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Cliff Gottlob’s 1965 Chevelle Z16 Coming Out Of 46 Year Retirement

Cliff Gottlob’s name should perk up the ears of classic car racing enthusiasts across the country. As a teenager in 1960, he set the world record for a quarter mile in a 1959 Corvette. From there, he drew attention and built a reputation that got him the rare car that’s being unearthed today.

Earning the Limited Run Chevelle Z16

After setting his world speed record on the quarter mile at 12.01 seconds and 112mph, Chevrolet took notice. This was a 2 second jump on the previous standing time, a big accomplishment for a teen in the 1960s. His 1959 Corvette sported a fuel injected 283 cid with 290 horsepower and grabbed Chevrolet’s attention. Ralph Miller, the Midwest Division zone manager, and CEO Ed Cole requested a meeting with Cliff.

They brought him to GM’s headquarters in Detroit on an all expenses paid trip to pick his brain. While there were congratulations, they also wanted to know what he did to get his Corvette going that quickly. He shared the information with them and this was taken into account on the 1961 283 cid engine’s 315hp output. They also sent him a 409 cid engine for him to experiment with in exchange for results sharing.

While testing the 409, Ford sent a 406 cid powered car to challenge his 1961 bubble top to drag races. After three, he won rather easily and sent what he’d learned to Vince Piggins at Chevrolet to improve future 409s. These went on to make changes and improvements to the 1962 model year.

Keeping In Touch With GM’s Big Names

Even though he served in the Army in Germany, he was earning five degrees in engineering along the way. He stayed in touch with his three big named friends from GM through the years until discharge in 1965. Ralph encouraged Cliff to buy the new 1965 Corvette with its 396 cid big block; he ordered it immediately.

Several weeks later, he caught wind of the limited 1965 Chevelle 396 Z16 production run of only 200 cars. He decided that this was more valuable because of the small number that would ever roll out. He sold the Corvette without ever touching it and Vince pulled strings to make the trade worth it.

52 Years Old and Worth a Fortune

Cliff didn’t know that Vince had made sure he got the first one off the line, chassis number 11. This put him among the dignitaries that were promised the first 20 to come out of this limited run. He drove it for six years before it was set aside, protected in a garage with only 68,000 miles.

Everything on the car is still in original condition and the Regular Production Options list is still displayed proudly. This has remote controlled outer mirrors and power steering as well as a tachometer on it. There’s also an AM/FM radio and padded dash, power brakes and deluxe seat belts. Last but not least is the four speed manual transmission paired to the 375 horsepower, 396 cubic inch engine.

Now that the very rare car is coming out of storage, Cliff still has plans for his prize. He’s promised the local cruisers that he’d driver her down one day to park her alongside the other classics. His intention is to bring it back to driveable condition but not to sell it off because of its rarity. We’ve certainly never heard of a ’65 Z16 in this good of condition and still with its original owner. We look forward to seeing her cruising again because there are so few of these early muscle cars left.

Categories: Automotive News

James Murrell
About James Murrell

I love to read about and research all sorts of vehicles from restored classics to top shelf supercars, monstrous offroaders to weird concept vehicles. I always have a vehicle build happening on one side of my garage for myself and a second bay open for my friends to come and build their dreams too.