700hp, 540-cube 1969 Corvette Stingray

He couldn’t afford a real ZL1, so Andy Felton upped the ante with a 700hp, 540ci replica

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

Just when you think you can’t be caught off-guard in this game, along comes something to side-swipe you good and proper. In this case, one of the nicest Corvettes you’ll ever see. Even if you don’t think you’re a ’Vette fan, it’s impressive.

First published in the November 2007 issue of Street Machine

With a jet-black finish so deep that it looks like it was just dipped in oil and the curves of the ’69 coupe body hunkered down over 18-inch Intro wheels, Andy Felton’s Corvette is automotive porn.

Andy spends his days behind a camera with Channel 9, and the job gave him the opportunity to work in the USA.

“I got posted to the Hollywood bureau, which was a lot of fun,” he says. “I tried to stay but after about three years I had to give someone else a go.”

As soon as he was settled in Stateside, he went looking for a suitable car to cruise Sunset Strip.
“As a kid I’d dreamed about owning a Cobra but then I found out about the ZL1 Corvette, which was bigger and badder!”

Andy admits he didn’t really know too much about Corvettes at the time but he managed to find a genuine white-with-black-interior, 427ci, 390hp four-speed car. There was one small problem though — it was in pieces.

“I paid US$8000 for the car, which was apparently a barn find. It hadn’t been registered since ’85 and I bought it in ’98. The bloke I bought it off had a business on the side fixing up Corvettes, so I asked him if he could put it together for me. By the time it hit the road a few months later, it owed me about $16,000 and it was red.”

For the rest of his stay in the US, Andy — with his better half and financial controller, Moanie — used it as everyday transport, even taking it grocery shopping. When it came time to head home, there was no way the Corvette was staying in the US. The Yanks’ loss was our gain and the Aussie scene was up one little red Corvette.

“In the States there weren’t that many but there are way too many red Corvettes in Australia,” Andy says.

There’s nothing worse than rolling up to a cruise in your killer big-block ’Vette and three more red ones pull up next to you!

When people think side pipes, they think 70s custom vans but they were factory options on Corvettes

That was just part of the reason why Andy thought it was time for a change. He was also unable to shake the thoughts of the ZL1 from his mind, so he knew what he had to do. With a good base to work from — the car had never been hit and there wasn’t a speck of rust (not surprisingly!) — a few upgrades would make all the difference.

For those of you who are not familiar with the alphabet soup of factory options that Chevrolet offered in the 60s, the ZL1 was arguably the granddaddy of them all. Ticking the right boxes got you an all-alloy 427 big-block with thicker wall castings and webbing, four-bolt mains and provisions for a dry-sump system. It’s pretty obvious what type of customer this motor was intended for.

Starting price for a genuine ZL1 block and pistons is about US$35K

Although it was aimed fair and square at the race teams, the ZL1 option was freely available to the general public, though not many people took the option up, with at most three Corvettes and ’69 Camaros receiving the killer combo. With a premium of $4,718.35 on top of the $4,781 sticker price of a brand new ’69 Vette, it’s no surprise not too many people chose it. That wasn’t the end of it either, because there were mandatory ‘options’ that you had to have if you ordered a ZL1. Ordering the whole package brought the total cost of your Corvette up to $10,048.15. That was some serious coinage for 1969.

Andy considered cloning one of the legendary ’Vettes but the starting price for a genuine ZL1 block and pistons is about US$35K, so that put the stoppers on that idea.

“It would have been good but I wanted to go one better, so that’s why I went with the 540,” he says.

It’s not just any 540 either but a Shafiroff-built crate motor that has been dynoed at 712.5hp on pump gas! Based on a Donovan D500 aluminium block, it’s topped with Dart Pro 1 325cc alloy heads and filled with Mahle 10.5:1 pistons, Eagle rods and a Callies Dragonslayer crank.

Induction is handled by a genuine L88/ZL1 intake and 950 Mighty Demon carb which is fed nice cool air by the cowl-induction bonnet.

When most people think side pipes, they think 70s custom vans but this is where they really belong. They were a factory option in ’69 and certainly look the part on Andy’s ’Vette. These particular units were supplied by Hooker and features 2.125in primaries, a four-inch collector and four-inch pipes. To keep the sound to a plod-pleasing level, they’ve been fitted with Car Chemistry muffler inserts, while some extra quietening was performed by GT Motor Sport in Kirrawee. But don’t worry — you can still hear it coming from a mile away.

As tough as the old Muncie ’box was, it was a pretty good bet it would struggle with the extra torque of the new motor. In its place is a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed, with a McLeod twin-plate clutch and a Lakewood scattershield. There’s a chrome-moly driveshaft and Andy has recently updated the diff with a super-tough unit from Tom’s Differentials.

The suspension has also been upgraded with a Max Performance package from Eckler’s which features lightweight, yet heavy duty, upper and lower A-arms, composite mono-leaf springs front and rear, Bilstein gas shocks and beefy 1.25in and 0.75in sway bars. Andy also stiffened up the chassis with a custom X-brace. Another brace helps keep the shock towers in their proper spots.

All that stuff under the skin is great but it’s what’s on top that really makes this car stand out in a sea of Corvettes. The most outstanding feature is the paint scheme. It’s only two colours: black and white. There’s no pearl, candy, metalflake or airbrushing, just a black car with a white stripe.

One of the original ZL1s has the reverse of the same scheme, which is what inspired Andy for his paint job but it look a lot more menacing than the white-with-black-stripe that the factory came up with.

From the front it’s just another menacing black Corvette but when you see it from behind — the view most people get — you see a painted-out tail panel and wide stripe that goes across the boot, over the roof and onto the bonnet. All she needs is a couple of race numbers on the door and she’s ready to race!

The flawless bodywork, paint and the bulk of the construction was handled by Jason Cavenagh and his team at Classic Fabrications. To get those massive 18×10 and 18×12 Intro Pentias under the body, a set of factory-style racing flares were seamlessly blended in. Wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tyres — 275/35 front, 335/30 rear — Andy reckons she hangs in pretty well around the bends.

To make sure she stops as sharply as she goes, he upgraded the front brakes to massive 14-inch rotors with C6 Corvette calipers. Yet to come are drilled and slotted Wilwood units for the rear.

With the driveline built as tough as nails, suspension that’s set up to go around bends and brakes that’d haul up a train, you can bet Andy’s keen to get this baby around a track to see how she really goes. In a straight line the original ZL1s could run deep into the 10s over the quarter and kicked a few butts on the circuit too. With more than 100 extra cubes on board, you can bet this baby won’t be any slouch!


Colour:DeBeers Brilliant Black
Block:Donovan D500 alloy, 540ci
Induction:Mighty Demon 950cfm
Heads:Dart Pro 1 325cc aluminium
Camshaft:Comp Cams Street Roller
Lifters:Crane Hippo extreme duty solid roller
Pistons:Mahle custom-coated, 10.5:1, forged
Crank:Callies 4340 Dragonslayer
Oil pump:Moroso Street/Strip
Sump:Moroso Street/Strip
Fuel:98 octane
Cooling:Be Cool (USA) radiator, twin electric fans
Exhaust:Hooker side pipes
Ignition:MSD electric ignition, Pro Billet distributor, MSD 6AL ignition controller, Blaster SS coil
Dyno:712.5hp@6100rpm; 688.9lb-ft@4600rpm
Gearbox:Tremec TKO-600 five-speed
Diff:3.70 gears
Tailshaft:Tremec chrome-moly steel
Clutch:McLeod twin-plate
Springs:Composite mono-springs (f&r)
Shocks:Bilstein (f&r)
Sway bars:1¼in (f), ¾in (r)
Mods:Heavy duty upper and lower A-arms
Steering:Steeroids rack and pinion kit
Brakes:14in rotors, C6 calipers (f), stock (r)
Rubber:Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35 ZR (f), 335/30 ZR (r)
Rims:Intro Pentia 18×10 (f), 18×12 (r)

Moanie B. Roberts, financial controller; Jason Cavenagh, Classic Fabrications plus Frank Memedi, Thomas Kramer, Ross (electrical), Ronnie and Neil; Jeff Bryan, GT Motor Sports; Ray Flaherty, Junk Yard Classics; Big Leo, BLR Racing; Wayne, WF Rogers Transport; Chris and Rick, Select Towing; Eagle Auto Spares; One Stop Auto Air; Ian Armstrong, VIP Car Care; Cameron McLean: Fred Ogden; Steve Thomson; Steve Busittil; The Rat Pack — Stephen Debattista, Matt James, George Michael, Gary Lackersteen, John Yelash and Paul Boschert.