Standing by his ’60 survivor with 11,870 miles on the odometer, Gary Skinner told us, “I rode in it when it was brand-new. The owner put it up in 1968 and didn’t drive it again.” All the while, Skinner waited for his chance. He grew up with the original owner Ed Graye, a schoolteacher from the little town of West Frankfort, Illinois.
“He ordered the car just the way he wanted it, with the big, fuel-injected 283 and three-speed manual instead of the four-speed ’cause he wanted to drag race it.” Of course, drag racing in those days didn’t translate to just the strip. “Just local stuff, out on the blacktop. We didn’t have dragstrips back then,” Skinner remarked. After about two weeks Graye realized he didn’t have the big (290-horse) fuelie. He had what Skinner called the “small fuelie,” rated at 250 horsepower. So, Graye went back to the original dealer, 30 miles away in Eldorado, Missouri, and found out Chevrolet could not supply the big-horse fuelie. If he couldn’t have the 290-horse 283, Graye wanted something he would be able to work on,” Skinner recalled.
That something would be the big-horse dual-quad 283. But, what could be done now? According to Skinner, the dealer actually loaded Graye’s ’60 Corvette on a trailer and towed it back to the factory in St. Louis, 100 miles away. At the St. Louis assembly plant, they pulled the 283 and installed a 270-horsepower dual-quad 283. This installation required installing a new tachometer, a bigger radiator, and other items specific to this high-performance small-block.
Happy now, Graye drove his ’60 Vette “real hard” until 1968. Skinner doesn’t know why Graye parked his dual-quad 283 in a shed on his property. Skinner suspects a driving incident had something to do with the car’s retirement. “He told me at 150 [mph] the left front tire went down and he almost flipped it. That was in 1968. He never drove it again,” recalled Skinner. But once the hot Corvette got parked, Skinner tried to buy the car “a bunch of times” over the next 18 years. Unfortunately, Graye had made up his mind not to sell.
In 1981 or 1982, Skinner, who was Graye’s neighbor for all those years, helped extricate the Vette from the shed. “It sat outside for two years. That’s what took the toll on it.” Next, Graye built a pole barn in his yard to store the Vette. People “knew it was there and tried to buy it for years and years. When he got ready to sell it, I was third on his list. His sister didn’t want it. His son had just started a new business and couldn’t afford it. So I ended up with it.”
The year was 1986. The price was $7,500. Skinner wasn’t into Corvettes and didn’t know much about prices. But, he turned down $25,000 for the ’60 model three weeks later at the Chicago Vette Fest at McCormick Place. “There, all the Corvette people got to see it. My intentions were to restore it. After I talked to them they said don’t you dare restore that car. Keep it as it, so that’s what I did.”
Over the past 28 years, Skinner has become a real Corvette person, trailering and showing his ’60 Vette at big shows in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
“Every place I take it, it gets something. It’s just an eye-catcher,” relayed Skinner. And what a good steward Skinner has been of this Corvette survivor. In 1986, the odometer stood at 11,110. Over the next 28 years, Skinner added just 760 miles driving it on and off his trailer, motoring in parades, and on short hops to shows in close proximity to his home. He starts the 283 “every once in a while to keep it lubricated.” The result is perhaps the lowest mileage and most original survivor left in the world. “I’ve messed with Corvettes for quite a while now. I think this Corvette is probably the most original ’60 model in existence.”