Second Time Around: Frank Manning’s ’64 Corvette Vintage Racer

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What’s the longest amount of time you’ve owned one car? Five years? ten? Maybe 20 for a select few among you? Frank Manning can double that last number with his ’64 Chevrolet Corvette. He’s owned the car for a whopping 40 years and has likely racked up more road course miles than many of our tired, utilitarian commuters. The car has been through several different iterations in its four decades and is — and will likely always be — an ever-evolving exercise in innovation.

The story begins in 1970 when, a then 21-year-old, Manning brought home the Corvette. The car originally wore silver paint and came equipped with the now extremely desirable 375 horsepower, fuel-injected 327 cubic inch engine and a four-speed manual transmission.IMG_9504

Porsche and 2 Stingrays (Dec 76)

This shot was taken at Riverside Raceway before it was closed down.

While driving the car was fun, it wasn’t long before Frank got bit by the racing bug. Less than a year after bringing the car home he was behind the wheel, competing in slalom races. And, by ’73 the car had ben retired from the street to be driven exclusively at racing events.

Not long after, Manning made the jump to SCCA Solo 1. Racing continued for the ’75 and ’76 seasons but when Manning and wife France became pregnant with their daughter, the car was garaged while they raised a family.

100_0758The Corvette sat quietly under a cover until 2005 when a good friend of Manning’s,  brought home a Corvette of his own. That car was an ex-SCCA car that had a lot of racing history in its bones but needed quite a bit of work to be race-ready again. And so a deal was struck to swap time and labor to help each other rebuild both cars.“It was an, ‘I’ll help you with yours if you help me with mine,’ situation,” said Manning.

What soon commenced was a frame-off restoration of Manning’s Corvette that completely surpassed the car’s former glory.

Engine and Drivetrain


Despite class restrictions such as iron cylinder heads and a dual-plane intake manifold, the engine still produces a mighty 530 horsepower.

While the car was under the knife, a much stouter power plant was built and lowered into the engine bay. The new 355-inch small-block is based on the NASCAR-inspired Chevrolet Performance Bow Tie Block. The new motor displaces only 28 cubic inches more than its predecessor but makes much better use of that capacity. In the oily depths of the engine’s crank case lives a lightweight Crower Crankshaft and connecting rods and ceramic-coated CP Pistons that bring the compression ratio to a race-gas-dependent 12.9:1.

Valvetrain duties are initiated by a Crower roller camshaft which transfers lift through Crower lifters to Manton pushrods and, lastly, Crower endurance rockers up top. PAC racing valve springs are more than up to the task of controlling the cam’s .600-plus inches of lift and aggressive duration and a set of 2.055/1.6-inch Manley valves let the air in and out of the cylinders. The carefully selected grouping of lightweight components allow the engine to rev to a 7,400 rpm redline and Manning’s careful attention to oiling requirements allow it to live at high sustained engine speeds.


This Moroso oil accumulator keeps the engine well lubricated during hard cornering.

“I’ve done a lot of work to get the oil pressure where I want it,” says Manning. “I machine my own spacers for the oil pump relief spring.”

Manning’s engine utilizes a conventional wet-sump oiling system, not an exotic — read expensive — dry-sump set up. The only addition to the system besides a Moroso road-racing oil pan is an oil accumulator (also produced by Moroso) that keeps oil pressure from dipping into an unsafe zone should high G-forces expose the pump’s pickup.

IMG_9499It’s important to note that Manning isn’t your typical small-block Chevy tinkerer. A mechanical engineering degree from San Diego State and a garage stocked with welders, mills lathes; and, most importantly, the know-how to use all of the above, ensures that this engine (and car) is a lot more than the sum of its parts.


Building a race car to the level Manning did takes time. A lot of time. So Frank had to settle for imaginary laps until the car was done.

Despite its conservative displacement and being held to vintage racing rules, which require cast-iron cylinder heads and a somewhat restrictive dual-plane intake manifold, the car still manages to crank out a more-than-respectable 530 horsepower.

All of those ponies are coupled to a lightweight NASCAR-style steel flywheel and a Tilton Engineering, OT-II, 7.25-inch, triple-disc racing clutch. It’s a nasty piece of machinery that would make the car a bear to drive on the street, but its 1000 lb/ft holding capacity  and extremely durable metallic clutches make for zero slippage on the track and lighting-quick shifting.

March09 9136Behind the bullet-proof clutch is an equally fortified transmission. The original Muncie has been replaced with an Auto Gear Muncie case and the gears inside have been swapped for those with ratios more conducive to the engine’s power band. Manning also machined the tail shaft of the transmission to accept a roller bearing for the driveshaft yoke. The roller bearing reduces wear on the driveshaft, especially at the RPMs the Corvette is regularly turning on track.

“I put the car through the worst conditions all weekend than I park it in the garage and there are no leaks,” says Manning.

Manning designed this jig to break in his differentials before running them on the car. He sets up all his differentials himself and has them plumbed to a diff oil cooler underneath the car.

The last stop in the power delivery process is the differential. Like the rest of the car, Manning’s is anything but stock. C2 Corvettes used an IRS version of GM’s 10-bolt. While the external casting is obviously modified to accommodate remote mounting and the independent rear’s stub axles, the innards utilize a ten bolt’s ring and pinion gear and carrier assembly. Manning’s differentials have all been blue-printed and plumbed for a remote oil cooler.

100_0904In addition to setting up his own differentials (that includes building his own pinion depth-setting tool and case splitter), Manning also engineered a way to break them in off the car.  He built a fixture that bolts the differential to an electric motor. The yoke is then spun at the motor’s peak speed (1,725) rpm for about ten hours. This breaks the gears in in a much more gentle manner than a full-on road course assault. Manning has found that by performing this procedure, the pinion preload stays exactly where he set it. Also, in a neat stack behind one of his various milling machines, sits several differential spares that are prepped and ready to race — there are even a few different final drive ratio choices to help fine tune the car’s performance at different tracks. .

Suspension and Brakes

IMG_9544While vintage racing rules require that the cars suspension remain largely original, Manning has made subtle tweaks where allowable. The factory equipped 2-link IRS is retained in the rear but with spherical bearings added to improve articulation and stronger bolts installed for safety. Vastly superior QA1 double-adjustable gas shocks now control body movement and the rear, transverse spring has had one leaf removed to dial in the spring rate.

IMG_9545The original brakes are a lot more capable than most would expect. They are discs front and rear with OEM-equipped, Delco-Morane four-piston calipers at both ends. Manning has tuned them up a bit by machining out the piston bores and adding stainless steel sleeves to reduce wear in the original cast-iron caliper bodies. Between the calipers and the rotors are a set of Hawk Performance racing pads that pull the reigns on the 500-horsepower car quickly and reliably.

Body and Interior 


While Manning purchased the rear fender flares shortly after he began racing the car, he constructed the front flares from scratch. That included shaping his own molds and laying the fiberglass in his garage.

The interior of the ‘Vette is indicative of its race car nature. Creature comforts are non existence and function takes precedence over form at every possible juncture. That being said, it is one of the most immaculate racing-only interiors this writer has yet to see.

The original cast aluminum Corvette dash is still in place, but Manning has painstakingly machined it to fit Auto Meter gauges in place of the ambiguous factory pieces. However, the original 160-mph speedometer was retained. A Crow Enterprizes racing seat and 5-point harness keeps Manning snugly in place behind the wheel. Because a Corvette’s body tub is made of fiberglass, Manning added steel supports between the frame rails to mount the seats more securely. There are mounts for a passenger seat, should Manning feel the need to scare the pants off unsuspecting victims, but it is usually kept out of the car. The center dash is alive with neatly labeled switches, easily accessible fuses and the pull tab for the cars fire suppression system. In the original glovebox resides the electrical panel organized perfectly with labeled relays, fuses and an hour meter to log the engines track time. A rear roll bar bolts through the fiberglass pan to the corvettes frame, its bars adorned with decades worth of tech inspection stickers.


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Restoration/upgrades were completed in 2008 and by 2009 it was time for Manning and France to reignite their passion for racing. The organization they chose to do that with was the Vintage Auto Racing Association, (VARA). VARA is one of the largest vintage and historic racing organizations in the country and is dedicated to the active racing of historic and classic race cars. “We [VARA ] are gentlemen racers, there is no contact allowed, but we do race,” said Manning. “This is not a scripted race, if your car is faster than mine, you’re going to beat me.”

Originally the car ran in BPM  but Frank switched back to 15-inch wheels along with a few other changes and began competing in the BPGT class where he did very well.

“In the 2012 race season we took first place in BPGT,” said Manning.

While racing with VARA, Manning has driven the car at Willow Springs Raceway, Button Willow Raceway, Laguna Seca, Spring mountain Raceway, the infield at Autoclub Raceway Fontana, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Before VARA, Manning remembers driving the car at the now-defunct Riverside Raceway.


This Corvette is a driver’s car, through and through. And it doesn’t claim to be anything else. That is what makes it so truly awesome. You won’t catch Manning or France lounging about at the local car show with it — that just isn’t their scene. You’re much more likely to find them in the pits at a California racetrack, wrenching on the car in the pits or tearing down a straightaway in search of the next checkered finish.

Photo gallery


About the author

Evan Perkins

Evan Perkins is a seasoned automotive journalist with a passion for road racing. Evan has logged seat time in more cars than he can count and has a deep-seeded love for all genres of the motoring world.
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