It takes a special car to win a trophy at the Grand National Roadster Show, the oldest and longest- running hot-rod and custom-car event in the world.
Dan Gernstein's 1960 Corvette is one of them.
Not only did it win First Place in the highly competitive Semi-Custom Sports class at the 64th edition of the show at the L.A. County Fairplex in Pomona, California, last January, it also scored an Outstanding Individual Display award.
Two years earlier, a spot in the GNRS, or any show, seemed an unimaginable outcome for this Corvette—or, what was left of it.
"We had the body, some of the chrome, the serial-number tag, and the title," says Gernstein. "The frame was gone, the engine was gone—it was just a body."
But that was enough to start with.
Valley Street Rods fabricated a new frame, on which were mounted C4 suspension pieces and a Dana 44 differential (after it took a trip to the plater's), along with a GM Performance Parts LS7 crate engine and a Lokar-shifted 6L80E overdrive automatic transmission. For brakes, C4 hardware was also the choice, along with something that boosted the engine bay's looks along with the brakes' performance. "We put an electric brake booster on it, so you don't see a booster sticking out of the firewall," says Gernstein.
The LS7 received some bespoke touches of its own. "We had Steelcrafters build us a custom intake manifold," he says, adding, "We put a special set of valve covers on it, so we could hide the coil packs and clean the engine up a bit." Also going on the LS7: a billet serpentine-pulley system, and custom covers—with "Fuel Injection" script—for the fuel rails. "They add a touch of class in there," notes Gernstein.
As for the body, it needed plenty of remedial fiberglass fettling, thanks to some old crash damage, before the big work started. Fortunately, Gernstein's shop—A-1 Fiberglass in Omaha, Nebraska—was up to the job, and then some. "We stripped the body down and [performed] quite a few repairs," he says. "We made new inner fender wells for it, so we could hide our computer system and run our air-conditioning and water lines under the fenderwells."
But that wasn't all they had in mind for the body, per Gernstein. "We split the fenders in the back and widened them an inch and a half, but that was done so subtly that you don't notice it." Once the fiberglass work was complete, the 1960's body was treated to a two-tone custom Yellow/Dune paint scheme using two-stage DuPont paint, sprayed on by Todd's Body Shop in Aurora, Nebraska.
The 1960's rear corner trim also got some attention. "We split the rear bumpers and widened them out where they went around the fenders," says Gernstein, who adds that the former exhaust openings were turned into back-up light housings. "The lights were machined out of billet, and we used the Corvette emblems on them," he says of that subtle rear-end mod.
Other upgrades and modifications were just as subtle, especially in the cabin, where the stock seats were re-covered in custom leather stitched by Phil Hartzell. "We took the ignition key out and put a push-button start system in, we put an electric parking brake on, and right where the key slot is on the trunk, we put the backup-camera lens," says Gernstein of some of the features on his 1960 that weren't even found on factory "dream cars" back then.
And, of course, factory dream cars didn't have huge rims that were machined to look like a set of production 1960 Corvette wheel covers, either. "Larry Dove of EVOD Wheels made them for us," explains Gernstein. "He wanted them to resemble the factory cover, but in all billet aluminum. They turned out fantastic."
Crowds took notice of the car from the moment it rolled off the trailer at the 64th Grand National Roadster Show last year. "There were several Corvettes in the building that we were in—beautiful cars," says Gernstein. "But the color of this car just drew people to it. I think that really set it off."
As mentioned previously, the C1 won its class, and it also scored an award for its display—huge accomplishments for a first-time GNRS exhibitor."It was actually the first car show of that caliber that I'd been to," says Gernstein. "It really showed nicely out there."
Gernstein has plenty of people to thank for his car's success, and for the rapt attention it garners whenever he takes it out. "Two deserve special mention, as they performed the bulk of the 4,000-man-hour project—Gary Berthelson and Jim Hatch,” says Gernstein. "They did a wonderful job."
If the story of this 1960 inspires you to attempt a similar makeover on that Corvette (or remnants thereof) that caught your eye, Gernstein's advice is simple: "Have patience, and a couple guys who are dedicated to fit-and-finish. The guys who built this car were just fantastic."
As is the result of all their work.
|Owner||Dan Gernstein; Omaha, NE|
|Block||GM Performance Parts LS7 aluminum|
|Heads||Stock LS7 aluminum|
|Valves||Stock 2.20-in titanium intake/1.61-in sodium-filled exhaust|
|Camshaft||Stock LS7 hydraulic roller|
|Rocker Arms||Stock 1.8-ratio with offset intake|
|Pistons||Stock hypereutectic aluminum|
|Crankshaft||Stock forged steel|
|Rods||Stock forged titanium|
|Oil System||Wet-sump conversion by Street & Performance|
|Fuel Injection||Stock LS7|
|Intake Manifold||Custom Precision Metalcraft|
|Ignition||Stock electronic coil-near-plug|
|Exhaust||Custom-fabricated 2.5-in stainless steel with LS7 exhaust manifolds and Borla mufflers|
|Transmission||6L80E overdrive automatic with Lokar shifter|
|Driveshaft||Dan's Driveline custom|
|Rearend||C4 Dana 44|
|Frame||Custom ladder-type, fabricated by Valley Speed Shop|
|Suspension||C4 with Aldan coilovers (front and rear)|
|Brakes||C4 Grand Sport calipers, drilled and slotted rotors (front and rear)|
|Wheels||Custom EVOD billet aluminum; 17x8-in (front), 18x9.5-in (rear)|
|Tires||Dunlop Direzza DZ101; 225/50R17 (front), 255/45R18 (rear)|
|Mileage Since Completion||100|