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Auction Winner—Brett Saurbaugh’s 1967 Corvette eBay build flexed its muscle in Micro Strategies Stock Eliminator

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Auction Winner—Brett Saurbaugh’s 1967 Corvette eBay build flexed its muscle in Micro Strategies Stock Eliminator
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by the FSC staff
Ever since he was born, Brett Saurbaugh was drawn to drag racing. As he got older, he stuck with Stock and Super Stock competition. His latest NMCA Micro Strategies Stock Eliminator 1967 Chevrolet Corvette has seen its share of successes.
Now 47, Saurbaugh grew up in Michigan in a racing family committed to the Chevrolet brand. His father, Craig Saurbaugh, used to take him to the drag strip when he was a young boy. “Dad started doing NHRA Stock Eliminator stuff in the early ‘80s with his ’66 Chevy Nova, and that’s how I got involved,” recalled Saurbaugh, whose father also raced a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle.
When he was 19 years old, Saurbaugh purchased a 1965 Chevrolet Corvette from a farmer. “It was a good deal but needed a lot of work. I started restoring it, and someone talked me into racing IHRA Pure Stock with it,” Saurbaugh shared regarding how he began his own drag racing endeavors. Eventually, he decided it was too nice of a car to keep racing — as he didn’t want to risk wrecking it — and delegated the 1965 to street duty only. 
“Around 2006, I found a ’67 Corvette on eBay that was in rough condition and pretty much totaled,” he continued of how he wound up with his latest competition car. Saurbaugh placed a spontaneous bid and was extremely surprised when he won the auction. “I didn’t even really look at the pictures and didn’t think I’d win, so when I did, I was like… ‘Oh man, I made a poor decision!’”
Saurbaugh’s prize was shipped back to his home in Michigan and he spent the next four years restoring the derelict ride so it could start its new life as a race car instead. Fortunately, his friend, Denny Sabo of West Michigan Auto Body, was “big into Corvettes” and bodywork and offered some assistance. “Denny said it would be a piece of cake, but when he came over and saw it, he said ‘Oh, it’s gonna be bad,’” laughed Saurbaugh.
Sabo worked his magic with the eBay find and grafted on a whole new front clip and new rear quarter panels from Corvette Central, and a new firewall. The Corvette’s frame itself wasn’t quite right, either, but luckily one of Craig Saurbaugh’s friends had an extra frame that was “only sorta bent” and since Saurbaugh wanted “a better one” than what he had, he used that instead. 
“I salvaged the doors and rear deck lid from the original car. I thought we would be able to do all this in a winter, but that wasn’t even close,” he confessed. All in all, it took Saurbaugh nearly three years of just tinkering before the build was ready to progress and he continued to race his ‘65 in in IHRA Pure Stock in the interim. “One this one got far enough so that it was in primer, I stripped the other car of all its parts and swapped everything into this one.”
With the bodywork finally squared away, Saurbaugh set his sights on perfecting the frame, suspension, and modestly appointed interior himself. He kept the original independent rear suspension intact, as another family friend had been working on developing an aftermarket bolt-in rearend and used his car as a product test mule.
Ultimately, Saurbaugh ended up with a rearend from HammerHead that had been fitted with upgraded internals as well as upgraded CV axles and a true 12-bolt spool. “We have to run factory upper and lower control arms but can use any shock or spring, so I’ve got Santhuff shocks in the front and FastShocks in the rear,” said Saurbaugh.
“I did pay someone to put the 8.50-cert roll cage in around 2010, because I’m OK at welding but not ‘save-my-life’ good,” joked the man who works by day as president of his wife Mercedes’s family’s beer distribution business, Mervenne Beverage Inc.
Growing up as a Corvette fan, Saurbaugh always knew there was nothing else he wanted to drive and his idea of drag racing perfection included both a big-block V8 engine and a stick-shift transmission.
As his options were limited to three casting numbers to choose from due to Stock and Super Stock rules, Saurbaugh selected a naturally aspirated 427-cubic-inch, 400-horsepower, Tri-Power engine assembled by Bruce Parsons and with headwork by Heads Ups Cylinder Heads. “It uses a Dart block and original General Motors heads upgraded with PAC springs and Ferrea valves and Jesel rocker arms, an original GM stock crankshaft, aftermarket CP pistons, aftermarket Manley connecting rods, the original carbureted intake, and a COMP cam with the same lift and duration as from the factory,” Saurbaugh elaborated.
Still sticking with period-correct parts and pieces so as to stay class legal, Saurbaugh actually found a set of original carburetors which his father rebuilt. “My dad’s been in the Corvette world since he was 18, and he traded some work for these carbs in the late ‘70s,” he shared. “I got the intake from Fred Lee who is a big Chevy big-block guy, and he’s been a great source of information, too.”
Where the rules permitted, Saurbaugh coupled the Corvette’s old-school technology with more modern components such as an Aeromotive fuel pump and filter, custom aftermarket fuel cell to fit in the stock location, a Racepak Sportsman datalogger system, and Lamb brakes at all four corners.
By 2010, the build had come far enough and Saurbaugh was satisfied with how his Corvette was running, so he headed to the track for its inaugural trip down the dragstrip. That first pass, though, didn’t go quite as Saurbaugh had hoped — or expected.
“It started smoking and I thought I blew the engine but it still sounded fine,” he remembered of the initial dismay and confusion. “I pulled off the track and wrecked a tire because I had bent a trailing arm and it was rubbing so hard.”
Other than the trailing arm incident, the classic Corvette drove fairly well but the one-and-done experience left the wheelman wanting more. Three weeks later, with the trailing arm fixed and reinforced to the point where Saurbaugh was confident they wouldn’t bend again, he gave it another go.
“It had been in black primer until then, because my body guy didn’t want to paint it in case something broke or cracked,” noted Saurbaugh. Confident that the car would hold together moving forward, he sent it back to Sabo to spray the final paint at West Michigan Auto Body.
Saurbaugh spent the first year and a half of his new racing endeavors running low 11-second quarter-mile elapsed times with the Corvette hiking its front wheels roughly six inches off the ground on every run. As he began to upgrade the big-block’s power output, though, the car rose higher and higher until he decided to purchase a wheelie bar from Ken Keir Race Cars around 2014.
A few years later, he joined up with the Great Lakes Stock-Super Stock Association and immediately enjoyed the laid-back vibe of the group; qualifying based on reaction times and not running heads-up, good payouts, and a low cost-of-entry made it too enticing to resist for Saurbaugh.
“One of my biggest goals with this car from day one was to get into the 9-second zone, and I did that at Mid-Michigan Motorplex at a GLSSA race around 2020,” stated Saurbaugh happily. Several 9-second passes, paired with a personal best of 9.89 seconds in the quarter mile, all attributed to his tremendous feelings of success and accomplishment for the weekend. “It was just a combination of getting the car to work and to leave consistently, plus a little tailwind and some good air.”
In 2022, Saurbaugh was heading into the final GLSSA race of the year sitting fourth overall in Stock points. After qualifying, he had moved up to third and was antsy as he worked his way through the elimination rounds. “I had to go to the semi-finals, and then it was a tie at that point… but the winner was determined by who won the most races that year,” he explained of the process. He did make it to the finals, but red-lighted by four-thousandths of a second and took the runner-up honors as a result.
Fortunately for him, Saurbaugh had won one race while the other driver had runner-uppped at three, so the title was tipped in his favor and Saurbaugh earned the 2022 GLSSA Stock championship. “It was the first year I won a race, too,” he continued. “And I finished well at NHRA Division 3 Fall Classic at Indy.”
After a lifetime spent watching his father run Jerico transmissions with good luck, Saurbaugh went the same route at first. “I started having problems with mine and couldn’t get more than 20 runs out of them before I had to fix something,” he recalled of the troublesome time. Ultimately, Saurbaugh switched to a G-Force G101A four-speed manual transmission, which he combined with a clutch from Rob Youngblood’s Advanced Clutches, and hasn’t had a problem since. “It’s been so good that even my dad and my son, Grant, switched, too.”
In 2023, armed with a combination he was confident in, Saurbaugh was hopeful for a repeat of the previous season but has been met with unexpected struggles on the tree. “I ran a blinder before I started racing with NRHA, but they have a rule where you can’t, and instead of switching back and forth between NHRA and GLSSA, I just took it out of my car and it’s been hell adjusting,” he admitted.
Although he hasn’t gotten to visit the Winner’s Circle again, Saurbaugh is still busy having fun and going racing alongside his father and his son. “My wife, Mercedes, is so patient and lets me do way more than I probably should when it comes to racing,” shared the man. “I’m grateful for her and for her support every day.”
In July of 2023, the Great Lakes Stock-Super Stock Association teamed up with the NMCA to take on the stars of the NMCA Micro Strategies Stock and Super Stock classes at the 3rd Annual TorqStorm Superchargers NMRA/NMCA Power Festival Presented by Paul's High Performance on July 21 at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan.
There, the GLSSA reigning stock champion Saurbaugh and his friends took to the track on Friday of the event weekend with a $1,200 payout and coveted NMCA Victor award on the line for the winner. The field was set with 16 Stockers on one side of the ladder and 16 Super Stockers on the other side, pairing GLSSA and NMCA racers against one another in round one.
In his time trials, Saurbaugh worked hard to adjust his reaction times while running a string of consistent 10.1X-second passes at 131-plus mph while. He qualified 12th in the  Micro Strategies Stock Eliminator pack and did his job in round one when he nailed the tree with a 0.009-second light. Saurbaugh ran 10.114 at 131.04 mph on his 10.13 dial-in and took down Tim Bettinghouse in the other lane who had gone 12.365 at 107.76 mph on his 12.43 dial-in.
Although Doug Duell won the following matchup as Saurbaugh’s -0.024-second start took him out of the show, the weekend wasn’t over for the family. 
“My 71-year-old dad, who had a stroke two years ago and quadruple bypass surgery, made it to the finals and finished as the runner-up. The last time he had been to a final round was in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s at that very same track, so it was a really cool moment,” proclaimed Saurbaugh of the emotionally validating moment. Additionally, his 18-year-old son, Brett, races alongside the men in Stock for a fun field with three generations all running together. “And my 15-year-old son, Luke, ran in Jason Dietsch Trailer Sales Jr. Street that weekend and it was his first time down the track, too.”
Despite not having made it to the third round in his most current season, Saurbaugh is happy to be racing with his family and is happy that his car is working well. He’s happy to be racing in Stock, too, as the familiar class he grew up with is near and dear to his hear from a number of reasons — mainly the parity ensured by the fairly restrictive rules. “You can’t run a bigger cam or a bigger motor and have an advantage. The restrictions make it more challenging, and I like that,” said Saurbaugh.
For the future, Saurbaugh’s primary goal is simply getting his reaction times — which are perfectly fine on a practice tree but not on race day — back on par with his opponents… and hopefully winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Stock one day. “I really enjoyed racing with the NMCA, though. It was a lot of fun, and we’ll definitely come back for the Michigan race next year,” he concluded.
The Details
Owner: Brett Saurbaugh                
Driver: Brett Saurbaugh
Hometown: West Olive, Michigan
Occupation: Beer Distributor
Class: Micro Strategies Stock Eliminator
Crew: family 
Car Year/Make/Model:1967 Corvette
Engine: Chevy 427/ 400 horsepower
Engine builder: Bruce Parsons
Displacement: 427 cubic inches
Block: Dart
Bore: 4.25 inches
Stroke: 3.766 inches
Crank: Stock GM
Rods: Manley
Pistons: CP-Carillo
Heads: GM
Valvetrain: PAC spring, Ferrea valves, and Jesel rocker arms
Cam-type: COMP Cam
Carburetor or EFI system: Carb
Power-adder: none
Fuel brand and type: Sunoco
Headers and exhaust: Headers
Transmission: Manual
Transmission Builder: G-Force G101A
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Advance Clutches
Rearend: IRS
Body and/or chassis builder: Chassis Brett Saurbaugh - Body Denny Sabo 
Suspension (Front):Stock
Suspension (Rear): Stock
Brakes (Front): Lamb
Brakes (Rear): Lamb
Wheels (front): Weld Racing
Wheels (Rear): Weld Racing
Tires (Front): Hoosier
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson
Aftermarket body modifications: None
Safety equipment: RJS and Simpson  
Vehicle weight: 3,210 pounds
Quickest ET: 9.89 seconds
Best 60-foot:1.37 seconds
Fastest mph: 135
Sponsors: Me

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