Home Car Stories 20 Years + 1964 CHEVROLET Corvette- Stanley Gunn
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Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:45

1964 CHEVROLET Corvette- Stanley Gunn

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Writing copyright D. S. Brown, photography provided courtesy and copyright Alan Pettebone and Lorraine Strieby. Thanks to Larry Ofria for sharing his memories of the car.

64 corvette stanley gunn mako pipes shade side

Dr. Stanely Gunn certainly ranks high in our 20 YEARS PLUS standings- he is actually a 40 YEARS PLUS owner. He has owned this 1964 Corvette most of its life.

When Stanley Gunn bought this Corvette in 1967 it had been repainted in an Orange-ish hue with gold flakes and wild custom exhaust. This Corvette was a clone of the famous 'Asteroid' 1963 Corvette raced by Bob Nordskog. It is uncertain as to when and by whom the alternations were made to Stan's car.

64 corvette stan gunn asteroid paint job

Robert Hall Chevrolet originally sold Stan's 1964 Chevrolet Corvette around February or March of 1964. See a story on Robert Hall Chevrolet in the CALIFORNIA/ LOS ANGELES Metro Area story in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website.

Stan's Corvette came from the factory painted Tuxedo Black with a black interior. Soon after being sold through Robert Hall Chevrolet the car was radically customized to become a twin to the famous Nordskog 'Asteroid' Corvette.

Dr. Stanley Gunn is now 91 years old and has not solved the early history of his car. He and his wife Lorraine Strieby are appealing to readers who may know anything about the early history of the car's life to come forward.

Dr. Stanley Gunn was born in Portland, Oregon in 1923. At the time Stan's father was a professor in Eugene, Oregon. The family moved to Wisconsin where Stan's father was a professor of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin. Most of Stan's formative years were spent in East Lansing where Stan's father was a professor at Michigan State. Stan attended the same universtiy and played football as a half back and punter.

After being awarded his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State U Stan went on to earn a Masters and PhD in gas turbine, rocket and jet propulsion from Purdue in 1953. When Rocketdyne was established Dr Gunn formed a new division to develop advanced propulsion methods. He became Section Chief of the Nuclear Propulsion Section during the 1960s.

Stanley's fame and success as a rocket scientist impelled him to treat himself to a very fast car. An early photo of him in a tuxedo showcases two of his early cars.

dr stanley gunn rocket scientist early days

Many of the original astronauts drove Corvettes and it may seem that bias influenced Stan's vehicle choice, but here is an early photo of Stanley with his first Corvette prior to the astronaut hi jinks.

Dr Stanley Gunn rocket scientist 1st Corvette

Stanley found his 1964 Corvette 'Asteroid' clone when a man named  O'Wiggins offered the radical car for sale. Stanley bought O'Wiggin's 1964 Corvette which boasted a scorching paint job and custom pipes. Two of Stanley's daughters were in Chatsworth High school at the time and remember how outrageous the car was. The burnt orange color with copper and gold flakes had flames painted on it and could be seen from a great distance. The car was also heard coming via the boom made by the Mako Shark style side pipes. Stan's youngest daughter was driven home from school in this car most days.

Lorraine Strieby was working for Stanley during the 1960s and remembers going for lunch with Stanley in that wild looking Corvette. Stanley drove his blinding bright car to work at Rocketdyne for two or three years with the custom paint job. Stanley's first wife Doris absolutely hated the wild paint job and at her insistence he finally had the Corvette repainted blue. At this time Stanley was very enthusiastic about his hot new car and had performance work done by the famous race driver Dick Guldstrand who had now opened his own performance shop. Here is a check for a differential swap performed on the car in 1971. Stan's address, bank number and signature are removed from the image to preserve privacy.

64 corvette stan gunn Dick Guldstrand check

In 1972 the Corvette was getting regular use as shown in this sample of Mobil credit card receipts. Stanley's signature and card number is removed from the pictures for privacy.

64 corvette stan gunn mobil gas receipts

During the 1970s and 1980s Stanley was working on the details of a manned mission to Mars. He retired from Rocketdyne/ Rockwell International in 1993, but has maintained involvement with the programs. In 2012 with time to devote to the Corvette, Stanley had the engine redone and applied a new paint job in the same blue color he originally repainted it in the early 1970s. Stan's Corvette hasn't traveled much since the 1970s having accumulated only a few more miles than noted in this garage bill from 1976 which establishes the mileage at a low 34,179 miles.

64 corvette stan gunn 1976 garage biill

Dr Gunn is a member of NCRS and with help from Mark Lincoln of NCRS a bare bones history of the car has been established. We know Robert Hall Chevrolet sold this Corvette in February or March, 1964. Unfortunately the California DMV only goes back to 1975. Dr. Gunn and his wife Lorraine are still looking for the original pink slip and original California black plates to establish some documentary evidence about this car's heritage.

The NCRS research doesn't contradict Gunn's theory that his Corvette may have originally been bought from Robert Hall Chevrolet by either Bob Nordskog, or perhaps an employee at Nordskog Industries in Van Nuys, California. Dick Guldstrand remembers the car and states that it was driven in Van Nuys, California after purchase. Another theory is that perhaps a George Barris employee liked Bob Nordskog's Asteroid Corvette enough to create a clone.

Looking at all the facts it is unlikely that Bob Nordskog was the first owner of Stan's 1964 Corvette simply because the early paper trail doesn't follow the same pattern established with Bob's 1963 Asteroid Corvette. Bob ordered his 1963 Asteroid as a paint delete car since he knew it would be custom painted and bypassed a dealership by simply having the Corvette shipped directly from the factory to George Barris' shop for immediate customization. If Bob had wanted to create a twin for the Asteroid he likely would have duplicated the procedure he took when creating the original Asteroid.

Bob'a custom 1963 Corvette popularly known as 'The Asteroid' was obviously the inspiration for the 1964 Corvette that Stanley purchased. Whoever repainted Stan's Corvette with orangish gold with gold flakes and installed Mako Shark type pipes was clearly part of the same circle of people in the same area that Bob was driving his Asteroid. Bob had many circles of friends but his land racing cronies seem to be the likely spot to investigate.

Bob Nordskog was born in Seattle, May 7, 1913 and grew up in Los Angeles, California. Bob built up an aircraft and marine manufacturing company which allowed him to indulge in his passion for powerboat racing. He also enjoyed racing on land which led to his purchase of a very early production paint delete 1963 Corvette which was shipped directly to George Barris for customization.

George Barris was born Nov 20, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois but grew up in Northern California. Older brother Sam was born Oct 6, 1924 in Chicago and is credited as the first person to chop a hardtop. The brothers soon had clients paying for customization. While Sam was serving in WWII George kept the business going relocating it to Los Angeles, California. The brothers quickly became sought after by Hollywood which led to some famous vehicles such as the Batmobile and the Munster Koach. Movie stars and wealthy clients commissioned custom cars from Barris.

As a Barris client, Bob Nordskog laid out the basic concept he wanted for a early production brand new 1963 Corvette he had on order. The Corvette was ordered as a paint delete car and shipped directly to George Barris for customization. Bob's vision was inspired by the Mako Shark Corvette show car. Barris created bigger wheel wells to house monster rear tires, a one piece window replacing the production split window, a new shark nose and wild side pipes. The crowning touch was a blinding copper paint job that earned the car the nickname 'The Asteroid'.

The history of the 1963 Corvette named 'The Asteroid' is well established. Bob raced it on Sundays and received some coverage in hot rod magazines of the time period. That 1963 Corvette known as 'The Asteroid' was found and restored and went up for auction a few years ago.

Stanley Gunn's car is a 1964 model; is not a paint delete car and it was sold through a dealership. But when Stanley Gunn bought the car from O'Wiggins it already wore a similar over the top paint job as seen on the 1963 'Asteroid' car. The story is that O'Wiggins only owned the car for a few months.

Is it possible that Bob Nordskog bought a second Corvette to be customized by Barris and then sold it shortly thereafter when he lost interest? This is not an impossible theory but it seems more likely that this 1964 simply painted to match the Asteroid by O'Wiggins. We can't ask Bob because one month after winning the last boat race he competed in he died aged 79, July 15, 1992.

64 corvette mako gunn engine

As of 2012 Stanley's Corvette has received a lot of work. The gold-flecked paint was changed to blue a few years after Stanley bought the Corvette and he kept this blue color when it was recently repainted. Stanley's car retains the Mako shark exhaust pipes that were on it when he bought it in 1960s. The Gunns think the pipes were added by George Barris.

Stanley's Corvete was worked on by Dick Guldstrand and Larry Ofria, both experts in Corvettes and other race cars. Dick now runs Guldstrand Motorsports in Burbank, CA.

Larry Ofria worked with Stanley at Rocketdyne from 1955 until 1958 when Larry's career was interrupted by military service. On May 1, 1965 Larry established Valley Head Service which initially focused on cylinder head work. Soon the action in Larry's shop encompassed full on engine building. A fact that demonstrates how close this circle of California racers was; Bob Nordskog hired Larry's shop to build him a racing engine for one of his boats. Final assembly and installation was handled by Al Teague.

Stanley and Larry had remained friends from their days at Rocketdyne. For many years Stanley and Larry Ofria and others in the racing business had breakfast together every Saturday at Mimi's Cafe in Northlridge, CA. It was natural that Stan would bring his Corvette to Larry when he wanted work done to it. Larry Otria and his crew at the Valley Head Service took a 400 SBE engine and blueprinted it to 406 cubic inches and kept the original custom pipes. Output of 475 to 500 HP gave the Corvette so much power Stan scared himself in the car a few times.

Besides the shared interest in racing, Larry Ofria and Dick Guldstrand's companies were close by to one another. Guldstrand worked in Van Nuys California near Nordskog Industries. All these connections suggest that someone in Stanley's circle may know what if any connection his Corvette has with the Nordskog Asteroid.

64 corvette mako gunn side

The VIN 40837S108348 decodes as:

4= 1964 Model year

08= Corvette

37= 2 Door coupe

S= St. Louis, Missouri final assembly plant

108348= Sequential number

Style 64 837, E6

Trim 491CA= Black vinyl

Body 2380

Paint 900AA= Tuxedo Black

As this insurance policy shows, the Corvette wan't being driven much. The low rate for the car indicates that it was covered with storage insurance by the 1990s. Stan's address has been removed from the form for owner privacy. Note that Stan also owned a 1970 Camaro. Larry Ofria's shop also reworked the engine in Stan's 1970 Camaro. The basic Berlinetta model isn't one that strikes fear in the hearts of street racers, but by the time Larry's shop was through with it, the Camaro had a fierce street engine in it.

64 corvette stan gunn insurance 1991

An old snapshot below of Stanley's 1970 Camaro in his driveway has a similar color to the fenders of the car in next photo of Stanley working on a car.

dr Stanley gunn camaro 1970s era

In this photo of Stanley working on one of his cars the rearward hinged hood and body color indicates that this is likely the Camaro shown above.

Dr Stanley Gunn rocket scientist working on car

The Corvette has been garaged for approximately 30 years and traveled about 100 miles since the engine was rebuilt.

The photo below was taken by Stanley's second wife, Lorraine Strieby around the start of 2014 in front of the Gunn home in Chatsworth, CA.

64 corvette mako gunn 2014

Last Updated ( Thursday, 30 July 2015 06:58 )