Meet the most successful C2 Corvette Z06 in existence; the car that started it all back in 1963. Known as “Gulf One” thanks to backing from Gulf Oil Research and Development, no other C2 Z06 received more corporate support from Chevrolet.
Since the ’50s Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov had been providing support for Corvette racers through the back door of GM head office, largely remembered by the five Grand Sport Corvettes that made it out the door before corporate put a stop to the whole thing. The all-new 1963 C2 Corvette Sting Ray represented not just a massive leap forward in styling, but also an ideal starting place to raise the Corvette’s performance bar.
In 1962, Arkus-Duntov quietly created the Special Performance Equipment group RPO Z06 for the incoming C2 Corvette. Tailored towards motorsports, ticking the RPO Z06 box meant heavy-duty power drum brakes with a dual-circuit master cylinder and finned and drilled aluminum drums, stiffer front and rear springs, a large-diameter front stabilizer bar, and specially calibrated shock absorbers.
The Z06 package also forced buyers to option the 360 hp L84 fuel-injected 327, paired with an M20 4-speed manual transmission and Positraction. Early cars had an extra-large 36-gallon fuel tank. It was the first factory-built, race-ready Corvette since 1957.
C2 Corvette Z06 Gulf One
14 “Specially Assigned” Z06 coupes were prepared and either sold or given to prominent Corvette racers. Among those first 14 C2 Z06s was chassis No.2227, or Gulf One as it came to be known. In 1961, Grady Davis, executive vice president of Gulf Oil Research and Development had put together a program fielding Gulf-sponsored Corvettes in the name of product development.
Two new Z06 Corvettes were delivered to Gulf in the fall of 1962 where they were fully prepped and ready to race come January 1963. With Dick “The Flying Dentist” Thompson at the wheel, Gulf One won its first two races before being prepped to FIA rules for the annual winter races at Daytona and Sebring.
At Daytona, the Gulf One C2 Corvette Z06 would place third overall behind a pair of Ferrari GTOs but would earn class victory in GT3. At Sebring the car would qualify on the front row, pacing a field of international sportscars and prototypes, but a gearbox failure would eliminate the car from contention. Following the race, Chevrolet informed teams and drivers that it was pulling support for all racing activities, full stop.
Gulf didn’t mind and continued to campaign its pair of Team Gulf Corvettes. Gulf One would take first place overall at the SCCA President’s Cup at Marlboro, Maryland, and the A/Production class at Danville, Virginia, and Road America. After the first year of the Z06 program Gulf One was the most successful of all the specially assigned Z06 cars.
In 1991 the car received extensive restoration in order to appear just as it did on the starting grid of the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours. To this day Gulf One is the most successful and well-documented of the first 14 C2 Corvette Z06s. The technology developed for this car was later used to help birth the prototype Grand Sport program. If you have $3 million to spend it can be yours via Mecum’s upcoming Kissimmee auction, otherwise, just enjoy the story.