Reviving the Legend: Exploring the 1966 ‘Tanker’ Corvette and Its Racing Legacy
In the annals of automotive history, few names command as much reverence and fascination as the Chevrolet Corvette. Its legacy is a tapestry woven with innovation, power, and an unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Today, we embark on a journey back in time to the year 1966, a pivotal chapter in the Corvette’s storied evolution. Join us as we unveil the remarkable ‘Tanker’ Corvette, a rare and potent variant that not only pushed the boundaries of performance but also left an indelible mark on the world of sports cars. Step into the past with us and discover the captivating story of the 1966 427 Version, a true testament to the enduring allure of American muscle and craftsmanship.
Note: Last March (2023), this Corvette was sold at the Mecum Auction in Glendale for $275,000.
In the late-1962, Chevrolet introduced the world to the stunning new Corvette Sting Ray for 1963, marking the beginning of an era of relentless development led by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his engineering team. Their mission was to keep the Corvette at the forefront of high performance on both the road and the track. With the introduction of independent rear suspension in 1963 and 4-wheel disc brakes by 1965, the Sting Ray had become one of the world’s most formidable sports cars. But Chevrolet had more in store.
The Big-Block Powerhouse:
In 1965, Chevrolet unveiled the Mark IV big-block engine, and the following year, in 1966, it had upsized to a formidable 427 cubic inches, generating a robust 425 horsepower. This powerful mill, known as the L72 427, had not only provided the Corvette with raw firepower but had also opened doors for competing with the likes of Shelby’s Cobras and, soon enough, taking on Europe’s finest in FIA-sanctioned endurance racing.
The Rarity of the RPO N03 Big Tank Corvette:
Now, let’s talk about rarity. The Corvette on display at the Glendale Mecum show was not just any Corvette; it was one of only 66 RPO N03 Big Tank Corvettes produced for 1966. These Corvettes had been equipped with a long-range 36-gallon fuel tank, a feature favored by endurance racers for its extended range. But that hadn’t been all that had set this Corvette apart.
A Rarity Among the Rare:
This outstanding Corvette had been even more scarce, as it had been one of only 15 crafted with the close-ratio Muncie M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed manual transmission. Its story had begun at Capital Chevrolet in Nashville, Tennessee, where it had been purchased new by the prolific gentleman racer Anatoly “Toly” Arutunoff. Arutunoff’s adventurous spirit had led him to export the Corvette to Germany, where it had found a new life as a race car.
Arutunoff, one of the few privateer Grand Prix entrants, had achieved an astonishing fourth-place finish against factory teams. He had raced alongside legends like Bob Bondurant, Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, Dan Gurney, Ak Miller, and Carroll Shelby.
A Meticulous Restoration:
Before gracing the Glendale Mecum event, this 1966 Corvette had undergone a comprehensive body-off restoration. The build team had painstakingly hunted down hard-to-find original GM parts, including door panels, seats, headrests, seat belts, and numerous other components.
This ’66 model boasted a host of additional features, including the J56 heavy-duty brakes and J50 power-assist options. Don’t forget about the L72-mandatory K66 transistorized ignition, F41 Heavy Duty suspension, G81 Positraction rear end, A82 headrest seats, the A02 tinted windshield, and C48 heater delete.
And for the speed enthusiasts, there had been a 200 MPH speedometer and a tachometer with an 8,500 RPM redline. To add a touch of racing flair, this Corvette came with a flat-black hood, exhaust headers, rear-exit exhaust pipes, and a racing roll bar.
Unveiling the Documentation:
To complete the package, this Corvette had come with a treasure trove of documents, including copies of an NCRS Certificate, the original bill of sale, a Statement of Origin, and a Homologation Recognition Form. These papers had added to the allure of this fascinating and extremely rare L72, 4-speed, Big Tank 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe.
This Corvette had been more than just a car; it had been a piece of automotive history that had once roared on the racetracks and had been poised to capture the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts. Its legacy came to life once more last March in 2023 when it commanded the stage at the Mecum Glendale Auction, ultimately fetching a staggering $275,000.
ODOMETER READS: 20 miles
VIN / SERIAL: 194376S123329
- Bought new at Capital Chevrolet in Nashville, Tennessee by Toly Arutunoff and exported to Germany and put into service as a race car
- Copy of NCRS Certificate
- Copy of original bill of sale
- Copy of statement of origin
- Copy of Homologation Recognition form
- 1 of 66 N03 Big Tank Corvettes produced in 1966
- L72 427/425 HP V-8 engine
- 1 of 15 with M22 4-speed transmission
- K66 transistorized transmission
- 1 of 382 with J56 brakes
- J50 power brakes
- F41 heavy duty suspension
- G81 Positraction rear end
- A82 headrest seats
- A02 tinted windshield
- C48 heater delete
1966 Tanker Corvette 427 – Photo Gallery: Credit Mecum Auction
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