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1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe - Midyear Makeover

A complete body and prebuilt chassis yield smooth sailing on this '63 Vetterod project

Scott Ross Apr 28, 2014
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Turning a Corvette into a Vetterod doesn't always require that you have a complete car to start with. But in the case of Don Kalina's '63, he did, in fact, begin with an intact C2.

But he didn't use—or need—all of it.

Kalina has always loved the second-generation Vettes. "Since I was a teenager, I've always wanted a '63 split-window," he recalls. "I finally found one, and the rest is history." He adds, "The '63 was always my ‘heartbeat.'"

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Front 2/11

Don Kalina only needed the body from a "project ready" '63 coupe to build this Vetterod.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Rear 3/11

From this angle, it's possible to spot the C4 suspension components tucked neatly under the midyear's body.

His years-long search began to pay off when he got a tip about a potential project car while at an out-of-town event. "I was at a car show in Columbus, Ohio, and someone said they knew of a '63 in Pittsburgh," says Kalina. He then got the owner's phone number and contacted him to find out more about the car.

It had been off the road since 1979, according to its then-owner, the car's second. There was no unusual history behind this Corvette, and no rare options on or in it. It wasn't a numbers-matching car either, but it was definitely "project ready."

Before long the deal was made. "At the time, I'd just had my knee replaced, so I couldn't go get it," Kalina says. "I just bought it from the pictures. My two partners went out there and picked it up for me."

Once the car was hauled home, they began the project by taking the midyear apart. What wasn't going to be reused was put to one side of the garage, for sale to other C2 owners and restorers. "I sold the chassis, engine, transmission—everything that was under the car, I sold on eBay," says Kalina, who was then left with an original '63 coupe body that needed some help. "When we stripped all the paint off of it, we saw that one door needed a new skin, and we found that the right front needed some repair work," he says. "Those kinds of things you have to expect."

When it came to the chassis, Kalina chose a roller from Newman Car Creations, with a complete C4 suspension system—front and rear—already installed. "We rolled it off the trailer and put the body on it," Kalina says of the conversion.

He had plenty of help in building the rest of the split-window Vetterod: Chevy Performance Parts built the LS7 crate engine, while Distinctive Street Rods in Syracuse, New York, did the bodywork and paint. The latter job included widening the rear quarters, shaving off the emblems and trim, and adding a stainless steel grille. RP Interiors in Horseheads, New York, stitched up the cabin's seats and trim. The colors on and inside the body (including the two-stage Glasurit Black paint) were chosen by Kalina's wife, Lizz.

In all, it took about two years for Kalina's dream car to go from discovery to debut, with about a year's worth of shop work needed to put the Vetterod together. Unlike many other resto-rod projects, this one went smoothly from start to finish, especially when it came to the chassis. "Paul Newman helped direct us through what we had to do, and we really didn't have any difficulty," Kalina says of the assistance he got from the California-based chassis shop.

What's it like to drive this C2-on-a-C4? "People who drive it, or ride in it, just can't believe it," says Kalina. "It's a solid car," he adds, while stating that the overall experience rivals that of a C6. "I have an '05 right now that I'll be trading in on a new '14. If you closed your eyes and drove either it or this Sting Ray, you wouldn't know the difference."

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Steering 7/11

Classic Instruments gauges, Vintage Air HVAC, an ididit tilt column, and a stock RPO N32 teak wheel are just some of the cabin's highlights.

But the judges have seen the difference between Kalina's '63 and competing rides on the show field, honoring the midyear with class wins and other awards at Carlisle, the Syracuse Nationals (where it was a Top 12 winner), and at Goodguys' big show at Rhinebeck, New York.

Maybe you, too, have asked around at Corvette shows and other events over the years, in search of that ideal project car. "If you're going to do it, find a body that's half decent," advises Kalina. "Make sure that the body is as good as it looks. That's the key, [and] you can save yourself a lot of money."

With a decent body, a rolling chassis, a modern crate engine, and a little bit of luck, you're bound to make your own dream Vetterod a reality.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Glasurit Black 11/11

Kalina's wife, Lizz, selected the color scheme for the car, including the two-stage Glasurit Black paint applied to its freshly smoothed skin.

Spec Sheet

1963 Coupe
Owner Don Kalina; North Abington Township, PA
Block Stock LS7 aluminum with six-bolt steel main-bearing caps
Displacement 427 ci
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
Compression Ratio 11.0:1
Crankshaft Stock forged steel
Rods Stock forged titanium
Oil System Stock dry sump
Fuel Injection Stock
Ignition Stock electronic coil-on-plug
Intake Manifold Stock LS7 composite
Exhaust Street & Performance coated headers, reproduction RPO N14 side pipes
Transmission T-56 six-speed manual
Clutch Hydraulic
Driveshaft Custom carbon-fiber
Rearend Newman Car Creations with 3.73 gears
Suspension C4 Corvette with transverse composite leaf springs and tubular shocks (front and rear)
Brakes Baer discs with drilled/slotted 13-in rotors (front); C4 Corvette discs (rear)
Wheels Re-chromed '02 Corvette; 17x8.5-in (front), 18x9.5-in (rear)
Tires Pirelli PZero Nero; 245/45ZR17 (front), 275/40ZR18 (rear)
Mileage Approximately 800



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