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OWN A PIECE OF MOTORSPORTS HISTORY: Mickey Thompson’s Z06 Stingray

Posted on 26 December 2016

The late, great Mickey Thompson was a man of many talents – and allegiances. Though known for bursting into the offices of high-powered Detroit auto executives at Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Ford wearing blue jeans and T-shirts, Mickey got a pass; he was the real deal. A Southern California native (born in Alhambra, California, in 1928), he was at the core of the California speed equipment scene, where his entrepreneurial drive and imposing 6-foot frame quickly put him at the top. If any of the speed-crazed California “hot-rodders” was to be taken seriously and trusted with million-dollar factory-backed Detroit racing programs, Mickey Thompson was that man.

1963-chevrolet-corvette-z06-big-tank-coupe_frontSo when GM sought assistance in developing the new 1963 Corvette Stingray to better compete with Carroll Shelby’s AC Cobra on road race courses all over the globe, it turned to Thompson. Five brand-new 1963 Z06 Stingrays were shipped to Thompson in late 1962 for development. In their first battle, a September 1962 sports car race at Riverside Raceway, driver Doug Hooper stole the show, besting Z06 Stingray teammates Bob Bondurant, Jerry Grant and Dave McDonald along his way to the checkered flag.

Of the five Z06s sent to Mickey Thompson, one was reserved for his personal use. That car has endured five decades and is headed to the 2017 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction, restored to its as-owned configuration and offered at No Reserve as Lot #1363. The thought of sliding behind the wheel of the very car once enjoyed by Mickey Thompson triggers the imagination in a thousand ways. Let’s remember, Mickey was also deeply involved with other GM divisions at the same time.

1963-chevrolet-corvette-z06-big-tank-coupe-_interiorIt is certain that while Mickey drove the streets of Southern California at the helm of this special Stingray, aboard it he undoubtedly pondered progress of separate enterprises, including fielding no fewer than five cars at the 1963 Indy 500, one being the trendsetting Harvey Aluminum Special. The so-called “roller skate car,” its novel 12-inch diameter wheels, low-profile tires and extremely low mass unnerved race officials enough to trigger sweeping rule book changes for 1964.

Also, a glance at the Bonneville Salt Flats land speed record book will reveal Mickey’s historic 1960 performance at the wheel of his four-engine Challenger I, pushed by four Pontiac 389 Super Duty engines to a record-setting velocity of 406.6 mph. He was – for a while – the fastest man in the world aboard a wheel-driven vehicle. Mickey most likely recalled the sight of Bonneville’s blinding white expanse through the windshield of this car.

And let’s not forget the drag strip. There is little doubt that this austere but potent Ermine White Z06 Stingray made appearances at California’s legendary Lions Drag Strip. But they weren’t necessarily on the starting line. After all, Thompson managed the Long Beach, California, facility for several years in the early to mid-1960s. Thompson also served as a worldwide ambassador for drag racing by visiting England in 1963 to demonstrate the technique of quarter-mile, standing-start acceleration trials. Did this car deliver him to the Los Angeles International airport to begin his flight abroad?

1963-chevrolet-corvette-z06-big-tank-coupe-_enginePredicting Thompson’s switch to Ford programs in the late ’60s, the car Mickey took to England in 1963 was a 427 Ford-powered front-engine dragster. His eventual switch to Ford in 1968 was triggered by GM’s self-imposed March 1963 anti-racing policy. With unwanted attention being focused on the auto giant by trust-busting politicians seeking to break up GM’s claimed “monopoly,” high-profile racing activities were curtailed. Ever the survivor, Thompson’s multi-faceted racing activities found support at Ford in 1968 – where former GM boss Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen just so happened to have been hired, and who proved to be very sympathetic to Mickey’s ideas.

By 1969 Thompson was at it again with a fleet of Ford Mach 1 Funny Cars, Bonneville-bound Mustangs and an ill-fated land speed record attempt aboard the Ford-sponsored Autolite Special streamlined. Though Thompson’s effort failed, a sweet postscript materialized 50 years later when Thompson’s son Danny drove the same car (with updates) to a record-setting 406.769 mph performance on August 13, 2016.

1963-chevrolet-corvette-z06-big-tank-coupe-_rear_3-4Beyond this Stingray’s unique history serving as Mickey Thompson’s personal transportation, it stands tall on its own merits: It’s a one-year-only split-window coupe, one of only 10,594 made, and it has the top-notch L84 Rochester mechanical fuel-injected 327 with 360 horsepower, one of only 2,610 built. But that’s just scratching the surface. It is also equipped with the Z06 Special Performance Equipment package consisting of a dual-circuit master cylinder, sintered metallic brake shoes (disc brakes were still two years away), larger shock absorbers, and sway bar and posi-traction. Priced at a stout $1,818 – nearly one-half as much the 1963 Stingray coupe’s $4,252 base price – only 199 were built.

And proving simultaneously that “less is more and more is more,” this Thompson-bound Z06 wasn’t fitted with a radio, an extra-cost driver convenience item found in 20,546 of the 21,513 Stingrays built in 1963. But while only 967 Stingray owners were satisfied with music provided by the 327ci rock ’n’ roll band under the fiberglass hood, this example is also one of only 63 delivered with the massive N03 36-gallon fuel tank. Available to highway travelers and road racers alike for $202.30, the size of the fiberglass tank encroached into the cargo area below the unique split-glass backlight.

The added fuel capacity reduced the frequency of pit stops for refueling, be it on the highway or racetrack. And while we cannot confirm that Mickey Thompson took advantage of its extended highway cruising range, the vision of Thompson racing along Interstate 40 on the way to his next high-level negotiation in Detroit is inescapable. Then again, it is possible Thompson used the Z06 simply to zip around Los Angeles. Regardless, the fact that one of America’s leading speed equipment kings once used this car for daily transportation sets it apart.

Fully researched, confirmed and documented by Corvette specialist David Burroughs’ exhaustive “Prove It” verification service (Burroughs is the esteemed founder of the Bloomington Gold certification process), this chance to own Mickey Thompson’s personal transportation is surely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Seize it.

For up-to-date information about this vehicle, click HERE.

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