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Vogue Vette

This Design Specialties Creation Redefines Custom

Rob Wallace III Feb 12, 2003

Few could dispute that Corvettes are naturally sexy, but there's always room for more. There are some--okay, many--individuals who love to see their Corvette dressed up a bit. For them, the need and desire to customize, personalize, individualize, differentiate, and simply make their cars look hotter is a major driving force. But there are a few discriminating people who, you might say, see it as a passion for fashion.

Take for instance Aaron Fleming. The 27-year-old president of Design Specialties Custom Products in Bowling Green, Kentucky, learned from an early age to take customizing very seriously. His father, the late Steve Fleming, used to own one of the 723 '82 Corvettes in the unique metallic Silver Green (color code 40) paint, and it had dealer-optioned Weld chrome wire wheels. According to Aaron, "He didn't want to bring out a brand new car and show it stock," so he waited 10 years before hitting the show circuit while he fabricated many handmade, one-of-a-kind accessories for it. The result was a chromed-out Silver Green Shark that won over 250 awards between 1992 and 1998!

Perhaps, though, the experience gained while customizing the '82 was even more vital to Steve and Aaron than the awards that car won. Steve had begun by buying accessories over the counter and rechroming them, "hoping to get the show quality he was looking for," but he was always disappointed in the quality. Finally, one of the platers suggested that he make the parts himself with a higher grade of materials. "With this," Aaron says, "he found ways to make parts himself and make people notice. As time went on, more and more people wanted accessories made for their Corvettes and other show cars." Thus Steve went into business and started Design Specialties.

Aaron joined his dad when they were contracted to build a custom Impala SS. "The Impala was a fun project that taught us both a lot about fabrication, plating, and teamwork," remembers Aaron. At the show where it debuted, a gentleman approached them about customizing his new '98 triple black C5 convertible. When the black C5 was delivered to them a few weeks later, "My father and I saw a Silver Green C5 with Silver Green interior roll out instead." It would be a while longer though before they would be able to build the full custom C5 they dreamed of.

In February 2002, three and a half years later and after they had moved from Florida to Bowling Green, they finally had the opportunity and bought an '01 Quicksilver convertible with a Torch Red interior. "The '82 was always unique since we had never seen another Corvette that looked so different, but still looked like GM made it that way. Our C5 had to be something totally different and unique." They discussed the project plans for a week, then dove in headfirst and had the C5 completely disassembled, documented, and ready to paint in 12 hours!

With the car completely apart, the stock hood was chucked in favor of a custom high-rise one, and a GTR rear fascia with an integrated spoiler replaced the factory tail. A front spoiler and side skirts were also added. The whole car was sprayed in Dupont Metallic Silver Green with custom metallic green accents. The entire interior--including the carpet, leather seats, dash, door panels, steering wheel...everything!--was also dyed Silver Green to match. Even the leather shift boot and knob for the six-speed's B&M Ripper short-throw shifter were dyed to match the monochromatic convertible, while white-faced gauges, and Design Specialties' own chrome door sill plates and 2-inch "roadster bars" add a nice contrast.

Under the hood, the LS1 powerplant is mechanically stock other than a Twin Flow intake and the fully polished Corsa Pace Car Edition exhaust system with Pro-series tips. However, the engine bay is swimming in eye candy with tons of precision-crafted chrome pieces. All of the accessories have been chromed, along with the brackets, and mirror-finished chrome covers adorn every inch that hasn't been painted Silver Green. The new chrome fuel rail covers are artfully etched with flames in addition to the Corvette and Design Specialties logos. Not a detail has been overlooked. Even the hood struts are chromed!

Just as Steve believed with his '82, the combination of Silver Green with lots of chrome really catches the eye. The C5 rolls on chromed reproduction Z06 rims with stock run-flats. Z06-style rear brake ducts also feed cool air to the Baer brakes with Hawk pads and braided lines. All of the Corvette-style logos and lettering are tripled-chrome-plated brass, and for added flash, Design Specialties built a custom strobe light system that features 12 exterior strobes and four motor strobes. All the lighting equipment is installed in the cargo compartment, and includes its own gel cell power supply, remote on/off and pattern control. This C5 definitely makes its presence known.

Steve and Aaron began the two-month project in February 2002, which was scheduled to be unveiled at the 2002 NCM Birthday Bash. Sadly, Steve suffered a fatal heart attack in March, half-way through the build. "He never did see the car completed, but told me many times that he saw it in his dreams the night before," recalls Aaron, who, despite his father's absence, still had a car to finish. The Silver Green C5 custom did make it to the Birthday Bash in April, and "with the help of family, friends, and the great people from Corvettes Limited of Bowling Green, a beautiful brick was placed in front of the Museum for Steve," says Aaron. "Even though Dad is not here, his dreams and his achievements are. This custom is dedicated to him."

Indeed, Steve's vision is very stylish. With the naturally good looks of a Corvette, the way this Silver Green '01 wears its chrome is somewhat akin to putting Michaelangelo's statue of David in an Armani three-piece suit, or a Pierre Cardin scarf on the Venus de Milo. So does that make this the Versace of Vettes? Maybe, but it's a fact that this stylish C5 turns the open road into a fashion runway!


No stone has been left unturned, er, we should say no part has gone unpolished, on this custom convertible. Notice that even the trunk hinges and latch have been chromed. You can see the strobe light assembly planted in the trunk floor via its reflection in the mirrored acrylic trunk lid insert.

Even the Corvette brake calipers that bind on Baer rotors have been painted Silver Green to match everything else on the C5.


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