Former owners turn out for coupe's debut

  • The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner.

    The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner. Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • Loren Reineking, left, the original owner of this 1966 Chevrolet COPO Corvair, came to the recent 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, where it received the Celebrity Pick Award by Matt Avery, right.

    Loren Reineking, left, the original owner of this 1966 Chevrolet COPO Corvair, came to the recent 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, where it received the Celebrity Pick Award by Matt Avery, right. Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • Now owned by Dennis Albaugh, the Corvair was restored to its current beauty starting in 2013.

    Now owned by Dennis Albaugh, the Corvair was restored to its current beauty starting in 2013. Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner.

    The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner. Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner.

    The Stage I Stinger was equipped with a 160hp engine and items like a four-speed transmission, finned oil pan and belt tensioner. Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • When David Wetsch owned the Stinger Corvair, he added a hitch and towed his hydroplane boat to a nearby reservoir.

    When David Wetsch owned the Stinger Corvair, he added a hitch and towed his hydroplane boat to a nearby reservoir. Historical Photo Courtesy of David Wetsch

 
By Matt Avery
Special to the Daily Herald
Posted12/16/2019 5:00 AM

Back in the summer of 1966, Loren Reineking was cruising around Des Moines in a 1962 Corvair convertible.

Motoring carefree to his job at a bank had made him quite a fan of Chevy's little sportster. When the teller caught wind of a hopped-up version called the Yenko Stinger, he was more than ready to cash in on the new arrival.

 

Racecar driver Don Yenko devised the special-order cars through Chevrolet's COPO (Central Office Production Order) process and further souped them up at his Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, dealership.

"Jim Spencer (Yenko's main distributor) came to town to race and a high school friend, Joe Muhlenbruck, and I went to watch," recalls Loren. "One thing led to another and we went in together on one for ourselves."

Of the 100 vehicles Don built that year, Joe and Loren nabbed No. 17, a Stage I version. They retrieved it in August, driving to the Windy City and picking it up near Jim's downtown Chicago office.

Right away, the young men started buzzing about, participating in local autocross events and parking lot club racing.

"It clearly had more power than other Corvairs giving us an advantage," recalls Loren. Bitten by the bug, they even sold a second Stinger to Forest Davis, a fellow club member, with plans for many more. "We wanted to be set up as a dealer but lacking a showroom, we couldn't meet the state's requirements," explains Loren.

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With a growing family, Loren turned the Stinger over to Joe. Fixated now on Vettes, he sold the Stinger in 1969 to Bill Funk. The young enthusiast left it mostly parked, a broken window the cause for the prolonged sitting.

While a pain, it didn't deter Bill's classmate, David Wetsch, who in the summer of '73, purchased the coupe for $500.

"I always liked its looks but never fully appreciated the Yenko status," explains David. "I thought Bill painted on the stripes!"

The college freshman fixed the window and found the car could haul.

"Having a hydroplane boat, I added a trailer hitch to tow it to a nearby reservoir," chuckles David, who still lives in Des Moines. "I never raced the car, using the Stinger as a utility vehicle."

That's not to say he wasn't up for the occasional romp. Jim Marmon, a local neighbor friend, attests to many a late-night jaunt.

"Friday nights he'd pull up outside my house and rev it up," laughs Jim. "Looking out the window to see him, I'd change my pajamas for street clothes, jump in and off we'd go, having a ball!"

The years were full of fun, but with a marriage on the way in the summer of 1976, David sold the car. His dad's secretary bought it for her husband's birthday. Later, it passed to other collectors before coming to Dennis Albaugh. Starting in 2013, the car underwent a full restoration, being unveiled for the first time at the recent 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont. Not wanting to miss the momentous occasion, Loren, David and Jim all attended to see it up close once again. "It was surreal," explains Loren. "Coming across something special from your past is one of those things you never expect to happen."

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com or COPOthebook.com.

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