Some folks just can’t leave well enough alone — in a good way. Take Ward Seifrid’s 1962 Corvette. It started out as a complete basket case, literally a pile of parts stored in the second-story rafters of a commercial building. Despite its dilapidated condition, with a frame in such bad shape that it was not salvageable, “I bought it anyway, primarily because it was titled,” he admits.
Initially, Seifrid considered doing a pure resto since he has a few other collectible ’60s Corvettes in his collection. So he had some initial assembly work done on the car by a restorer, but then took it to John Wargo of The Custom Shop (Flanagan, Illinois). After several discussions to develop all the details, and seeing Wargo’s numerous other restomods, he completely changed his mind: “Everything just kind of came together — I wanted to step it up a notch from the others.”
That’s really an understatement, since the concept and list of upgrades they came up with was not merely extensive, it was exhaustive. Virtually every single component would be breathed on, massaged or manipulated. Seifrid immediately began sourcing the hopped-up engine and contemporary chassis components to bring them all together for this 2-year project.
In reworking the whole car, Seifrid and Wargo obviously ignored the old saying, “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” (Even though punch cards have faded into obscurity, the phrase for them still lingers on, outlasting that dinosaur technology.) The chassis is as far from an original C1 as punch cards are from computer chips.
Starting with the foundation, it has a highly intricate tubular space frame, custom fabricated by SRIII Motorsports. Wargo and his crew lavished attention on the welds, all smoothed, finish-sanded, then primed and sanded again, and finally painted body color. Panels made of machine-turned stainless steel reinforce the cockpit floorboards and provide sound/heat insulation, along with a layer of Hushmat.
The suspension is based on late-model Corvette chassis components, with chromed alloy arms and Chris Alston’s Chassisworks coilovers at all four corners. At the front are C5 pieces, and the rearend is a C4 unit. The Wilwood brakes are two-tone; the calipers are polished while the rest of the components are oil-rubbed dark bronze, the same hue used on the intake manifold. For brake clearance and ample grip, The Custom Shop spec’d massive Cray Hawk 19x10 and 20x12.5 wheels with Continental 245/30/19 and 305/25/20 rubber. This required 5-inch wheeltubs in the rear.
All this extra effort to modernize and beef up the chassis was entirely warranted, given the massive engine: a Dart Big M iron big-block boasting 598 cubes of displacement. Topped by aluminum Dart 355 Pro 1 heads and a ported Edelbrock Super Victor intake, it’s supercharged by a Vortech YSi centrifugal blower to grind out more than a grand worth of horsepower.
Machined, clearanced, and assembled by Jeff D’Agostino and Graham Jones of FastTimes Motorworks, the engine spins a Scat 4340 forged-steel crank with a 4.500-inch stroke and H-beam rods pumping JE forged pistons. The slugs are dished to compensate for the forced induction, with a 9.0:1 compression ratio. The Manley valvetrain components are actuated by COMP Cams roller lifters, using a bumpstick custom-ground to FastTimes specs.
Holley’s Terminator EFI system controls four 125-pound injectors (think garden-hose size) to keep up with the blow-through airflow from the Vortech supercharger. Initially, the engine had a boxed carburetor for the dyno testing, but Wargo recommended switching to Holley’s then-new EFI with a blow-through throttle body for better driveability. He says it was the first one ever done by Holley and the company sent a technician to personally oversee the startup and tuning.
Given the engine’s substantial displacement, it only needs 9 psi of boost to exceed 1,000 horses. Twin fuel pumps feed the beast, and a second one kicks in when the boost comes on. Custom headers and a Borla exhaust system vent the spent gasses.
Commenting on why he chose this setup, Seifrid says, “I wanted to be over 1,000 hp, but still use pump gas. I didn’t want to have to mix fuels and use race gas as well.” Pulls on the dyno have gone as high as 1,086 hp, which will require an eventual upgrade to a triple-disc clutch to eliminate slippage.
Dress-up items include Billet Specialties valve covers, and an artfully crafted custom air cleaner fitted with a K&N filter element. SPAL fan fitted to a custom-fabricated radiator that’s 50 percent thicker. Other accessories include an electric water pump and a Tuff Stuff alternator. A billet shifter actuates the Bowler Performance Tremec TKO 600.
The hood is motorized and features a raised center section with vents on the sides. Other exterior modifications include satin-silver-finished bumpers tucked and molded into the body. The grille is a custom 3D insert fabricated by Wargo’s shop. The headlights are LED and the projector foglights have Halo rings. The taillights are modified Lexus units and the third brake light is a custom-molded piece.
The Pro-Spray paint is Mango Tango Copper with a five-color fade top to bottom with ice pearl tricoat, sanded and buffed with Presta products. The flames in the coves required several layers to give it a transparent look and depth.
“I was kind of opposed to flames on the car at first,” Seifrid recalls. “But Wargo said he’d put them on and then take them off if I didn’t like them. I’m glad he talked me into it.” While no particular aspect is his favorite, Seifrid is wowed by all the little stuff, such as how the parking lights pick up the color of the car.
“This car is not for everybody,” he admits. “But thousands of pictures have been taken by spectators. They’re amazed by the detail work.”
For instance, in the cockpit, the top of the windshield has no frame and is made of raw-cut glass, chopped down 3 inches. The pillars have cameras built into them and the elegant rearview mirror on the dash is a custom piece. The door panels have billet armrests and fiberglass inserts with grilles and backlit LEDs. Undercover Innovations supplied the sill panels designed by The Custom Shop. The battery cutoff switch looks like a high-tech switchblade.
The seats were custom built to match racing configurations and covered with Enduratex Crianza, a durable, faux-leather upholstery. Behind the seatbacks, under a cover with mesh grilles, is a Sony audio/video system with 2,000 watts of juice, and includes an in-dash monitor with DVD, four component speakers and a pair of 8-inch subs.
The Copper Topless logo appears in several places: dash, horn button, trunk interior, doorsills and rear emblem. Both the floorboards and trunk have metal rub strips, and the interior of the trunk is as nicely finished as the cockpit. The list of detail work goes on and on.
What was the most challenging aspect of the buildup? “Fitting so much motor and supercharger under the hood,” Wargo admits. “And installing so many electronics in the car and still hiding all the wires. That, and making the fit and finish as good as it is.”
There may be even more challenges ahead of him, though, as Seifrid would like to do a mid-engine Corvette that’s even more radical, yet could still be put back into original condition. So he’s currently on the lookout for another C1 that’s beyond repair.
By the way, how did the name Copper Topless come about? “I’d call it anything, but Wargo came up with the name,” Seifrid says. “He’s very creative. I have 1,000 percent confidence in him. I couldn’t find a better guy to work with.”
All told, Copper Topless is one badass penny that always turns up with more mods. And you can take that to the bank.