Little red Corvette: A golden reunion
The letter from Stirling Moss was neatly typed up on Stirling Moss Limited letterhead. It began: “Dear David and Stephanie…”
It was late June 2016. Six months prior, David and Stephanie Lambdin had sent Moss, 86 years old at the time, a care package of photos showing him in 1965 at the Westwood Race Track in Coquitlam, British Columbia. He was pictured with a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette coupe. Their 1964 Corvette coupe. The Lambdins purchased the car in 2012 and were busy researching its history ever since.
The Riverside Red Corvette had quite a storied life including hill climbs, slaloms, racing championships, and 14 previous owners, many of whom lived in Canada and Alaska, the latter of which is where the Lambdins call home. It spent much of the late 1970s looking beat and destitute as it moved from one garage to another, but somewhere along the way the Stingray was restored, picking up Fuel Injection badges on its fenders.
An early build, VIN# 40837S100315 was assembled at GM’s St. Louis plant on September 19, 1963. Four days later it shipped to Dueck on Broadway, a sizable Chevy dealer in Vancouver. The Corvette was made for speed, with its L76 327-cubic-inch small-block rated at 365 hp. It was the strongest engine available in 1964 short of the 375-horsepower 327 with Rochester fuel injection. It was also equipped with an M21 close-ratio four-speed manual, 4.56 gears, and the J65 option (adding high-performance brakes).
A young man had apparently ordered the car and did it right, but he pulled out of the contract, losing his deposit when his girlfriend became pregnant. The car was quickly purchased by Laurie Craig, a relocated New Zealander that had crewed for Carroll Shelby’s Maserati, as well as Stirling Moss’ Cooper Formula 1 at the 1959 Ardmore New Zealand Grand Prix. After crewing at Ardmore for four years, Craig wanted to race himself and moved to Vancouver looking for opportunities. He traded a 1960 El Camino and sold another to purchase the Stingray with the full intention of driving it on the street and racing it on the weekends.
With sponsorship from Mander Chevy-Olds, another dealership in the area, Craig and his Corvette, totally stock down to its hubcaps and white striped tires, began to compete successfully in autocross, Gymkhana, and hill climb events. Craig also entered it into events at the Westwood road course which was built in 1959 and operated by the Sports Car Club of British Columbia. Throughout 1965 he was the man to beat in the region as his Corvette, then upgraded with just a roll bar and tires, dominated the sports production class.
Moss helped design the Westwood course and raced there years prior. In May of 1965, the retired driver attended the Westwood Players Pacific event at the circuit, the largest road race in the northwest, and was reunited with Craig, his old friend and crew member. After the two exchanged racing stories and caught up, Moss climbed into his old driving suit given to Craig years earlier and completed a few laps in Craig’s Stingray. In his letter to the Lambdins, Moss confirms it’s the first Corvette he had ever driven on a track.
At the same event the following year, again with Moss in attendance, Craig drove his stock Stingray brilliantly in the pouring rain. Despite the weather, he won the overall championship, blowing off a 31-car field that included mid-engine Lotus and Brabhams, a Porsche 904, a Ford GT40, and modified Mustangs and Corvettes.
By the end of 1966, though, the red Corvette was treated as a simple used car. Craig traded it for a brand-new 1967 Camaro Z/28, which he also raced successfully, and so the Corvette was left sitting on the lot at Mander Chevy-Olds.
While Craig and his 1964 Corvette were making Canadian racing history, Dave Lambdin was a teenage drag racer tearing up the street and strips around Alexandria, Louisiana. His weapon of choice was his Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette roadster, which he purchased in 1964 for $2200. It had a white top, the optional 340-hp 327, and it looked tough on a set of Cragar S/S mags and blackwall rubber. But by January 1968, Dave was clutching an M16 rifle in Saigon on the opening day of the Tet Offensive, his beloved Stingray stashed away safely in his parent’s garage.
In his book, My Old Car, which he wrote with his wife Stephanie in 2016, Dave speaks candidly about his return from Vietnam in 1970. “Returning home, my once prized 1963 Stingray now no longer has the appeal or rush it once gave me,” he wrote. “Things that matter in life have been severely altered. I sell the ‘Vette and buy a fuel efficient Chevrolet Corvair. I become a reclusive surfer and martial arts practitioner.”
Despite selling it after the war, Dave’s desire to find his old Daytona Blue Corvette roadster rekindled in 1985, and he began looking on the “new internet world wide web” in 1990. But with no old titles, documents, or a vehicle identification number, the going was slow. Then, more life happened. Dave and Stephanie married in 1999, had two children, and in 2005 move to Sitka, a little island city 200 miles off the coast of Alaska. Dave writes, “Between fishing, hunting, crabbing and exploring, I begin to search for my old car once again.”
By 2012 Dave’s car hadn’t materialized, and he felt like he was running out of time. Now 64 years old, he’s had several surgeries for war-related Agent Orange poisoning and continues to have terrible bouts with PTSD. But the last thing on his bucket list was to purchase and drive an old Corvette again—even if his blue roadster was gone.
He noticed a Craigslist ad for a red 1964 Corvette coupe with fuel injection emblems, located in Anchorage. With a borrowed $28,000 and the full support of Stephanie and family, Dave traveled the 1000 miles over land and sea to Anchorage. With a new Corvette to finally scratch his long-neglected itch, he drove the Stingray 765 miles through the Alaskan/Canadian wilderness on the Glenn Highway, which was laid as part of the massive Alcan Highway building project during World War II to finally connect Alaska with the rest of the North American highway system. The final 200 miles from Haines to Sitka (population 8800) would be by ferry. With a few new stone chips, the Corvette made the journey in five days without incident.
Two days later, Dave found the Corvette’s old Alaskan registration from 2011 sticking out from under the carpet, along with mounting brackets that appeared to be for a roll bar. He decided to contact Joe Savell, the name on the old registration, to see if he knew if the car was a true fuel-injected model as the fender emblems suggest, and if it had ever been raced.
This one called kicked off a four-year research project to trace the Stingray’s history, a journey that would ultimately reconnect Laurie Craig with his favorite race car at the Vintage Racing Club of British Columbia’s annual reunion and races. (Dave and Laurie even made a few laps.) The cherry on top of it all? That letter from London, signed Ciao, Sir Stirling Moss.
Today, Dave and Stephanie continue to enjoy their classic sports car during the summer months on Sitka’s 15 miles of paved and unpaved roads. And every time Dave takes the Corvette’s wood-rimmed steering wheel in his hands, hears the rumble of its small-block and looks out past its long red hood, it’s 1965 all over again. After all of its racing pedigree, the red Corvette is still making dreams come true.