1965 Chevrolet C2 Corvette Sting Ray 327 / 350 Drive Review : Lemon Harangue
Honolulu, Hawaii – A light drizzle and overcast skies conspired to keep us homebound the day we landed on Oahu.
Thankfully, this gave us time to unpack, catch a breather and most importantly, reconnect with the folks we hadn't caught up with from before the dastardly global pandemic descended.
Nothing much had changed, because the Hawaiian hospitality and fellowship of ohana were as warm as we remembered it to be from pre-COVID times.
It was also great to re-explore what would be our home for the coming 20 days, with the break a welcome detox from the onslaught of new-fangled four-wheeled electronica we’re bombarded with on the job.
If anything, the plan was to enjoy the cool breeze and company, but more importantly, stay away from C-A-R-S completely – that is, until we caught a glimpse of yellow from the garage like a blaze of summer sunshine cutting through the rain.
In a nutshell, we were rather cheekily flashed by a lurid yellow derrière, thanks largely to the strong winds from the night before, which had flipped-up a corner of the grey car-cover.
The cover that clinged lingeringly to the curves of such a bodacious fastback silhouette left little to the imagination, and you know there’s no way it would turn-out to be an econo-box or electric appliance.
Unfortunately, with the owner (and our host), 70-years-young Dr. Ted Wong at the clinic, our conscience wouldn’t let us uncover more of its earthly delights, since courtesy dictated we wait till he showed it to us!
As they say, out of sight, out of mind and we pushed all illicit thoughts of the bound beauty from our minds as we headed for the first of (what would be many) shaved ice stops of the trip.
If you’re wondering, ‘Shave Ice’ dessert in Hawaii is a lot like the ice kacang (or Korean Bingsu) we get in Singapore, with a similarly liberal use of syrup and toppings infused into exceptionally finely shaved ice.
We’re partial to azuki beans and mochi, coupled with plenty of condensed milk over the ice heap for a sticky sweet finish – good thing we were staying with a dentist, then!
In fact, the iconic Waiola Shave Ice (an institution in Honolulu since 1940!) was a frequent stop for us over the duration of our stay in Hawaii!
We also discovered that Jerry, the owner of Waiola Shave Ice is quite a petrolhead himself and took delivery of a Lexus LC just before we flew home, although that’s possibly a story for another time!
When we got back, we were greeted by the tastier sight of a 1965 C2 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe resplendent in a modern Corvette Racing Yellow Tintcoat… with accompanying go-faster racing stripes and uber-cool pop-up headlights.
After all, the C2 was a veritable exotic when it was launched, but it still turns plenty of heads today.
Those of you weaned on a steady and sustained diet of European car mags may not think much of American cars.
However, when it’s in-your-face, it’s hard not to be bowled over in the presence of a powerfully stanced, smoking-hot muscle-car like the C2 Corvette Sting Ray – larger than life and as all-American as apple pie.
In fact, it was only with this second C2 Corvette Coupe generation that Chevrolet arguably created a performance machine capable of holding its own in the global sportscar arena against the familiar suspects from Europe and the UK.
The first gen convertible-only C1 Corvette was more of a boulevardier, but the tweaks and updates to the C2 would transform it into a ballistic and bombastic performer.
This particular example has a blueprinted 327/350 ‘small block’ carburetor’d V8 (for the benefit of our local readers, 327 cubic inches is around 5360cc) with 350hp and 488Nm matched to a heavy-duty 4spd manual transmission with Hurst short-shift kit.
To us, the C2 Corvette Sting Ray is peak American Muscle that proves there’s really no replacement for displacement.
An even larger ‘396/425’ V8 (6.5-litres) was available in the 1965 Model Year, but the ‘small block’ 327 kept weight over the nose down.
This imparted a surprising degree of cornering agility and dynamism to the car (especially since this car features Positraction, GM’s iteration of a Limited Slip Differential), so it could do far more than just drag-run in a straight-line – a common trope levelled against American cars by its critics.
Truth be told, this author was just that sort of close-minded nay-sayer, that is, until we got up close and personal with the C2 as its fruity V8 erupted to rude, rowdy life and shattered the peace of the neighbourhood with its ‘Alohas’ belted through dual side-exit exhausts.
Here’s where we get into the cult appeal of this all-American automotive icon.
Folks cheer you on, passers-by flash you the thumbs-up and from Waikiki to the Hawaii Theatre in Chinatown and all the way to the North Shore, it’s pretty much shiny, happy smiles from everyone as the Sting Ray passes them by.
You’d have to be a real Johnny No-Mates (or Joe No-Bros) to raise a ruckus when the C2 raises its rousing ruckus, because its shouty flavour of rambunctious exuberance when you’re pressing hard is infectious.
There’s none of that stuffy, stiff upper lip beard-strokey posturing, because in true American fashion, the Sting Ray is a genial friend and ever-ready to share its joy for motoring with enthusiastic petrolheads.
We take a ride with Dr. Ted to Tantalus, an extinct cinder cone with an expansive view that overlooks the ‘Punchbowl Crater’ and the Makiki district of Honolulu.
The seemingly mild-mannered dentist rocks-and-rages in full ‘beast mode’ when he’s behind the wheel of his C2, as he speed-shifts through the short-shifter for explosive acceleration.
Even today, 0-60mph in under 6secs is nothing to sniff at, but don’t forget, the C2 may be from 1965, but is loud and proud and far from peace-loving!
The V8’s power delivery is preternaturally elastic, with a super-stretchy, rubber-band quality to its onslaught to ensure there’s plenty of brute power, pretty much irrespective of the rpm.
It pulls with a primal violence that assaults the senses and leaves one beaten and battered… yet oddly enough, craving for more.
People who don’t know better poke fun at the fibreglass body and rear transverse inverted leaf-spring suspension set-up (which was the Corvette’s blend of rear independent suspension).
However, believe me when I say they all work perfectly on the fast move and the Sting Ray never feels anything less than purposeful and competently focused, even when compared to your favourite European sportscar.
And it has the brakes to rein it all in too, because 1965 saw the Sting Ray receive a full complement of front and rear disc brakes, which means it will deliver stupendous stopping force each and every time.
The cockpit is old-world ‘ornate’, with gorgeous gauges and the sort of attention to detail and tactile feel lacking in many of today’s offerings.
Its proportions are compact for easy positioning on the road and zeroing-in on the corners, yet there’s decent space in the cabin, not to mention the trunk area.
Driving the Sting Ray is an engaging experience that connects man and machine on a visceral level, because you’re intimately immersed in a full-costume opening night theatrical production that is full-on action and drama from the get-go.
The Sting Ray isn’t just a muscle car in spirit, but proves to be a serious HIIT workout when it’s flat-out in loco-motion... with an emphasis on loco!
The driver’s ministrations actively choreograph that intricate machination between not just the eyes, hands, feet and seat-of-pants, but also heart and soul.
The C2’s fast and furious performance delivers a potent sting to detractors.
Furthermore, in true American fashion, there’s a huge dollop of personality to the ’Vette that stirs the senses and energises the emotions, as this retro throwback proves to be the perfect salve for modern cars.
PHOTOS David Khoo (2016 Fujifilm X70)
1965 Chevrolet C2 Corvette Sting Ray 327/350
Engine 5360cc, V8, nat-asp
Power / rpm 350hp / 5800rpm
Torque / rpm 488Nm / 4400rpm
Transmission 4spd manual
0-96km/h est. 5+ secs
Top Speed est. 237km/h
L x B x H mm 4554 x 1768 x 1260
Kerbweight est. 1.5-tonnes
Fuel Consumption est. 13.1 - 23.5l / 100km
CO2 Are you kidding?