Since it first appeared in concept form over five decades ago, the second-generation Corvette has always been a trend setter. That continues to this day—and with this silver split-window, in particular. It's influenced custom C2 Vettes, including one that's also graced the pages and bandwidth of VETTE.
And to think there wasn't a lot of "there" there when Heartland Customs started work on it. "It was pretty much just a body and a rolling chassis," says Heartland Custom's Jeff Page. "There was no engine, transmission, or interior. It was literally a body and some window trim."
Though a partial vehicle means less stuff to take off than with a complete car, there was still plenty of remedial work to do before Jeff and his crew could begin any customizing work on it. "It had its typical home-repair-job ‘bird nests,' and hand-laid-up fiberglass repairs underneath," recalls Jeff. "All that had to be re-done. It was pretty cracked up on the body. We also had to replace the metal drip rails and body mount brackets, because they were rusted out."
As for the chassis, Jeff decided against using the OEM '63 frame. Instead, they got a new, mandrel-bent square tube frame from Street Shop, which Jeff says made swapping in later-generation Corvette suspension, steering and brake hardware easier than if they used the original frame. "It has the C4 suspension and steering on that car, and the '96 Grand Sport brakes," notes Jeff.
With the increase in stopping power, and cornering capability, over the stock '63 Sting Ray's capabilities, Jeff chose a powertrain that was as much of an upgrade as the suspension, brakes, and steering were—a modern-tech LS7, backed by a Tremec TKO600 five-speed. "We did the chrome intake on it, and added CPP's Hydroboost brake master cylinder," says Jeff, who also added a set of Rewarder custom headers to the LS7.
Lest you think a modern-tech engine like the seven-liter LS7 resides in a stock-looking engine bay, think again. "We smoothed and body-color-painted the engine bay, and we added the custom cover that covers the wiper motor," notes Jeff. "It looks like the intake plenum goes right back into the firewall, but that's actually a panel that we made to give that illusion."
But it's inside the split-window coupe that Jeff and Heartland Customs really went to town. "We made every panel in that car," says Jeff. "We used the existing dash, but we modified it. It's all Italian leather inside, with real sting ray skin in the seat inserts. We handmade all the aluminum trim on the doors, and the rear cargo area.
"The headliner has the ‘sting ray' shape," Jeff adds. "We formed all that stuff, and around the dome light there is real sting ray skin to match the seats."
When done, this '63 Sting Ray began turning heads, and not just impressing show judges and show-goers. "Yes, absolutely," says Jeff when asked if this car's meant more interest from potential customers. "That car definitely brought some more business our way." That includes the "C2ZR1" that we featured on VETTE's cover back in the Nov. '11 issue.
That means that this custom first-year Midyear is as much of a trend setter as the first batch of production '63 Sting Rays that rolled out of St. Louis Assembly over five decades ago. "That's a really nice car, but it was the beginning stages of the cars that we're building now," says Jeff, who also notes that Heartland Customs now builds its own round-tube custom Corvette frames that are taking classic Corvette performance to a whole new level. "In the last few years, we've been at the forefront of the restomod Corvette movement.
"The cars we're building now are actually much more high performance, and much more comfortable to drive. So, they're 10 times that car, but that car is still a really nice car."
Jeff says that they've taken what they learned building this custom Corvette, and used that info to improve the Vettes they're now building for their customers. "The ones we're doing today, we're truly getting C6-C7 performance out of them," says Jeff, "with all the comforts and amenities of the new luxury cars in whatever C1, C2, or C3 that you want."
And those buyers get something more than a step-by-step "build book, and an unveiling at the shop, when they choose Heartland Customs to resto-mod their Vette. We've partnered with the National Corvette Museum, so all of our cars are archived and authenticated by the Museum, so (the owners) get a very VIP delivery of their Heartland Customs Corvette and a bunch of documentation," says Jeff. "We unveil all of our cars at the National Corvette Museum."
|Vehicle:||1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe|
|Builder:||Heartland Customs, Purcell, OK|
|Engine:||GM Performance Gen III small-block V-8 (LS7)|
|Block:||GM Performance LS7, cast-aluminum alloy, with six-bolt mains and pressed-in cylinder sleeves|
|Displacement:||427 cubic inches (7.0 liters)|
|Heads:||Stock LS7, cast-aluminum alloy|
|Valves:||Stock LS7, 2.20-inch intake, titanium; 1.61-inch exhaust, sodium-filled|
|Camshaft:||Stock LS7 hydraulic roller, 0.591-inch lift (intake and exhaust)|
|Pistons:||Stock LS7 cast aluminum, 11.0:1 compression|
|Crankshaft:||Stock LS7, forged steel|
|Oil System:||Stock LS7, dry sump|
|Fuel Injection:||Stock LS7 sequential electronic|
|Ignition:||Stock LS7 electronic coil-on-plug|
|Exhaust:||Rewarder custom headers and Allen custom sidemount exhausts|
|Transmission:||Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual|
|Frame:||Street Shop custom, welded mandrel-bent 2x4-inch rectangular tubing|
|Suspension:||C4 Corvette with QA1 adjustable coilovers, front and rear|
|Brakes:||Four-wheel discs from a '96 Corvette Grand Sport all around, with 13-inch drilled/slotted rotors and GS calipers, and a CPP "Hydroboost" master cylinder|
|Wheels:||Foose "Nitrous," 18x7 inches front, 18x8 inches rear|
|Tires:||Federal "Super Steel 595,"245/40R18 all around|