Do you remember the creations that resulted when Corvette customizers and tuners turned their talents on America’s Only True Sports Car back in the ’60s and ’70s?
Fred Ciccarelli sure does, and his ’73 Stingray coupe is a rolling tribute to that era. “I originally set out to build a nice driver, but I ended up building a show car, which is what I do,” he says. “One thing leads to another, and to another.”
Proprietor of The Paint Shop And Body Works in Ledgewood, New Jersey (and painter of more than a few Corvettes that have graced our pages), Ciccarelli found this ’73 at Carlisle back in 2000. “It was in rough shape,” he recalls. “The body was OK. It didn’t have brakes, but the big-block, Richmond five-speed, and rearend were done.”
Back at his shop, Ciccarelli got to work on the car. “I did the whole underside, the interior, the engine compartment,” he says. “I polished it up, then put wheels and tires and side exhausts on it.” A return trip to Carlisle netted the newly minted custom creation a Celebrity Pick. But Ciccarelli was far from finished upgrading his ’73.
“In 2005 I did the whole body, with the flares and the Motion-style paintjob,” he says. “The finish—House of Kolor White Pearl with ‘sequin sparkle’ in it—is just killer in the sun.”
That paint scheme is also a tribute to Joel Rosen’s legendary Motion Performance shop on Long Island, where factory-built Chevys were converted into “Phased” ultra-high- performance cars. “I have lots of old Motion Performance catalogs, and I remember their Phase III GTs,” Ciccarelli recalls. “Me and my friends used to go out there [to Motion’s shop], and Joel used to chase us away.”
As with Motion’s creations, there’s a lot of serious hardware beneath the surface of Ciccarelli’s shark, starting with the much-modified Mark IV V-8. “It’s a 468-inch big-block, and it’s healthy…around 550 horsepower,” he says.
Backing it is a manual gearbox with one more cog than the OEM Muncies had back in the day. Says Ciccarelli, “The Richmond five-speed has a 1:1 Fifth gear and a 3.27 First, and I have a 3.42 rear in the car. So, First gear in this car is like having a 5.13 rear in a four-speed car.”
Needless to say, the shark is far from a cold fish when it comes to driving. “It’s a monster, but I’ve taken it to Carlisle many times,” says Ciccarelli, who scored a second Celebrity Pick at the famous show with the car in 2008. “People give me the thumbs-up, sometimes almost getting into accidents because they’re looking at it,” he says of the reaction the ’73 generates out on the road. “Others hang out of windows, taking pictures as I’m driving.”
But Ciccarelli isn’t done with the car yet. He’s made some other updates and modifications to it since then, showing off his and his shop’s capabilities while keeping true to his original build plan. “I wanted it to be kind of like the show cars of the ’60s and ’70s, with a little chrome,” he says. “I gave it that ‘back in the day’ look, the way I remember.”
Ciccarelli has done more than a few Corvettes in his shop, and not just customs. “I restore cars too. I’ve done a few NCRS Vettes,” he says. “But to a lot of guys, the car is their baby. It’s what they love, and they’re never going to sell it, so they bring it to me to [customize]. I’ve done quite a few customs over the years.”
That includes Perry Orsham’s “Therapy Vette” ’60, which graced the cover of our May ’12 issue, and Lito Sheppard’s silver “Blitz Package” Z06, which took the place of honor five months later.
If you want your “project ready” Vette to end up looking like Ciccarelli’s C3—or any quality ’60s/’70s vintage custom—he offers this advice: “I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I’ve been in my own business for close to 30 years. So yes, I’ve heard the old adage, ‘Buy a car done—it’s much cheaper than buying and building one.’
“But when you build the car yourself, or have it built, you know what you have from Day One. You know there are no issues and no problems with it—you know everything that goes into it.”
In the case of a car like Ciccarelli’s ’73, that’s quite a lot indeed.
|Owner||Fred Ciccarelli Jr.; Mt. Freedom, NJ|
|Block||Chevrolet Mark IV cast iron, bored 0.040-in over|
|Heads||Mark IV rectangular-port iron|
|Camshaft||Comp Cams solid|
|Rocker Arms||Comp Cams 1.7-ratio roller|
|Pistons||Speed-Pro forged aluminum|
|Crankshaft||Eagle forged steel|
|Rods||Eagle H-beam forged steel|
|Oil System||Stock with mechanical pump and 7-quart Milodon pan|
|Carburetor||Speed Demon 750-cfm four-barrel|
|Intake||Edelbrock RPM II aluminum|
|Ignition||MSD 6AL, Pro Billet mechanical-advance distributor|
|Exhaust||Hooker 17⁄8-in headers with 4-in collectors, Car Chemistry 4-in side pipes|
|Transmission||Richmond five-speed manual with Hurst shifter|
|Rearend||Stock Posi with 3.36 gears|
|Suspension||Dayton springs, 1-in sway bar, urethane bushings, and heavy-duty ball joints (front); VB&P composite monoleaf spring, 11⁄8-in sway bar, polished stainless camber rods, offset trailing arms, traction bar, locating kit, and urethane bushings (rear)|
|Brakes||Stock four-wheel discs with Wilwood aluminum calipers|
|Wheels||Ansen Sprint; 15x8.5-in front, 15x12-in rear|
|Tires||BFGoodrich Radial T/A; P235/60R15 front, P295/50R15 rear|