It’s hard to believe that C2 Corvettes were once “just used cars” that could be had for the same amount of money any garden variety used Chevy cost. Lucky were the ones that bought cheap back then and held onto them.
It was 1980, the start of a new decade and the emergence from the malaise era of the ’70s. Randy Upp owned a ’65 ragtop at the time, but his heart was always tied to the silhouette of a C2 coupe. After seeing an ad in a copy of the Want Add Press car flyer, Randy hit the road to check out a ’66 coupe that was for sale near him. Fate was on his side that day, because another potential buyer saw the same ad and was equally hot to trot on buying the Vette.
But Randy pulled into the driveway first, with the other guy literally pulling in right behind him. First come, first served, and after handing over $5,000 for the keys and title, he left with the ’66. As it sat, the ’66 had a copper-brown color painted over its original Nassau Blue, but the original black interior was still there. Under the hood was a base 327 with an M21 four-speed behind it. The body had a set of modest aftermarket flares already installed, much to Randy’s chagrin.
Once he had it at home, Randy started making the C2 his own. The copper-brown color was sanded, primed over, then covered in a black pearl hue. Then he started adding a plethora of factory options to the car, including factory A/C, power steering, power brakes, and power windows. The small-block was pitched in favor of a ’69 vintage 427 that was given a performance warming over, then bolted in front of the car’s original M21.
Once done, it was time to drive and enjoy, which he’d do for about 30 years. Then in 2009 Randy felt it was time for a complete teardown and rebuild of the ’66. Randy had always liked fender flares on a Corvette, and for the rebuild he wanted to go all out. So, he spent eight months searching for a set of original, uninstalled L88 rear fender flares. After finding the rear flares, he continued hunting until a set of uninstalled ZL1 flares turned up for the front.
Randy took the car to Freddy Ciccarelli’s The Paint Shop and Body Works in Ledgewood, New Jersey, to have the flares installed, and the car repainted. At first it was going to be black again, but after some consideration, he decided on a different route, and went with spraying the car in Titanium Silver, with gold pearl in the last two coats of color. Ciccarelli also added some very faint pearl silver ghost stripes for a very subtle but eye-catching look before the final clear was applied.
Once the car was back in Randy’s garage, he blew it completely apart, separated the body from the frame, and phase two began. The 45-year-old suspension was fully rebuilt, along with the factory disc brakes and steering. Most of the factory options he’d installed in the ’80s were removed and sold, giving the car a real stripper look. The goal was to give the car a full retro restomod look with a ’70s/’80s theme.
While most of the car’s interior was retained, Jerry Ambrossie at Master Upholstery in Newton, New Jersey, installed a pair of ’68 seatbacks onto the ’66 seat bottoms, along with the ’68 shoulder belts. Jerry covered the seats in a custom black vinyl/velour combo, along with custom making the door panels, headliner, and dashpad.
Meanwhile, the car’s 427 was sent to Fonse Performance in Erial, New Jersey, for freshening up. The block was bored 0.030-over and a full roller valvetrain installed. Compression ended up at around 10.5:1, and it pumped out 475 horsepower on the dyno. The M21 was rebuilt by Ledgewood Transmissions, then bolted back to the 427.
It took about three years, but in 2012 the car was finally back together. Randy added a BeCool radiator to help keep the 427 from blowing its top on hot days and a new wiring harness from Lectric Limited. He also installed a ’67 parking brake assembly in place of the ’66 one.
Randy’s job as a civil engineer keeps him pretty busy, so he’s only been able to log a few hundred miles on the ’66 since completion, but he still finds a way to take the car out once every week or two for a little cruising during the more hospitable driving months in New Jersey.
No matter how many or few miles get rolled onto the odometer, the love affair between Randy and his ’66 is still just as strong 35 years later.
|Vehicle:||1966 Chevrolet Corvette|
|Engine:||427 big-block, rebuilt by Fonse Performance.|
|Trans:||M21 close-ratio four-speed, rebuilt by Ledgewood Transmissions|
|Suspension:||Factory C2, rebuilt with Bilstein shocks|
|Brakes:||Factory C2 power discs|
|Wheels:||Ansen Sprint, 15x8.5 front, 15x10 rear.|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich, 225/60-15 front, 295/50-15 rear.|
|Seats:||’66 Corvette seat bottoms with ’68 Corvette seatbacks.|
|Interior:||Built/restored by Jerry Ambrose at Master Upholstery|