough detailing and then proceeded to “drive her as a hotrod should be,” which means another set of tires might be in this car’s not-too-distant future. 

While the car has gotten the nod at a number of car shows, McCormick says that being selected as a car to compose the American flag at Corvettes of Carlisle is definitely highlight. "That was pretty cool - they don't do that all the time at that show. Being a veteran I got to represent that way, and it was just a really special experience. It gets to reflect a little bit - you have to step back every now and then and remember how fortunate you are to be able to have a Corvette. I never dreamed of having a Corvette when I was going up in Detroit!" Though he hasn't made the trek back to the Motor City for the Woodward Dream Cruise with the C3 as of yet, he says it's on the bucket list.

Since then, the car has received no shortage of accolades both out on the road and at the various car shows it has attended. This C3 has garnered its fair share of awards along the way too, including two Celebrity Choice awards at the Corvettes at Carlisle event, along with honors at the GM Nationals, Super Cars on State Street, and at the Antique Auto Club of America’s annual event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, among others. “The first big award I got for this car was on Father’s Day,” he explains. “It was really special because if it weren’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t have gotten this car. So that was really cool. She goes with me to car shows and stuff like that, but she says the car needs a five-point harness for the passenger seat!”

These days, while McCormick says he would like to eventually pull the motor, transmission and rear-end to perform a stock rebuild “just because,” he’s happy to simply enjoy the car as-is for the time being. “I’m a firm believer that if it’s not broke, don’t mess with it,” he says. “I drive it everywhere – I drive it work, take it out to shows, and just for fun whenever I get a chance. This thing doesn’t even overheat. Out here in Pennsylvania we get humidity like nobody’s business, and this car never has any issues with it. So I just leave it alone and keep driving and enjoying it the way it is.”

About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
Read My Articles

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