1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible - Black Out
Corvette, the single-most iconic American machine, has metamorphosed through several manifestations-six to be precise-that have captured the hearts and excited the interest of millions, both inside and outside our country's borders. But amid all the steps in the only surviving American exotic's evolution, one stage in the Corvette's growth has been more exemplary of the General's treatment of the car-the mid-'60s C2. The inaugural generation of the Sting Ray marque, the '63 through '67 Corvettes featured a high beltline, sharp, angular creases, and increasing performance platforms that ended with the famous 427 aluminum-headed tri-power big-block roaring in at 435 hp in 1967. The 1967 was a celebratory year for the Corvette, not only for the greatest power production in a single year, but also for the highest quantity of automotive advancements, including interior accommodations, improvements in drivability, and styling. Spartan was the theme with significantly less decoration and flair, as external badging and chrome were reduced, and interior dress-up was limited. Sure, options abounded with available air conditioning, a telescoping steering wheel, leather seats, tinted glass, and vinyl coverings for auxiliary hardtops. All these points made the '67 year a benchmark for this American sex symbol.
Johnny Downs knows this all too well. The owner of a massive collection of classic Corvette and other Bow Tie machines, including a '57 Bel Air, a '66 coupe, a '95 convertible, and an '06 Z06, Johnny has also had an example of each generation of Corvette from a '59 to a '90 Callaway convertible, to his current C6. The Sadler, Texas, resident has had a long-lived love of Corvettes for decades; he has owned a couple of Vettes in the past before finding this 1967. Previous experiences with a '65 C2 was the learning curve that taught him nearly everything he needed to know before embarking on another mid-'60s resto. He pooled several resources during the '65 build, including a catalog of manuals, part supplier contacts, and, more importantly, a subscription to Corvette Fever.
As he placed the meddlesome '65 up for sale, Johnny set his sights on a factory big-block '67. As the culmination year of Corvette's power surge for the second generation, he felt it imperative to have in his collection one of the most valued muscle machines to come from the big three. scanning a copy of Hemmings Motor News in 1994, he found an advertisement for a 390-horse 427 convertible in neighboring El Paso (though knowing the girth of the Texan landscape, we use "neighboring" loosely). The 1967 also wielded several options that whetted Johnny's appetite: air conditioning, a factory vinyl-covered hardtop, stinger stripe, factory tinted glass, and side pipes. On top of all that, it was black. So he flew out the next day to see the Corvette and evaluate the situation.
The triple-black roadster was in impressive shape, totally complete, and in Johnny's words, "a good driver." All that needed to be addressed was the blue stinger stripe. once sliding behind the wheel into the cushiony leather seats, Johnny knew he wanted it. The owner graciously hoisted the Corvette onto his car lift and walked him through a makeshift four-hour inspection of the car before a price could be agreed upon. Once the paperwork and currency were exchanged, Johnny began the trek home with his newest acquisition, but not before having a new soft top installed. Knowing that he bought this car to drive, he made sure that each winter session warranted him no more than three months worth of down time. The eventual restoration would take over four winters' worth of work; each season tackling more and more problems and nuances that needed to be addressed.
Johnny dedicated most of his inaugural summer repairing and replacing small parts where wear and tear had gotten the best of the aged Corvette. He also had the blue stripe replaced with red, as his mind's eye only allowed for the crimson stripe to appropriately suit the black paint. The following winter he had the engine pulled from under the front flip hood and rebuilt by D&P Machining Service in Garland, Texas. The leaky air-conditioning system was overhauled and updated, while the engine's coolant system was tackled by cleaning the radiator and replacing the water pump. While the powerplant was elsewhere, the engine compartment's rat's nest was cleaned, rewired, and painted. He also added power steering to the Corvette to improve the overall drivability.
The following summer came and went in a flash with a few accolades from local car shows, but leaving Johnny needing to refurbish the interior. The next winter found the seats recovered, carpet laid, and door panels replaced. The dash, console, and glove box also got the same restorative treatment.
Early that next year, he joined the Lone Star Corvette Club. Affiliated with an organization such as the Lone Stars permitted Johnny to caravan with other enthusiasts all over the country. The camaraderie and closeness of the club allowed him to learn from other Corvette aficionados, as well as casually compete with other Corvette clubs. That year he brought home several awards for his winter efforts, which only fueled him to continue on in the process of bringing his '67 back to exemplary condition.
That next winter was slated for painting the Vette. Deciding upon Stuart Singer of Stuart's Paint and Body in Dallas, Johnny brought his convertible over for a final recoating of that gorgeous black. Stuart promised a 90-day return on the car, but unlike most painters, actually made good on the promise. Johnny had his newly painted triple-black '67 back in time to take it around the Texas Motor Speedway for the inaugural prerace parade lap.
Johnny chose to end his cosmetic efforts with detailing the undercarriage of the Corvette, cleaning and painting all the components he could. His labor would earn him several trophies and awards, including participating for the fifth year in a row in the 700-mile trek from his home to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, with the Lone Stars.
Now, this '67 isn't just another rolling restoration. Johnny knew early on he wanted to take this machine out on the highway as much as he could. So sacrificing originality for drivability and function was the decision that needed to be addressed. He has made several modifications to his C2 that needed to be made in the name of function over form. Included as part of that process was the installation of new brake discs with coil springs up front and a monospring in the rear, all from Vette Brakes. Bilstein shocks help aid in improving the overall ride as well. The tri-power carb setup was a throwback to the classic, but with a fully streetable engine underneath the intake system, the engine behaves like a trained family guard dog. The leaky cooling system was updated with a Griffin aluminum radiator and a Flowkooler water pump. The engine has never missed a beat with the installation of a Mallory Unilite electronic distributor. the cabin retains its temperate environment with help of foil-back insulation under the carpet.
Sure, the purists might be biting their tongues right now, but as far as Johnny Downs is concerned, they don't know what they're missing. He is tickled with the reliable performance that his '67 delivers without question. The Corvette is not just stunning, but a truly enjoyable driving machine that brings smiles to the faces of not just those behind the windshield, but all those who see it as it passes by.

Photo Gallery: 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible - Corvette Fever Magazine

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