The 1963 Vintage Split-Window Corvette racer known as ‘711’ will be heading to Mecum’s Houston Auction in April. Although the Corvette was raced in Southern California in the heyday of sports car racing, the Riverside Red Sting Ray Coupe may be better known for its appearance in the the Elvis Presley movie, Viva Las Vegas.
In 1962, Chevrolet was preparing to launch the new 1963 Corvette Z06 and gave four different Z06s to various race teams. Chevrolet Dealer Harry Mann, who ran what he called in advertisements the “Largest Corvette Dealer in America”, was left out of that allocation. So he did the next best thing by ordering a 1963 Sting Ray Coupe with RPO L84 Fuel Injected 327/360 hp and ordered as many of the parts as possible to assemble his own.
The driver of the Corvette was Gary Pickens who gave the Corvette its distinctive number. Pickens was a recreational gambler and he completed the look of the new racecar by adding his number, 711, as dice on the doors, hood and rear deck.
Pickens raced the Corvette in Southern California through 1963 and when producers for the Elvis Presley racing movie Viva Las Vegas came calling looking for real race cars and especially the hot new Corvette Sting Ray to appear in the film, the 711 was offered up for the movie with Pickens doing the driving scenes.
It was during the filming of Viva Las Vegas that the Corvette suffered its only racing damage in its career when it was spun out on purpose during a racing scene, hitting the rear clip but not damaging the frame or other fiberglass on the car. For performing the spin-out, Pickens was given a $500 bonus.
After the movie, Pickens continued racing the 711 Corvette through 1964, although the original engine was swapped for a 1964’s 327/375 hp fuelie.
At some point, the Corvette was sold to a fellow racer named Ron Herrera and then in 1972 it was sold again. The car was driven on the streets for a while, still outfitted in the 711 racing configuration before it disappeared into a garage for the next four decades.
The car remained an elusive hunt for collectors but eventually it was found in 2011 by Corvette specialist Mike Scott. Scott had the car confirmed by restoration specialist Gary Nabers and then the car was purchased and sent to Nabers Brothers of Houston for a no-expense-spared restoration. The car was completed in March 2013 and it was presented with a National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) American Heritage Award.
The Corvette today still has the 1964 FI 327/375 hp engine installed by Pickens as well as the original numbers-matching Borg-Warner T-10 4-Speed transmission AND a number of period correct Z06 components. Most importantly, this Corvette is fully sorted for high performance driving. A member of the Registry of Corvette Race Cars, it’s qualified for vintage racing events at some of the top tracks in the country.
The split window sport Coupe will be offered at Mecum’s Houston Sale and is lot #S129.1, meaning it will go on sale Saturday, April 12th with other important “Star Cars”. Of course, appearing in any movie enhances the provenance of any car, but only a few can lay claim to being one of the Corvette racers in the the Elvis Presley movie Viva Las Vegas.