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Pete Ruff's Riverside Gold 1969

My first Corvette; I still own & drive it 43 years later!

Corvette! Practically everybody who likes cars has thought about owning one. My lucky day came in the summer of 1970 when I heard of a 2,600 mile Corvette that was for sale at a great price. Since Corvettes had a reputation of being expensive to insure, I checked with my insurance agent and learned the insurance would be very little more than my 1965 Mustang. That sealed my fate and I bought the car!

This is pretty much a striped model, with the base 300 hp engine, four speed transmission, tinted windows, AM-FM radio (big deal back then), Posi-traction diff., and white stripe tires! No air conditioning, no power steering, no power brakes. Now 43 years later, it's still mine, and it looks about as good as it does in these pictures.

When this car was new, I drove it as fast as it would go, just over redline in fourth gear, or about 136 mph, west bound on I-80 west of Winnemucca, Nevada in 1971. It held the road like a Corvette should - the only thing scary was the way I came up so quickly on the occasional much slower moving car. One or two encounters like that was enough for me!

1969 Convertible Corvette

When I was young and the car was new!

1969 Convertible Corvette

How about those narrow white strip tires?

1969 Convertible Corvette

The Softtop with my Dad and Aunt Edith.

The handling and overall demeanor improved significantly when I installed radial tires and Koni shock absorbers. The only other "performance" modification I made in the early years was to add a capacitive discharge ignition.  Rather than improve performance, the CD unit prevented the deterioration of the spark plugs and points as the miles went by. It was like always having a fresh tune-up.

In 1975, when the convertible Corvette was discontinued, I bought a removable hardtop for this car from GM after having determined the aftermarket tops did not have nearly the quality of the OEM top.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

With the Hardtop on.

In 1986 I bought a new Corvette, and then got heavily involved with CBX motorcycles. The car was stored for 13 years.

Thirteen years later, in the Spring of 2004, my CBX buddy Eric ragged on me to get the car back on the road.  He offered to come down from Oregon and help me get it started in lieu of us attending a CBX rally in Carson City.  With my arm sufficiently twisted, I borrowed a pre-oiler, merely a distributor with the drive gear, points and other ignition parts removed.  By plugging this tool into the engine in place of the distributor and driving it with an electric drill, the oil pump pressurized the oil system thereby lubricating the engine prior to starting.  This ensures adequate lubrication for an engine that has been sitting for an extended time.  We drained the gas tank too.  Actually Eric, using the time-honored method of sucking on the siphon hose, ingested some good-tasting stale gasoline and got the flow going.  With fresh gas and a new battery the engine fired right up!

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Mostly original interior with restored seats.

Thus began the process of bringing the car out of it's long sleep.  New tires were one of the first things replaced since despite having plenty of tread, the old ones had severely flat-spotted from being parked so long.   A lot of tinkering with the carb, the brakes, and many small trim parts was done over the first couple of years.  In 2005 I had the front suspension rebuilt with new bushings, ball joints, tie-rod ends, idler arm, sway-bar bushings and links, and a new steering box.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

On jack stands for brake project.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Front caliper. Notice the rotors are still riveted to the hubs, never been off.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Front stainless steel line. What a difference they make!

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Rear caliper and trailing arm. New parking brake cables too.

Following the front end work, I had the rear suspension rebuilt with new trailing arm bushings and wheel bearings, new parking brake hardware, new strut rods, and a single leaf composite rear spring.  After a four-wheel alignment, it rides and handles like it did when it was new.  Better in fact, since modern radial tires are so much better than those bias-ply F70/15 white stripe tires the car came from St. Louis with.  The bias ply tires would trammel, or follow ruts or uneven pavement, much more than even the widest low profile radial tires, and certainly much more than the "modest" 60 series radials  on the car now.  The bias ply tires were also very hard to get balanced so the car wouldn't shake at some speed. 

BFG Tires

New BF Goodrich Radial T/A Tires.

Once the running gear was brought back I replaced the original 30+ year old exhaust with a chambered 2.5 inch system that was killer loud and fun to drive - the chambers were like those on the RPO side pipe exhaust.  I can't believe those sounded as loud as this system does - I think having the headers in front of this system made it a lot louder than it would have been with the factory exhaust manifolds.  Maturity finally caught up with me and I had a couple of Magnaflow stainless steel mufflers put in the stock location in the rear fenders.  It sounds much better, not stock quiet, but mellow with a snarl when I get on the loud pedal. 

The exhaust was followed by a electronic ignition system buried in the old points style distributor. With the points eliminated, I had Dave Westgate re-curve the mechanical and vacuum advances in the distributor - this made a HUGE improvement in performance, it now runs as a well built small block Chevy V8 should! Throttle response is excellent, it has plenty of low rpm torque, and it has great mid-range and top end power.


New Exhaust.

Stainless steel brake hoses and a new reproduction master cylinder (the old one functioned perfectly, but it looked terrible - that's a good excuse to replace a part, right?) took care of the brakes in 2008.  I also replaced the original clock that no longer worked with a quartz unit and restored the center gage cluster "while I was at it".  Oh yeah, the other "while I was at it" involved correcting an annoying oil leak from the engine.  I heard about FelPro's one piece oil pan gasket, since the car was up on stands what better time to replace the pan gaskets.  I'm now a true believer in this new technology.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Oil pan project.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

One piece oil pan gasket.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Nice clean engine.

1969 Convertible Corvette with Hardtop

Windage tray.

Next I replaced the corroded chrome exhaust bezels, which can hardly be seen unless you crane your neck under the back of the car. I was going to replace the coolant hose clamps with OEM style Witek until I learned the clamps on the car are original, so I won't be replacing them. 

GM 1969 Corvette Ad


Old cars are usually maintained or brought back with a particular theme in mind. Today in the 21st Century, we have so many choices facing us it is almost bewildering to contemplate.  Electronic fuel injection, five and six speed transmissions, air conditioning add-on kits, power rack & pinion power steering, hydraulic assisted power brakes, modern suspension components from newer Corvette generations, the list is practically endless. I thought a lot about which direction I should take this Corvette. In the end, I decided that except for the engine, I would keep the car as near stock as I could, and keep it as original as possible.

I don't intend to have it judged by the NCRS, but from now on, every part that goes into or on the car will be as close to NCRS standard as possible. The major distractions to that concept are the entire engine, exhaust system, and the stainless steel braided brake lines. BUT, the saving grace, so to say, is that the ORIGINAL, numbers matching engine is perfectly good, and after a sympathetic overhaul, it can go back in the car, along with the original carburetor and all the smog equipment - all things that are important for an NCRS judged Corvette. The exhaust and brake lines can easily be replaced with OEM parts, so a future owner could conceivably receive favorable treatment by an NCRS judge if he or she desired. With all this in mind, I have directed my energies toward making this Corvette a period-correct, early 1970s, moderately hot rodded Corvette - that's my theme and I'm sticking to it.

This is a never ending story so keep coming back!


Pete Ruff's Web Site