Return Of The Corvette

The winner of last year’s Shannon’s Insurance Best in Show Trophy was the 1961 Chev Corvette of Russell Pell from Congupna near Shepparton and it will be back again this year.

We thought that this would be a good opportunity to have a chat to Russell, who is also the Territory Manager of Australian National Show and Shine-Euroa sponsor Gulf Western Oil, trading as GV Oils.

The Corvette range of Chevrolet sports cars was launched by General Motors in the USA in 1953, originally built in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri. Colloquially known as the “Vette” or “Chevy Corvette”, the name “Corvette” was coined from the naval term for a small, fast and extremely manoeuvrable ship.

The ’61 Corvette varies from previous models by the addition of four tail lights, a feature which continues to the present day. It was also the last two-tone paint job until 1978, with Russell’s car looking resplendent with its eye-catching red and white livery.

With a 283 cubic inch (4.63 litre) V8 under the bonnet nourished via a 4-barrel carb on an Edelbrock manifold, the car develops over 250bph. Russell has added a mild cam and upgraded the distributor to a Mallory unit. Originally the early models delivered power via a 2-speed powerglide automatic or 3-speed manual, but this one sports a 4-speed Muncie box option.

The impressive dashboard, sporting a typical 1960s styling, has a speedometer which reads to 160 mph. Some models had a tacho redlined at 6,200rpm, although most were satisfied with a more sedate 5,000. Russell’s car retains the original left-hand drive.

Russell took delivery of the ‘Vette direct from the USA about three or four years ago, and set about upgrading some of the mechanicals, including re-furbishing the front end and upgrading the brakes. He also replaced the original cross-ply tyres with radials, including the traditional white-walls. This tyre upgrade resulted in a massive improvement in handling. This fact was confirmed in an article in the July issue of Unique Cars magazine, entitled “Booting up – here’s what happens when classic rubber hits the road.”

The ’61 Corvette is not the only one which Russell will have on display, with his very rare 1990 ZR1 making an appearance. This machine boasts a 5.7 litre Lotus-designed V8, and at the time held the record of the fastest production car in the world. Suffice to say that we found this a project too good to ignore, with another story in the pipeline a little further down track.