By Brian Earnest
Ron Acker figured he had it right the first time. As a college student back in 1967, he took delivery of a shiny new 1967 Chevrolet Corvette coupe from a Madison, Wis., Chevrolet dealer. The date was April 7. He remembers the date like a family member’s birthday.
“Oh yeah, I remember it exactly,” laughs Acker, a resident of Waunakee, Wis. “I think that is something a guy would never forget, when he gets a new Corvette, and he’s only in college. I worked for my dad at his business while I was in college, and my dad bought me that new Corvette for working for his business. I was very fortunate.”
Seven years later, Acker’s life had changed dramatically and his beloved Marina Blue Corvette was getting squeezed out. It is a tale many car lovers can relate to from their younger days.
“I sold it in 1974 after we had three kids under 2 years of age,” Acker recalled. “I didn’t drive it much anymore, it was kind of in the way and I didn’t have any place for it, so I sold it, and that was something I always somewhat regretted.”
By 1996, Acker found himself in the mood to become a Corvette owner again, and he knew exactly what he was looking for. The 1967 Sting Ray was his favorite car and probably one of the most beloved American cars ever made. There was no reason to go looking for anything else, and when Acker found a car that was the same color and optioned almost identically to his first ’67 Corvette, he couldn’t resist.
“It was down in St. Charles, Ill. I saw the ad for it in April, and I thought about it for a while and didn’t do anything about it. Then, around the end of June, I called the guy and he still had the car,” Acker said. “We went and saw it around July 4 and wound up buying it. It looked just like the one I sold in 1974. It didn’t have the side exhaust and didn’t have whitewall tires like my first one had. Those were the only two changes I really added to it to make it identical to the one I sold in 1974.”
The Corvette had not exactly lived a sheltered life and had plenty of issues and shortcomings, but Acker says he was almost as excited as he was when his new ’Vette arrived in 1967. “To get one like I had originally … the ’67 in my opinion and many other people’s opinions is the greatest Corvette ever made,” he says. “The Sting Ray style is still great and it is still interesting, and in 2014, they brought back the name … But to a lot of people, the 1967 was, you might say, the epitome of Corvette design, and it’s still great today.”
Acker figures there was some karma at work, too. He had waited patiently for a long time to get back into Corvette ownership, and the timing was more than a little coincidental. “The story I always tell people is that I sold my first 1967 Corvette two months after our twins were born, and I bought this 1967 Corvette two months after they graduated from college!” he says.
Three decades had passed since he bought his first 1967 Sting Ray, but Acker, like many other red-blooded American males — and females — still considered the ’67s the coolest, sexiest, most desirable model ever made. Its styling was similar to the 1966, but a bit cleaner. The egg-crate style grille with Argent Silver finish returned from the previous year, and the hood was unchanged. Big-block cars had a large front-opening air scoop over the center bulge instead of the previous power blister.
The crossed flags badge on the nose of the 1967 Corvette had a widened “V” at its top. On the sides of the front fenders were five functional, vertical louvers that slanted toward the front of the car. Other changes were more subtle. The parking brake was moved from under the dash to the center console. A new headliner was cushioned with foam and fiber material. Four-way flashers, directional signals with a lane-change function, larger interior vent ports and folding seat-back latches were all new. At the rear there were now dual round taillights on each side instead of a taillight and optional back-up lights. The twin back-up lights were now mounted in the center of the rear panel, above the license plate.
Standard equipment included: a new dual-chamber brake master cylinder; six-inch-wide slotted rally wheels with trim rings; an odometer; a clock; carpeting; and a tachometer. The optional finned aluminum wheels were changed and had a one-year-only, non-knock-off center. Ten lacquer paint choices were offered: Tuxedo Black; Ermine White; Elkhart Blue; Lyndale Blue; Marina Blue; Goodwood Green; Rally Red; Silver Pearl; Sunfire Yellow; and Marlboro Maroon. Convertibles came with a choice of a black, white or teal blue soft top. The all-vinyl foam-cushioned bucket seats came in black, red, bright blue, saddle, white and blue, white and black, teal blue and green.
Acker can easily rattle off his car’s list of options and standard equipment. They are the same boxes that were checked on his first car. “It’s got the 350-horse 327 [V-8], wide-ratio four-speed, Marina Blue with the black vinyl interior, AM/FM radio, 3:36 Posi-Traction rear end. And this car has the bolt-on wheels. They are the repros and they were on it when I bought it in ’96. And that’s it … no power anything. No power brakes, no power steering. It’s not air-conditioned or anything, so it can get kind of hot in the summer.”
The L79 engine option with the 350-hp version of the 327 was one of seven engine choices available to new Corvette buyers at the start of 1967. The L75 was the standard 300-hp/327-cid mill. It was followed by the 350-hp L79 and four big-block 427 options that produced 390, 400, 425 and 435 hp, including the rare aluminum head L89. The ultra-high-performance L88, rated somewhere in the neighborhood of 560 hp, became a mid-year addition.
There were also five transmissions to pick from: three-speed manual; Powerglide automatic; wide-ratio four-speed manual; close-ratio four-speed manual; and special heavy-duty close-ratio four-speed.
Popular options included leather seat trim; tinted glass; power steering, windows, and brakes; side mount exhaust; air conditioning; and an auxiliary hardtop for convertibles. The droptops proved to be the most popular with buyers, with 14,436 produced at a base price of $4,141. The base coupes were actually about $212 more at $4,353. A total of 8,504 of the closed cars were assembled.
The vast majority (more than 88 percent) of 1967 Corvettes came with four-speed manual transmissions. Only about 10 percent had Powerglide.
By the time he got it, Acker’s car had been given a repaint with the same type of Marina Blue lacquer paint that it had from the factory. It was one of the few things that Acker decided to leave alone as he and his brother embarked on a lengthy “rolling restoration” that has never officially ended.
“It was painted in like 1995 by the guy I bought it from and it looked just like it does now. It looked really good and it was a nice paint job,” he says. “But otherwise, interior and mechanically, it was rough. Under the hood it was a disaster … missing pars, wrong parts, broken parts … the carpet was shot, seats were shot, trim pieces were bad or missing or faded.
“My brother Vern and I have done a frame-on restoration on it since I bought it, really. Each year we do a little work on it. He rebuilt the old drivetrain for me. The transmission wouldn’t shift down into second when I bought it, so he rebuilt that. The coil springs weren’t right on it and rear leaf was not correct … It’s been a work in progress and kind of a hobby of mine to work on the car. I have a lot of books I’ve read and learned a lot about the car. It’s been enjoyable learning to work on the car and I’ve really enjoyed having the car at shows. It’s a fun car to drive and take to shows, and I like to help people who are working on their ’63 to ’67s. I know a lot about it because I’ve had just about every nut and bolt apart on this car.”
Acker has rolled up about 25,000 miles over the past 18 years on his “second’’ ’67. The odometer shows 86,000 miles these days, and that total is sure to go up as the Ackers continue their old car hobby travels. Ron and Vern, who has a 1964 Corvette, often show up together at events such as the Iola Old Car Show in Wisconsin. They are going to rebuild the carburetor on Ron’s ’67 before they start hitting the road again. Ron also has a matching blue 1998 Corvette at home that he bought second-hand. The 1967 remains his favorite, but he would never rule out adding another iconic ’Vette to his stable.
“What do they say, Corvettes are like Lay’s potato chips,” he chuckles. “You can’t stop with just one.”
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