If you were building a street/strip car, would you pick a ’65 Corvette as your drag platform of choice, and if you did, would you regularly pilot the 1,300 horsepower big block result on the street? Cleveland, Ohio’s, Gary Box has always been quite happy to do both, and we’re glad he did. He was the only competitor to break the six second mark at this year’s Roadkill Nights street drag race on Woodward Avenue this past August.
“I built the car back in 1999 with my 10 year old son,” Gary told us. “I had just sold a ’34 Chevrolet hot rod and I wanted to do something different. When I was around his age, I used to hang around a parts store with my dad on weekends and I’d always see a ’67 Corvette there, and that lit a fire in me. I always dreamed of having one one day, and when the opportunity presented itself I went for it.”
Box, who runs Box Performance, explained that it was his intention right from the beginning to build a street racer – something that would be fast, appear stock, and remain comfortable enough to drive on a regular basis. The car has kept all of its original body panels, steel frame, floor, and glass, rides on the factory wheelbase, and meets every street legal rule in the state of Ohio’s book, with a functional emergency brake, high beam indicators on the dash, and four-way hazard signals. Even the side-exit exhaust is legal thanks to the Corvette’s original side pipes.
“We got the car going on my birthday in ’99, and of course I took it right to the nearest track,” Box said. “On the third pass it went 8.02 in the quarter mile, which was way faster than I thought it would be! We’d had it certified for 7.50 so everything was OK, but over the next three years it became clear that the car was much too fast for street racing, so I pretty much kept it on the track past that point. At its fastest, it ran a 7.72 at 184-mph in the quarter.”
To motivate a steel-frame Corvette – especially one that weighs roughly 3,000 lbs – down below the eight second mark takes a lot of convincing, but fortunately Box has put together exactly the right incentives package to make the magic happen. The car features a 522ci big block matched with a 14-71 street blower from The Blower Shop, on top of a World Products block, Molnar crank and rods, Racetech pistons, Erson camshafts, Crower roller lifters, fed by a Pro System carb setup and supported by Engine Parts Warehouse components. A two-speed Powerglide transmission with a Perfect converter and a Dana rear end round out the drivetrain.
“When we ran our fastest pass, the car was using a Hilborn mechanical injector and 110 octane race fuel, but even on a carburetor and E85 we’ve run five seconds flat at 142-mph in the 1/8 mile,” Gary explained. “People love seeing the old school setup that we’re running, and I really enjoy it too because almost everyone is running fuel injection, so that sets us apart from the crowd.”
Don’t think for a second that the Box Racing Corvette is just a ‘street car’ in name only. Gary drives the Chevrolet as often as he can, putting on about 2,000 miles per year, and has racked up 40,000 miles since the racer was first built almost 20 years ago. He’s had it down in Memphis for street outlaw competition, driven all over Ohio, and finds himself at the age of 64 getting deeper and deeper into the racing scene with his son, Cory, who was in fact the person who convinced him to drive up to Detroit and take a shot at the Roadkill Nights prize by telling him that his years of street drag experience would prove to be his ace in the hole.
“It was a really well-done deal,” said Gary. “I met a ton of really great people, and the other racers were very cool to hang out with. We got caught driving in the rain the night before, but we ended up checking out the track that evening and then cruising around Pontiac until two or three in the morning, and just really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole thing. I had a bunch of heat from folks back home and even at the event who told me I’d never hook the car up on Woodward, but my son convinced me we’d prove them wrong. And we definitely did.”