It’s easy to say there are two ways you can find your path in hot rodding. One being a gradual road, eventually finding your way to the promised land, and the other being fortunate enough to have been born into it. For Gil LeBlanc of Memramcook, New Brunswick, Canada, growing up in the little town of Lewisville where his dad, Dick, owned the local Texaco station certainly had its perks. He was immediately immersed in the ’60s-era car culture with his earliest memories revolving around the time spent alongside his mentor, forever cementing his passion for anything automotive.
While taking on simple after-school tasks as a youngster at the station, which included cleaning the shop on a daily basis, he’d take his earnings to the local hobby shop to buy scale kits of favorite designs he saw his dad working on at the shop. It’s clear this was a launch pad for the real deal as the years progressed. Combine this with Sundays spent at the local dragstrip where he would see his hot rod heroes knock down blistering times on the quarter-mile. It was easy to see that dear ol’ dad knew the right formula to keep excitement at the forefront with just the right combination of horsepower and nitromethane.
By the time he hit his teens, Gil had a developed passion for muscle cars with his main obsession being the Corvette. Canada in the ’60s and ’70s was like anywhere else – the hot place to be on any given night was the local burger joint where hop-ups would hang out in parking lots just aching for a challenge on the streets. By the time he was 19 he was able to make a move and finally buy his first Corvette in the form of a heavy-breathing ’69 packed with a 427ci/435hp V-8. From that point on it was easy to see his path was set with the proper groundwork already established. As the years passed an endless stream of cars, including numerous Corvettes, Mustangs, and classic trucks would pass through his home shop.
Like any hot rodder, the passion always revolves around the build, which is a value he was also able to instill into his son, Dan. As the owners of Untamed Rods & Customs in Dieppe, New Brunswick, they have been able to bring their dedication for creativity and design to life, creating a bevy of custom rides for their clients. Since Gil always had a passion for the styling of the C1 models, it was obvious the pair would embark on a journey to create one with their own personal touch. To bring it full circle they contacted Eric Brockmeyer Design to render the car and bring it to life. Their idea was to develop a blend of engineering, fabrication, design, and creativity to infuse today’s technological elements into one of the automobile world’s most revered designs.
After doing all the research, a decision was made to work cutting-edge technology into the base for ultimate handling. A call was made to Art Morrison Enterprises for one of their rock solid GT Sport chassis, which incorporates the suspension dynamics of a modern Corvette to give the car new life regardless if it’s on the street or the track. Starting with 2x4-inch rectangular steel, the frame incorporates custom designed crossmembers (including center frame exhaust holes), body and bumper mounts, and engine mount towers. Assembled by team leader Cliff Coombs and Matt Robillard, out back finds a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear filled with a Strange Engineering nodular-iron centersection wearing 3.50:1 gears linked to matching 31-spline axles. It’s suspended in place by an Art Morrison triangulated four-bar and sway bar, deftly matched to Strange Engineering coilover shocks. Moving to the front of the chassis, crisp handling comes from a combination of Corvette C6 upper and lower control arms matched to LG Motorsports 1-inch drop spindles, Strange Engineering coilover shocks, and an Art Morrison sway bar all linked to a power rack-and-pinion unit.
It’s one thing to go fast, but when you have to stop on a dime the stock master cylinder and drums aren’t going to cut it. A GM twin-bowl power master pushes fluid through custom stainless lines by Remi LeBlanc to Wilwood Engineering four-piston calipers with 13-inch discs out back. C6 Z06 six-piston front calipers and 13-inch discs complement the setup. The entire chassis was then molded and detailed for paint, accented by plenty of polished and plated components. Anchoring the spine to the street are a set of Larry Dove-designed custom 18-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels from EVOD Industries wearing Pirelli P ZERO tires in 245/40R18 and 275/35R20, respectively.
When focusing on the heartbeat for the C1 it was easy to decide on bringing it up to date with a fresh injection of horsepower direct from Chevrolet Performance. The exclusive E-ROD LS3 V-8 generates 430 hp at 5,900 rpm right from the crate. It was a perfect choice to give the ’59 just the right blend of seamless horsepower. The engine comes packed with a speed shop full of go-fast goods starting with a cast-aluminum block loaded with a nodular-iron crank linked to powdered metal connecting rods wearing hypereutectic aluminum pistons. Thump comes from a hydraulic roller cam while heavy breathing generates through a set of L92-style rectangular-port aluminum heads topped by a complementing EFI to deliver the goods. Spent gasses dump through factory manifolds to a custom stainless 2 1/2-inch exhaust by Robillard to Flowmaster mufflers. The engine was then detailed and massaged to show standards, accented by one-off inner fenders and a firewall by Pierre LeBlanc for a clean, custom look. To move the goods, shifts glide through a GM 4L65E trans to a custom aluminum driveshaft.
Building a custom Corvette is a lot like sculpting a piece of fine art where the right amount of creativity fused with just enough restraint can yield something truly remarkable. When deciding on the body, Gil contacted Downs Custom Performance Automotive for one of its exceptional ’59 C1 replicas. Starting with a fresh base, Pierre spent time on exceptional lines and panel fitment, attention to detail, and making the classic design perfect from every corner. Custom stainless trim was fabricated along with the bumpers being massaged and tucked. The rears were treated to custom reverse lights, incorporated into the bumperettes. When it came time to select a paint scheme, Gil wanted the car to evoke a particular subtleness accented by contemporary flair – infusing the past with the present. Pierre worked with Norm Cormier in laying down a smooth coating of Axalta, a custom-blended pewter pearlescent vibe. The paint brought the car to life, highlighted by mile-deep plating from G&G Chrome of Montreal.
To establish an equal amount of elegance into the business office, Pierre got started by first sculpting a custom dash and flowing console while also laying out the American Autowire wiring harness. Al Knock then modified and fitted a set of original seats, lowering the backrests by 2 inches for a more custom fit to the interior. Krist Kustoms of Fort Wayne, Indiana, then came to the shop and stitched up a winning combination of pewter leather, accented by Mercedes dark brown square-weave carpeting. The team at Krist also designed all of the sculpted interior panels, stitched the leather dash, and added their signature medallions to the seatbacks. A Budnik Tri-Oval matching leather wrapped steering wheel linked to an ididit tilt column navigates the path. A Lokar shifter pulls gears, and cool breezes flow from Vintage Air through custom vents. Vitals are monitored via Auto Meter’s art deco-inspired Cruiser AD dials while tunes move through Kenwood electronics.
We think that Gil achieved his goal of bringing a level of elegance to the ’59 combined with cutting-edge technology to fuse the past and present together in a perfect combination. We can hardly wait to see him and his lovely wife, Rose, putting down the miles now that it’s finished.