Way before they became cornerstones of automotive publishing and aftermarket parts, the guys who created our world were just a lot of racers, happy for any chance to get on track. Racing was cheaper then than it is now, but it was still a monetary commitment, which led to many young men hooking up with a friend or two to pool campaign and resources a car. That’s what actually transpired in 1970, when HOT ROD editor John Dianna asked his neighbor, racer and transmission guru Marv Ripes if he’d want to partner high on a race car.
“Johnny called me up and said he’d found a Corvette with a blown-up motor,” Marv recalls, “He was doing a paint job story for the magazine. Joe Andersen did it I believe. In Gardena. (Look up HRM Oct ’69 to see the storyline) Anyway, he asked me should i wanted to put one of my engines and trans within it and go racing. I’d been doing pretty well with John Barkley’s old car-that’s the one I believed out the 8-inch converter on, and I’d won the Spring Nationals with that, however I sold it, and so i was pleased to put the spare engine in the ‘Vette.”
Woh, hold on now, that’s a lot of good things in one place. Let’s back up a bit. Marv is retired now, but he still consults for the company he were only available in 1959, A-1 Performance. In the late ’60s, A-1 was slightly place in the San Fernando Valley, but Marv used his racing experience to create lots of winning changes to stock transmissions. So, what’s the story about the 8-inch converter?
“When you’re launching a race car, you want to enter into the powerband as quickly as possible” Marv says, “Stock converters are heavy, so I was always trying to find a way to increase the stall speed, get a faster RPM flash. Another neighbor of mine-we all lived inside the Valley back then, my friend Bob Lambeck, he worked at a Buick dealer, and in ’68, they started bringing these little German Opels in, and selling them as Buicks. Bob was unpacking parts and there was this little torque converter for that Opel, so he calls me, and I said ‘Bring it home, I’ll look into it.’ We had to modify it of course, but we got that to operate and with that in the car, whenever you jumped on the throttle it went straight into the powerband, though nearly all of those were sticks. Got me half a second.”
Okay, so quick-revving small block V8, doctored-up transmission, and a fresh paint job. What did Marv think about that pearl peach fade?
“It wasn’t a paint job for men! But it was free. It had been the ’70s. It was all like that. Psychedelic pot-smoking hippie stuff.”
That didn’t stop him from getting to work on it, even though ‘Vette might have been a little flashy for Marv’s tastes. “We were racing in Stock in the past. Now they call it Jr Stock, I don’t know when that started, back then it was just Stock. They were pretty strict on the rules, you could modify the cam, couple of other mods, but mostly it would have to be pretty factory. Basically, you could blueprint the motor. I put fuel injection on a 283 that was .60 over. I finished the car on a Friday night, made a couple of test passes on the side street near the Van Nuys airport, drove it up to Bakersfield and won the race that weekend.”
After that promising Marv, the, start and John HOT ROD ‘Vette went on to win the Ontario Super Nationals and runner up in several other high profile races. “It ran a best E.T. of 12.40 at around 108mph,” Marv says. Nothing lasts forever, even though he enjoyed the racing. “Eventually, Johnny wanted out, so I bought the automobile from him, and raced a little more on the East Coast, but the fuel injection didn’t work real well from the humidity, and my converter business was taking off, so I sold the vehicle and concentrated on work and starting a family. The guys that bought it, they did ok, a number of kids, they raced it for a few years, and after that sold it to a restoration shop, and that i kinda lost track of it after that.”
Here’s in which the story has a small world turn. A really young Jeff Smith (Car Craft and HOT ROD editor) caught wind in the car while visiting Lingenfelter-this became around 1985. Jeff tried to convince John Dianna to get the car back, but nothing came of it, and it fell off the magazine radar again until earlier this year whenever it resurfaced, fully restored at the 2014 Detroit Autorama.
We spoke to the owner Craig Wood, who told us that he’d owned the car for almost 30 years before tackling its revival. I found out it wasn’t quite the things i thought it was, though “Originally, I was going to restore it to factory stock. I’d been told when I bought it which it was an injected small block car, which it was…as raced, but not from the factory! I decided to restore it the way Marv and Johnny built it.?, as I learned more about the automobile?
Craig did all the work himself, from rebuilding the small block to spraying the six different layers of pearl paint, making color matches from the only remaining painted piece, the fuel door. “I got a bit cross-eyed with all that taping,” he says of recreating the complex panel patterns. When he began the project, Craig spoke to Marv, whom he says was doubtful in the beginning that the car was his old race machine. It isn’t really, or rear bumpers that are awfully heavy-he’d filled these with lead, though “I had him tell me some of the modifications he had made while racing it,” says Craig, “Things like a swaybar that looks like it’s connected! Every time I’d find something like that I’d call him up and say ‘I found a few of your stock work.’” Marv’s answer? “It isn’t cheating if you don’t get caught.”
Craig took several liberties with the restoration. “They were developing a race car, so something like fuel line routing may be real casual. I cleaned it up a bit. Marv had bare metal in the interior, I put down carpet. I just couldn’t do all this work and then leave the floor unfinished! ”
The Detroit Autorama debut was only the start of the ROD Corvette’s comeback tour. “I had so many people let me know they remembered the car,” Craig says. “George Poteet came over and informed me I did a very good thing to save it. Now I would like to get it back on a dragstrip, maybe with Marv behind the wheel. If he felt like he could see well enough to operate the dragstrip and he said ‘What, i asked him? Have they put turns inside it? ’ We’re hoping to meet up at the Jr Stock Revival at the York Reunion.