40 Years Later, Car-Crazy Teenager's 1969 C3 is a Complete Drag
Slideshow: Like smells and sounds, cars can trigger memories, and for Corvette owner Dee Hale, this C3 transformed dragster brings back lots of them and even some trophies.
On Any Given Saturday
Deep in the lush green landscape of Catoosa County, Georgia, sits a racing track called Brainerd Motorsports Park. On any given Saturday, you might find Corvette enthusiast Dee Hale running his C3 Corvette around the oval in the 7.0-second eighth-mile index class. Dale runs a 6.36 at 112.9 miles per hour with a 1.32-second 60-foot time. His drag-inspired Corvette has earned many trophies over the 40 years he's owned her, but what it gives him even more joy are the memories the two of them have made together. Because this is Dee Hale's first car, purchased when he was 16, and forty years later, they are inseparable.
Photos Courtesy of Tommy Lee Byrd for Super Chevy.
The Year was 1979
Like smells and sounds, cars can trigger memories. And if you have kept your first car for 40 years, chances are that car has seen some things. Maybe even everything. Dee admits the Corvette brings back so many memories, starting with the day he found her quite accidentally. The year was 1979. Sixteen-year-old Dee and his father were driving through the countryside when they caught a glimpse of the Tuxedo Black Corvette coupe parked in a carport in Flintstone, Georgia. Dee's father inquired about the Corvette, which carried a 350ci small-block engine and automatic transmission good for 300 horses. He also learned it was for sale. Dee's father bought it right then and there for $2,700 as a 16th birthday present for his son. He handed the keys over to Dee and let him drive the 40 or so miles home.
Reeling in the Years
When Dee was 18, the Corvette joined him on his last "first date" with the girl who would eventually become his wife. Dee and Terri shared a lot of fond memories in the Corvette, but mostly it sat in the garage getting old. Dee's passion for cars had turned him onto drag racing and he dragged all sorts of cars for many years until he realized it was time to roll his old friend out of the garage and let her have a turn. But first, the Corvette needed to get track-ready.
A Corvette in Drag
Dee's goal was to keep the Corvette as pure as possible, adding only the changes he needed to make it drag-race ready. He started with some of the basic mods, including a Rhodes Race Cars 10-point roll cage, and then removed the independent rear suspension for a rear axle and four-link suspension. Dee also installed a kit that added four-link bars and coilover shocks to the original frame rails.
Dressed for the Street, Built for the Track
Next, he focused on the rear end which was replaced with a late model 8.8 rear end from a Ford Explorer. The offset pinion on this factory rear end meant that Dee only had to narrow one side 2.875 inches to make the housing even. A pair of Moser 35-spline axles, spool, and 4.88:1 gears were installed, along with the Explorer's factory disc brakes. He also added a pair of QA1 coilovers and beefy Mickey Thompson 275/60R15 drag radials. He changed up the typical drag setup by adding 15x8 wheels to all four corners, giving the Vette a balanced look more appropriate for the street.
Under the Hood
The 1969 Corvette came with a standard 350 cubic engine that offered 300 and 350 brake horsepower versions but Dee wanted more power, so he swapped in a 412 cubic inch small-block Chevy and a Scat Pro Comp lightweight crankshaft. Pontiac 867 raised-port cylinder heads (retired NASCAR equipment that included much custom port work) improved the compression ratio from 10.25:1 to 13.5:1. A Comp Cams camshaft handles 276 degrees of duration on the intake side and 284 degrees on the exhaust. Comp roller lifters, Comp pushrods, and Scorpion 1.5:1 roller rockers put the valves into motion.
An Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold draws fuel and air from a 750-cfm carburetor and the fuel system is anchored by a Baker mechanical fuel pump and a Barry Grant fuel bypass regulator. The ignition is controlled by an MSD Pro-Billet distributor, 6AL box and Blaster 2 coil. Hooker Super Comp 1 3/4-inch headers and DynoMax bullet mufflers handle the exhaust. The PTC torque converter stalls to 5,500 rpm on the launch, and a Hurst Quarter-Stick shifter handles gear shifting duties.
You'd Never Know
Looking at Dee's C3, you'd never know what was happening on the inside until you sit behind the wheel and give her a go. The body is mostly stock despite the fact that it's received a fresh coat of paint thanks to Jack Green in Whitwell, Tennessee. Dee did modify the original hood bump by splitting it and adding a strip of fiberglass to it. Inside, he added 1998 Corvette seats and RaceQuip five-point harnesses. He upgraded the steering wheel and added auxiliary gauges and a 5-inch tachometer.
It's been forty years since car-crazy teenager Dee Hale climbed into this tuxedo black Corvette and hit the open road toward home. Forty years later they are still putting rubber to pavement, remembering the past as they lumber into the future, realizing perhaps that they are already home.
Photos Courtesy of Tommy Lee Byrd for Super Chevy.
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