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1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - Dark Matter

Jason Lemek’s ’63 is blacked out and badass

John Machaqueiro Dec 3, 2014
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The latest statistics place the average age of a new Corvette buyer at 59. That is up from 54 only a decade ago. Equally telling are the ever-increasing prices on many older Corvettes. Perhaps that might be part of the reason that 36-year-old Pennsylvanian, Jason Lemek states, “When I’ve been out in this car, I’ve gotten a lot of older guys tell me, ‘You better take your dad’s car home!’” The car he is referring to is his ’63 convertible, which you see on these pages. While Jason often needs to make it clear that he hasn’t borrowed the car, the story on his C2 does indeed start with his dad, Don Lemek.

The elder Lemek has been a life-long Corvette junkie, with a particular fixation for C2s. This enthusiasm for that body style was one he hoped to pass along to his sons, so in the early ’80s, he started buying wrecked midyears from local junkyards for them to rebuild when they were old enough. Penndel Body Works in Penndel, Pennsylvania, was one of his favorite spots. According to Jason, when you drove up to the place, you could see wrecked midyears stacked on top of tractor-trailers behind the building. “Every time there was a Corvette wreck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, they would go pick it up,” Jason further explains. “They had about 20 at one point that were crashed, and I think my dad ended up buying all of them.”

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grille 2/14
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Front Quarter 3/14

In 2010 Jason decided to take his dad up on the offer, and asked for a body to work on. “My two favorite cars were the ’63 split-window and the ’67 big-block convertible,” he notes. “My dad didn’t have any ’63 coupe bodies, so I got the ’63 convertible, but at that point I figured that I wouldn’t be putting the car back to original. The original motor was long gone, along with all the factory parts, so I decided to build something that I wanted to enjoy, and make it look more like a ’67.”

What he got, or didn’t get, was much of a car to work on. The starting point was a bare shell missing the front clip, doors, and fenders. The only positive was that the birdcage was in exceptionally nice condition. At the time, his brother Mike had a Corvette repair shop, so he was able to take the body there to work on. With the help of his dad, Mike, and his other brother Ryan, they hung new fiberglass panels and did all the rough work. “Body” Bob Hamilton, who worked at the shop, and is a master at shaping fiberglass, performed the finish work. Once the body was razor sharp, Brandon Good laid down the deep DuPont ChromaSystem Super Jet Black basecoat/clearcoat paint. The entire process was rather lengthy because everything was being allowed to expand and contract to avoid issues once the car was finished.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Engine View 4/14
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Wheel 8/14

While the body was taking shape, Jason pondered his direction and decided to alter his plans for the car. Initially, he was content to slide a stock frame under the body and drop in a big-block that looked period correct. While it would be like many other C2s, it wouldn’t have that much of a personal stamp. At that point, he decided that a modern drivetrain would be the direction going forward. He explains, “I went and checked out a bunch of different chassis at the 2012 Corvettes at Carlisle show. I spoke to quite a few people in trying to figure out the best route. At the time, everyone was building chassis using C4 suspension, and I didn’t want to go that route. I was looking for something more modern.” During the show, he spoke to Jeff Page, the owner of Heartland Customs about the C2 chassis they were developing with the Roadster Shop. At the time, the Fast Track C2 Corvette chassis was still months out so he held off. The appeal of this design was that it was fully hand-fabricated using 10-gauge boxed framerails with the factory body mount locations. Their front suspension uses proprietary geometry utilizing C6 ZO6 spindles, along with larger upper and lower control arms, which have been designed to accept a wider wheel and tire combination without losing turning radius. The quality of the workmanship was also a big selling point. Jason describes it as “a piece of artwork.” At that point in the build with the frame sorted out, the body was moved to his garage at home, where the rest of the work would take place.

Propulsion was also a mixed bag of choices. There were plenty of options from mild to wild, yet there is something to be said for reliability that is backed up by a warranty. With that in mind, Jason opted for an LS376/525 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance’s catalog. The LS3 6.2L naturally aspirated mill produces a respectable 525 horses at 6,300 rpm and 489 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Mated to a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, it transmits the power via a custom-made driveshaft to a 9-inch rear stuffed with 3.90:1 gears. All those ponies require proper breathing, so he opted for a set of SLP SS headers that purge into Stainless Specialties custom polished side pipes with internal mufflers. When it came time to choose the rolling stock, Jason knew that the wheel and tire choice could make or break the stance on the car, so he opted for an inconspicuous set of ZR1-style black powdercoated wheels (18x9.5 front, 19x12 rear) wrapped in Nitto NT05 radials (245/40ZR18 front, 335/30ZR19 rear). The last piece of the performance puzzle was the braking, and for that he went with a set of massive Wilwood six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors at the front, and Wilwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors at the rear.

The last major hurdle, aside from assembling everything, was the interior. While the direction of the build changed, the choice of exterior and interior colors remained a constant. Midway into the project, Jason started looking for someone to tackle the interior, which led him to contact a few local automotive upholstery shops. Most of the conversations generated ideas that gravitated towards using off-the-shelf repro parts, like door panels, which was a direction he didn’t want to go. He had some specific ideas, yet was not finding the right person to execute them. That changed when he met Chris McClintock, the owner of Bux Customs in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Jason explained what his vision was for the interior and Chris delivered the goods. The C2 interior has been fully wrapped in red leather, with custom seats, and door panels. Other highlights include Vintage Air, Sat Nav, power windows, and a Billet Specialties D-shaped steering wheel, along with an iPad controlled sound system. Progress was steady, but challenging, since most of the work was being done in his garage, which didn’t have a lift.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Gauges Dashboard 9/14
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Interior 10/14

After about three years of steady progress with no clear completion date set, Jason decided to ramp up the work to try and make the 2014 North East Rod & Custom show in Oaks, Pennsylvania. Two weeks before the show, the car was moved to AG Automotive in Ivyland, Pennsylvania. Owned by Brandon’s dad, Andy, the shop played a crucial role in getting the final work done on the car because of their fabrication capabilities. In the end, it went right down to the wire, with everyone working on the car until the day before the show.

Since then, Jason has been enjoying the car. Some might look at it and think it’s a trailer queen, however, he says “there are a few chips in the paint already, but I drive it like I stole it.” Beyond the sheer enjoyment of driving the car, he plans to do the same for his children that his father did for him, by stashing some Corvette projects away for them to play with when they are older.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Quarter Rear 14/14

Spec Sheet
Vehicle: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette convertible
Owner: Jason and Andrea Lemek, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
Engine Chevrolet Performance LS376/525 crate engine
Block Chevrolet Performance cast-aluminum with six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps
Rotating Assembly Chevrolet Performance nodular-iron crankshaft, powdered metal steel connecting rods, hypereutectic aluminum pistons
Heads Chevrolet Performance aluminum L92-style port with 68cc chambers
Camshaft Chevrolet Performance 226/236-at-0.050 hydraulic roller, 0.525/0.525-inch lift, 110-degree LSA
Valvetrain Chevrolet Performance 2.165 intake/1.590 exhaust valves, investment-cast roll trunnion 1.7:1 rocker arms
Induction Chevrolet Performance EFI intake with fuel rails, injectors, and throttle body
Exhaust SLP SS headers, Stainless Specialties custom side pipes with internal mufflers
Transmission Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, Ram hydraulic clutch, Tremec shifter
Frame Roadster Shop/Heartland Customs Fast Track C2 Corvette chassis
Rear Axle 9-inch IRS with 3.90:1 gears and Driveshaft Shop axles
Front Suspension Roadster Shop Fast Track with coilover suspension
Rear Suspension Roadster Shop Fast Track IRS with coilover suspension
Brakes Wilwood 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers, front; 12-inch rotors with four-piston calipers, rear
Wheels ZR1 wheels, 18x9.5, front; 19x12, rear
Tires Nitto NT05 245/40ZR18 front, 335/30ZR19 rear

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