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1965 Corvette Sting Ray: Improving On Perfection

1965 Corvette Sting Ray

1965 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe

1965 Corvette Sting Ray: An American Icon 2.0

I had already completed my illustration of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. I was exhibiting my automobile illustrations at an art show at the Halifax, Nova Scotia waterfront. A distinguished gentleman viewed my exhibit and admired my Corvette illustration. He had only one issue with it – it was a ’63, not a ’65.

It seems this gentleman was a retired RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officer. During the ’65 Corvette’s heyday, he encountered a few during his stints on highway patrol. He loved the way they looked and more than one out-ran him on patrol.

Not one to hold a grudge, now that he was retired, he located and bought the very car that made his patrols that much more interesting – a silver 1965 Corvette. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Seeing my automotive art made him realize his garage was missing a portrait of a vehicle that spanned his career right into his retirement. See above for the result of our encounter.

This former officer’s choice of the ’65 over the ’63 is upheld by the improvements now incorporated in the Sting Ray. Improvements over the ’63 Corvette included improved suspension and more sound insulation. Brakes were all-new and powerplants were beefed up. 4-wheel disc brakes were now standard, with improvements to match pending federal regulations of a duel master cylinder with separate fluid reservoirs for front and rear brakes. A new optional V-8 marketed as Turbo Jet upped the Corvette’s performance capability. And of course, the split rear window had become one in the 1964 model, probably a sensible move for rear visibility, but not quite as distinctive.

What was very distinctive about the Corvette Sting Ray was the exhaust side pipes, first offered as an option in the 1965 model year. With this option, standard factory panels were modified and the exhaust used a chambered design that attempted to balance the noise level that law enforcement agencies would accept, but still offer the exhaust sound owners desired. The biggest challenge for the engineers was allowing entering and exiting the vehicle without getting 3rd degree burns. 

GM was right to only offer incremental visual updates to the venerable Corvette Sting Ray. This second generation (C2) Corvette, in my mind, is the most distinctive and iconic example of the 60’s American styling panache.

Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.

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Land Rover Series II

Land Rover Series II

 

Land Rover Series II

The Taming of the Wild…

The first time I ever noticed a Land Rover Series II was in late 1969. My parents had just moved to Lesotho, a mountainous land-locked country surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. My father was establishing agricultural development projects in Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. The Land Rover was one of the project vehicles.

The Land Rover was conceived after World War II, as a temporary measure to keep the auto manufacturer Rover afloat and generate enough cash-flow to get it back on its feet to restart car production. The Willys Jeep was the initial inspiration. The body was made of an aluminum/magnesium alloy because steel was tightly rationed at the time. Because paint was also in tight supply, Land Rover made do with army surplus green paint.

The big surprise was that the Land Rover greatly out-sold the Rover car, once car production resumed. Thus, the Land Rover developed into its own very successful brand.

The Land Rover my father inherited for the projects was a mid sixties Series II Station Wagon. This particular vehicle had already seen a lot of off-road service and had its own unique body characteristics. It had been rolled in one of its off-road expeditions. Just roll it back and keep on truckin’!

Because this Land Rover was often used to transport workers from one farm location to another, the extended length and rear seats distinguished it from the more common short wheel base Land Rovers normally encountered; lots of room for passengers and farm implements.

There were a few things I always loved about this vehicle. It was a real work truck, stripped of pretty well any extras, though it did sport a “Safari Roof”, a second skin fitted on top of the roof allowing for added ventilation. This helped cool the truck in summer and reduce condensation in Lesotho’s cooler months. I loved the fact that the engine could be hand-cranked in the event of a starter failure; handy in the many very remote areas this vehicle travelled. On an aesthetic note, I got a kick out of the close-set headlights, though I’m not sure if this hindered driver’s visibility at night. The headlights were eventually relocated to the outside fenders in the next series iteration, probably because of regulations in other regions of the world.

Probably my most memorable experience with the Land Rover was one trip I joined in early 1974. One of the project farms was in a very remote area of Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. After an initial rendezvous in Gabarone, we headed to a remote village to meet with the villagers to discuss an on-going agricultural project. Shortly after leaving Gabarone, the roads graduated from paved to dirt and not too long after, I noticed we weren’t on roads at all. We were travelling cross country, probably following animal trails. We eventually located our destination village on the desert edge.

What I saw next surprised me. The entire village came out to greet us. Chairs were set up in a large circle outside and everyone participated in the discussions. Whenever I think of the ultimate Land Rover experience, this comes to mind – a vintage Land Rover used in the environment for which it was ultimately developed – as a work tool to help a community maintain its ability to sustain itself.

I guess what I would call the Land Rover Series II is a truck’s truck! It’s there to do a job. For my Land Rover Series II illustration, the beautiful highland villages of Lesotho seemed an appropriate backdrop. These beautiful village settings of  rondavels or mokhoro buildings, are often elaborately carved and painted and covered with a thatch roof that is sewn to the support poles with grass rope. Simple and functional like the Land Rover.

 

Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.

 

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1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS

1969 Chevrolet Camaro

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The Pony Wars Heat Up

My very first awareness of the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro was in September 1969. I got a new temporary roommate in my grade 12 dorm room. His family was in the process of moving to Rome, Italy from the US. He stayed in the dorm until his family’s accommodations were up and running. I got introduced to 2 things that September – the audio cassette tape and the first generation Camaro. I would actually only want one of those today… I remember him showing photos of the Camaro when we first met. Very cool! The Camaro was their family car. And he had set up his tape cassette system in the dorm room, next to the rather cumbersome reel to reel.

Chevrolet knew that with the runaway success of the Ford Mustang, the Corvair just wasn’t going to cut it as Mustang competition, especially with all the recent bad publicity. Enter the Camaro.

The first-generation Camaro, based on the Chevy Nova, appeared in September 1966 as the 1967 model year. This new Chevy, a rear-wheel drive 2-door coupé and convertible with 2+2 seating,  was designed to accept a variety of power plants in the engine bay, offering a similar something-for-everone approach that Mustang initiated. The ’69 could be ordered with one of 14 different engines, which allowed for a lot of customization. The base engine was a 250 cubic inch six cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower. At the other end of the spectrum was a 427 cubic inch V-8 with 430 horsepower. That range gave this car an almost universal appeal.

The first-generation Camaro would last until the 1969 model year and would eventually inspire the design of the new retro fifth-generation Camaro.

The 1969 Camaro featured entirely new, sportier, more aggressive looking sheet metal and a revised grille, with the vehicle exhibiting a wider looking stance for the earlier years.

As with the Mustang, Camaro was available with different packages. The RS package included a special grill with concealed headlights and washers, chrome wheel well moldings, drip rails, pinstripes, and RS badging. It was available on any model.

The SS performance package consisted of a 350 or 396 cu in V8 engine and chassis upgrades for better handling and to deal with the additional power. The SS featured non-functional air inlets on the hood, special striping, and SS badging.

The Z/28 performance package was designed with additional modifications to compete in the SCCA Trans-Am series. It included a solid-lifter 302 V8, 4-speed transmission, power disc brakes, and two wide stripes down the hood and deckled.

Variable-ratio steering was introduced in 1969. All 1969 Camaros with four-speed transmissions came with Hurst shift linkages. The 1969 Camaro was the only model year to have headlight washers. The system was operated by vacuum much like windshield washers.

The Camaro was almost called Panther — Chevrolet took its time coming up with a name for the Camaro. For quite a while, it was referred to internally as the Chevrolet Panther. Chevy’s preference for names beginning with a “C” finally won out, and the Panther name died. “Camaro” means nothing — The name was actually a contrived moniker.

Although the Camaro came 2½ years after the Mustang debut and was often outsold by the Mustang, it has a healthy lead in the Indianapolis 500. The ’69 Camaro paced the Indy 500, as did the ’67. The Camaro has been the official pace car at Indy six times, versus just three for the Mustang.

This 1969 Camaro represents the peak of the pony car era. 

Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.

 

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