Mike Schultz’s 1965 Corvette Grand Sport Tribute
By Nick Licata – Photography by John Jackson
Mike Schultz’s dad restored antique and classic aircraft for a living, so that mechanical aptitude carried over to Mike at a young age. “My dad got me interested in the inner workings of an automobile engine, so I bought a 283ci small-block at a garage sale with money I saved up from delivering newspapers at 4 a.m. every day before school,” Mike tells. “With help from my dad, I built my first engine at 12 years old.” That introduction to engine building carried on to a lifetime of not only the mechanical side of cars but also a lifetime of racing them.
As a youngster, Mike started out driving karts and instantly became addicted to hard cornering and the lateral g-forces that accompany the practice. That foundation of performance driving carried on into adulthood and a ’65 Corvette convertible he purchased back in 1982 with the intention of building it as a street-legal road racer. Moving forward as far as he could on the ground-up restoration, Mike needed help getting the body off the frame, so he invited a few friends over for a presumed party with complimentary food and beer, only when his guests arrived they were informed no beer until they helped lift the body off the frame and onto a cart he built so he could strip and prep for paint.
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With the body stripped and wider fenders glassed on, it was time for a follow-up gathering to get the body back on the frame. This time the party attendees knew the drill and were more than willing to help, and of course consume more food, beer, and participate in a few hours of bench racing.
The ’65 was moving along, albeit rather slowly, then got sidelined when Mike came upon a ’68 Corvette SCCA GT1 race car for sale—it was a complete and running car he just couldn’t pass up. A few years of racing and autocrossing the car was fun, but the neglected ’65 still needed attention. With that, the ’68 was sold with all intentions to focus back on the ’65 but family life, raising three kids, and a day job left little time to work on the project. Then unexpected life challenges, including cancer and poor health, meant the ’65 would once again lose traction, so Mike did the unthinkable: he sold the car he swore he’d never sell.
Years later, Mike was scrolling through a Corvette group on Facebook when he came across a ’65 Corvette Grand Sport tribute race car similar to what Mike had originally planned for the ’65 he sold years prior—yeah, that one. The seller had raced a ’62 Corvette and his son, who had died a couple years ago, raced this ’65 alongside his dad. The car was sitting in the garage taking up space except for the occasional cruise, which his neighbors weren’t always thrilled about due to the car’s side pipes that featured the “muffler-delete” option.
Mike couldn’t resist and purchased the Corvette. A sudden broken heel bone and torn Achilles tendon delayed the pickup date on the car he was so excited to bring home. With his doctor’s clearance and the help of his sons, they put Mike in the back seat, propped up his leg on a bag of ice and they were on their way to pick up his new toy. “Due to my foot being in a ‘boot,’ my sons got to drive the car before I did,” Mike laughs.
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As Mike’s health improved, he started with his own modifications on the car, which started by replacing the three-disc race clutch with a more streetable Ram single-disc clutch. From there, he built a small-block with larger cubic inches and less compression than the 13:1 engine it came with. “That thing required race gas that costs about $14 a gallon,” Mike relays. “That got old real quick.”
Kent at K&S Engines helped build a new 421ci small-block that comes in at 11:1 compression and makes nearly 600 hp on pump gas/AvGas mix. He updated the drivetrain with the now-popular TREMEC TKX five-speed transmission to offer more highway driveability to the rearend’s 4:11 gear ratio. “Now the car is a great street driver and is also competitive on track days,” Mike states.
The stock chassis was upgraded with fully welded seams, KYB double-adjustable shocks, and offset rear trailing arms. Keeping true to its racing heritage, white painted 15-inch American Racing Torq Thrust wheels reside on all four corners as do the GM 11-inch disc brakes armed with four-piston calipers. Old-school manual brakes get the job done as does the stock manual steering arrangement.
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The cockpit is a mostly stock situation with the factory gauges accompanied by AutoMeter dials for more accurate engine info and a shift light for spot-on gear changes. The aluminum Kirky racing seats covered in red tweed play well with the red vinyl dash, door panels, and faded red carpet. The red Simpson safety harness is anchored to a chromoly rollbar installed by 3R Racing out of Englewood, Colorado, and the onboard fire suppression is still intact from its race days. The stock radio and front speakers are present but are no match for the burley-sounding small-block and highly vocal 4-inch side pipes.
The stock body was treated to a set of time-honored fender flares installed by the previous owner prior to applying the Grand Sport–influenced blue and white racing-themed paintjob that gives this Corvette a historical nod to the innovative racing mind of the great Zora Arkus-Duntov.
“I’ve since retired the car from road course racing to a simpler life of cruising and the occasional autocross and local track day,” Mike explains. “And I plan to keep the car looking just how it did back in its racing days. The previous owner allowed me to keep their son’s name on the door for as long as I wish. And honestly, I’m honored to pay tribute as I’m sure he drove the hell out of this car.”
Mike tells us the greatest memories he’s had with the Corvette thus far has been working long hours with his two sons and several friends getting the car ready for the 2023 Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We had so much fun on this project,” Mike states. “It was a great bonding experience with my boys and some good friends who all helped make this dream a reality.”
The car has its fair share of battle scars and even has some pieces of blue duct tape covering the larger scrapes and bruises, but as Mike says, “Each chip and blemish is what gives the car character. If this car could share some stories from it’s hard-driven life, I can only imagine what tales they would be.”
Owner: Mike Schultz, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Vehicle: ’65 Chevrolet Corvette
Type: Chevrolet small-block
Displacement: 421 ci
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Bore: 4.155 inches
Stroke: 3.875 inches
Cylinder Heads: AFR 220 Eliminator, aluminum
Rotating Assembly: Scat Forged crankshaft, Scat 6-inch H-beam rods, JE forged aluminum pistons
Valvetrain: Jesel shaft rockers
Camshaft: Comp Cams solid roller (0.620/588 lift, 254/260 deg. duration at 0.050.)
Induction: Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, Holley 4779 750-cfm carburetor, K&N air cleaner
Machinework and Assembly: Kent at K&S Engines (Tulsa, OK)
Exhaust: Hooker side-mount headers, 4-inch side pipes
Ancillaries: Edelbrock water pump, dual Spal electric fans, DeWitt aluminum radiator, cast-aluminum valve covers, MSD ignition, ATL steel 20-gallon fuel tank
Output: 588 hp at 6,200 rpm and 555 lb-ft at 4,900
Transmission: TREMEC TKX five-speed
Driveshaft: Driveshafts Inc.
Clutch: Ram single-disc
Rear Axle: Corvette IRS, limited-slip posi, 4.11 gears
Chassis: Stock, fully welded seams by 3R Racing (Englewood, CO)
Front Suspension: Stock with KYB double-adjustable shocks, 1-inch antiroll bar, manual steering
Rear Suspension: Corvette IRS, transverse leaf springs, KYB double-adjustable shocks
Brakes: GM 11-inch rotors with four-piston calipers front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: American Racing Torq Thrust (15×7 front, 15×8.5 rear) white centers with polished outers
Tires: Hoosier TD-S (25.5×8.5-15 front, 26.5×9.5-15 rear)
Upholstery: Red loop carpet (faded), red vinyl stock dash and door panels
Seats: Kirkey aluminum with red tweed, Simpson harness
Rollcage: Chromoly by 3R Racing
Door Panels: Stock
Instrumentation: Stock with AutoMeter gauges and shift light
Bodywork: Front and Rear fender flares
Grille: ’64 Corvette
Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Zora Inspired.