What’s this all about? Read an earlier post on Dean’s Garage describing the car and stories from the ’70s. The thrill of victory—the agony of defeat.
Mike Parks bought this old C3 Corvette race car. What he bought was the original chassis, two small block racing engines, some spares, and a coupe body that was so bad there was no fiberglass that could be reused.
Race cars have logbooks. And in that logbook was the history of the car, it’s builder, it’s first driver, and all of the owners that came afterward. So Mike Parks, the current owner, was able to track down the driver, Ron Weaver, the builder, Pete Klain, and through Pete, myself, who crewed on the car in the ’70s, but more importantly, created the graphics. Mike, who lives near San Francisco, wanted me to recreate the paint scheme. What a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Brighton Ranch Paint and Body in Scottsdale, Arizona was recommended by a friend who is the curator of a car collection. In March of 2011 Mike came to Phoenix and met with myself and Jay Lewton, manager of the shop, to discuss the project. In September Mike trailered the car down and left it in my care at Brighton. Jay, by the way, was great to work with and very professional.
Recreating the graphics transported me back 36 years. It had me scratching my head more than once trying to figure out how I did it the first time. Man, this is complicated! But it was a great experience. These kinds of paint schemes aren’t in vogue any longer. I suppose the design is a throwback to graphic styles from the ’70s. The idea behind it is to create shapes on the car that complement and exaggerate the car’s form, lines, and surfaces, suggesting motion and speed.
The Klain Corvette is a very memorable car to many race fans from the period because of the paint scheme. The treatment was unique. One of the reasons it stood out was because no other competitor was foolhardy enough to spend so much effort on body decoration for a car likely as not to be damaged on the race course. But I was a designer at General Motors and thought I knew a thing or two about race car graphics. Pete gave me free reign, so his garage became my studio. This final paint scheme was the fourth version and most together version of the car’s graphics.
There are a lot of photos in the gallery showing the process of recreating the paint scheme, many with captions describing the action. The car came out great. It was never this shiny in 1977!
Click for a gallery of scanned slides of the Klain Corvette from 1975 through 1978.
I suppose you could call it a ‘twice-in-a-lifetime experience,’ Neat post!
Cool stuff Gary. I bet you had fun doing this. I remember those kind of racecar graphics as I did several back in the day. Most fun was the graphics for the Goodwrench Corvette GTP. Working through Larry Shinoda, they liked my illustration and asked me to come down to the race shop in Indiana somewhere and tape it out on the car. Modern race car graphics are much more oriented to sponsors. Most are pretty dreadful, but others are pretty sophisticated and are obviously done by “pros” (designers 🙂 )
“I suppose the design is a throwback to graphic styles from the ’70s.”
Big, bold, and loud aftermarket graphics in a vintage where people typically do not hold the original era graphics. So many muscle cars were painted up in this manner but now you only see the restored, like it was off the factory car transporter, paint and graphic schemes. There was a reason cars (muscle cars especially) got some loud but oem graphics in the 1970s: the oem graphics mirrored the aftermarket graphics of the time but were toned down…
Wow, looks great! Yeah, I remember those type of graphics quite well. As a student at ACCD, Harry Bradley took our class out to Universal Studios to show us some graphics on a van that he done for the Six Million Dollar Man; pretty much the same colors and tones as the stripes on the Corvette. Didn’t some of the mid-Seventies Monza race cars have similar graphics?
Gary, there are a few photos I hadn’t seen and the one with all of us standing by the car reminds me why barber shops went out of business!!! You did a wonderful job of recreating the paint job and brought back many memories of the fun and work that went into the car. Thanks again. Pete
Our thoughts on that car http://goo.gl/OXZrk and Thank You for sharing your latest photos. Tino Rossini
I was one of the 4 partners that purchased the car from Pete in 1978. I wish I had it now to vintage race.
About this cars painted graphics, I saw this paint job and it immediately made me think of one of the first cars I owned. My first car I owned (1983) was a 1973 Pontiac Trans-Am 455/ 4 Speed non SD car. The graphics on my Trans Am were the same as this Corvette. Black on top, yellow bottom, with red and orange stripes that went along the bodylines of the Firebird. It also had the ENKI Superlight wheels on it. I was told that my Trans Am had originated in California. I am wondering if the same painter did a Trans Am in the same design as this Corvette. The Trans Am is still alive and driving, but was restored to its original red some years ago. Thank you for your time. I frequent this website and really like the stories about the design world of the big automotive companies of yesterday.
—I had nothing to do with the graphics on your Trans Am.—Gary.