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Under the hood: Kevin Mackay

November 30th, 2010 by Stu

Pictured: Corvette maniac, historian, restoration expert, and master judge Kevin Mackay and his most prized possession, a ’66 Corvette 427/430 that was one of Roger Penske’s very first race cars.

Some guys long for the gentlemanly British charm behind an old Jaguar or Aston Martin. Others may prefer the pureness of an early Porsche or rarity behind associated with vintage V-12 Ferraris. Kevin Mackay likes old Corvettes. So much so that the Long Island, NY native has centered his life around them personally and professionally, spending years and years becoming one of the leading experts on the topic of vintage Corvette repair, restoration, racing history and vehicle authenticity. What does that mean to you? Kevin is the guy that schools you on whether or not that $100k Corvette you are considering investing in is actually worth $100k. The guy can spot a fake faster than a currency inspector at the Treasury Department.

Pop into Kevin’s Valley Stream, Long Island repair shop, appropriately called “Corvette Repair“, and you will likely find three or four dudes standing around an old Vette talking shop on any number of topics ranging from 50-year old race results to the latest big-block selling trends at auction. When I got there last Saturday, Kevin and a fellow Bloomington Gold judge were studying a rust-corroded frame that had recently come out of a customer’s C2, Corvette speak for second generation. Kevin voiced over the weak areas, pointing at bad welds and rust-corroded frame sections that had compromised the car’s structural integrity. No matter the year, model or state of repair, Kevin know it inside and out.

Long story short, Kevin is one of those guys who keeps the collector Corvette hobby alive, literally. Remember that priceless #3 Briggs Cunningham car we snapped for you a couple of months back at the Corvettes at Carlisle show? Guess who restored it? Check out what Kevin has to say on life, love and Corvettes after the jump.

Pictured above and below, Kevin’s one-of-a-kind Penske racer, arguably one of the more significant Corvettes ever built. A little about the car…

In February of 1966, legendary racer turned multi-billionaire business mogul Roger Penske entered (he was retired at the point, so he was the team owner not the driver) the infamous Corvette coupe, painted red at the time, pictured here to the Daytona Continental Endurance race and finished first in the “GT” class. Prior to the March ’66 running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, Roger’s main sponsor, Sunoco, asked him to paint the car in their corporate colors, blue and yellow. As you can tell from the brilliant livery pictured here, he made good on his sponsor’s request and ended up finishing first in the GT class once again. The net net of these consecutive victories represents the first 63-67 Corvette to have class wins at Daytona and Sebring in the same year. This car was also one of the very first Corvettes to receive the legendary 427 cubic inch, all aluminum engine, coded L-88. In race prep, it pumped out an astonishing 540 horsepower. Not a bad collector car huh?

How did you get so into cars? Did it come at an early age? I was never very good in school. Not much of a writer or a speaker either. After I graduated high school, my father asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I had no clue. All I knew was that I liked working on cars. He said, you want to be a grease monkey? I said yeah, you can say that.  So I went to technical school…900 hours worth in a six month period. I was like a little sponge, I soaked up as much as I could. Now my father understands I am not just a grease money. I am businessman with a passion for the cars and the people.

(pictured above – a glimpse into the vast sea of Corvettes that Kevin puts his hands on at any given time. Most are customer cars he keeps on the premises for maintenance and repairs)

You are kind of obsessed with Corvettes. What is it about them that moves you?

Before I opened Corvette Repair, I worked at a Chevy dealership for about 5 years and fixed a lot of Chevy products. But I fell in love with the style and beautiful lines of a Corvette and immediately decided it was my kind of car. I still say they are the only true American sports car. I also liked them from an investment standpoint. There are many restored L88s (Kevin has 6 of them) that are pulling in more than $500k at auction. I eventually decided I was gonna start buying, repairing and selling classic Corvettes. I am also a judge and started judging Bloomington in 1986. I just got my 25 year pin and am now one of their senior judges now.

Liking them is one thing and opening a business in quite another. How did the repair shop come to be?
They were easy to work on and easy to get parts for. So I bought a ’64 Corvette convertible and nearly doubled my money inside of 6 months. I took that money and bought a 65 Coupe with a small block and restored it to Bloomington Gold and NCRS Top Flight standards. It really changed my life. It was then that I decided I wanted to do this for a living and make a business out of it. So I rented a little space for $400 a month and started fixing Corvettes. We have since moved spaces but I have been busy ever since.

Do you actually use any of your cars or do you look at them purely as diaper-rubbed investments? I’ve had cars over the years (like the 4 amazing Corvettes below currently residing in Kevin’s garage) that I have driven on a regular basis. I had a 1998 Corvette that I drove for quite a few years until someone offered me $2k more than I paid for it and I had no choice but to sell it. I have a 68 very original survivor car that I am using on nice weather only. Most of the time I am pretty practical and drive around in a little pickup truck.

Are you interested in any non-Corvettes? My knowledge and passion lies in corvettes but I appreciate all kinds of cars. I like the Hemi Superbees and the Ford Daytona coupes…they only made six of those.

What’s the deal with the Corvette Repair concept cars I have read so much about? We started coming up with these creations, kind of like concept cars, that helped us carve out a niche for the company and get our name out there. The Corvette drivable chassis was the first one we made, completed in 1990. Since we’re in the body off restoration business, we’re constantly taking the body off the chassis, called a rolling chassis, taking it all apart, restoring it it back to factory standards and calling it a day. But we took it one step further and, before putting the body back on the car, we made the car completely operational and drivable. We basically took a rolling chassis and put a steering column in, seat, clutch pedal, brake pedal, gas pedal, gas tank and actually make it drivable. It made testing pretty easy because everything was exposed but it’s more educational than anything else…showing people the art and science behind the mechanics. I brought it to Bloomington to put on display and the whole entire hobby went nuts. Here we are driving this rolling chassis with factory side pipes, making all kinds of noise. After people saw the work we were doing, business of major collectors started really coming in. I have since done a see-through Corvette (pictured above), cars with suspended bodies and other wacky tributes to the vintage Corvette hobby.

Your expertise in Corvettes has even lead to GM approaching you about some special projects. Can you tell us about that a little about that? GM approached me about putting together 3 complete display motors for the SEMA show. I said how much time do I have and will you be supplying all the parts. They said no…that I needed to supply all the parts – the block the heads, the intake, the carbs, the intake manifold, all the pulleys, all the bracketry, all the hardware, etc. They needed a completely detailed motor from the oil pan to air cleaner stud. And the best part…we only had 7 days to do it. We worked night and day hunting down 3 blocks from all over the country. In one week, we put together 3 detailed motors and overnighted them to Vegas. Chevy put them into beautiful glass cases and displayed them at the SEMA show. They’re somewhere in the GM archives now.


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