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The Ultimate 1965 Corvette Sting Ray

Separating yourself from the crowd has always been the cornerstone of the hot rod movement.

Eric Geisert Dec 22, 2015
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Separating yourself from the crowd has always been the cornerstone of the hot rod movement. Sure, there are a lot of belly button cars out there—ones that look like the one parked next to it—but then there are other cars that help define a segment rather than just merely following it.

Alan Woodall, from Cary, North Carolina, is old enough to remember the day when Chevrolet introduced the 1963 split-window Corvette to the public. Being a poor college student at the time, he couldn’t come close to affording the $4,200 the dealer wanted for the new Sting Ray coupe design. But by the ’70s, Alan was able to climb in to his own Corvette (a 1962 model) drag car—a vehicle from which he learned to do fiberglass work.

Fast forward to the new millennium, Alan is doing pretty well for himself, and he can afford to own a few hot rods. One of them was a nice 1933 Ford, but soon he got tired of seeing so many other 1933s when he went to a show. So he made a decision to get back into a Corvette, but to build it in a way that would certainly separate it from any other out there. Realizing the C2 era of Corvettes (built between 1963 and 1967) had a certain allure to their design, making them the most popular (and potentially the most expensive), Alan looked for a candidate that he’d be able to modify just enough to be different, but without screwing up the original design.

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Confident he could build the car the way he wanted, Alan looked for just a body, as that was all he needed to get started. He tracked one down in Canada on eBay, and drove his truck and trailer 900 miles to go pick it up. But its level of quality was far less than what he had been promised, so he came home empty-handed. Just two weeks later he discovered another body for sale, and it was only 8 miles from his house! Pieced together from five different vehicles, it was a perfect start for the project, even though it didn’t come with a dash, trim, frame, drivetrain, or even the suspension. By the fall of 2005, and after paying a Corvette restoration expert to glue all the part sections together, Alan had a good base to work from.

The concept he developed for his ride was to combine elements from classic European sports cars as well as American-based concept vehicles that, by doing it in a subtle way, would result in a vehicle with an understated elegance. During the first 3-1/2 years of custom bodywork he did himself, Alan estimates he used 87 gallons of fiberglass resin and another 11 gallons to modify and create interior pieces. He also feels he understands working with fiberglass much better than he does with metal, so he began the search to find a shop that could help him finish his project at the level he desired.

004 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Black Ridler Woodall 3/42

Alan had met Jesse Greening about the same time when Greening Auto Company was being established—just after Jesse and his dad, Jeff, had finished Paul Atkins’ Ridler-winning Salt Pounder coupe (which, in 2000, proved to be the last fiberglass car to win that award). Alan had followed Jesse’s work, liked what he saw, and felt comfortable with turning Greening loose on his project. Not too long into the build, discussions turned to possibly debuting the car at the Detroit Autorama with the hopes of qualifying or maybe winning the show’s Don Ridler Memorial Award—easily among the top prizes in the customized car world. Competing at that high level wasn’t a one-time thing with Greening either, as he shared the Ridler prize with the Peace family of Texas in 2010 when they won the award for their slippery red T-bird. But it also meant Jesse and his team needed to readdress some of the points already completed on the car.

Work began on the chassis, which included using a 2.5-inch tubular frame from SRIII (New Lenox, IL). The frame allows the use of C4 Corvette rear suspension and C5 front suspension, but both were narrowed (front: 3 inches, rear: 4 inches) for this application so deeper wheels could be utilized. Greening’s also modified the frame’s mounting points to alter the car’s stance to their liking, and more than 125 welds found on the frame were ground smooth. Bolted up to each corner are Bilstein shocks as well as 15-inch Baer disc brakes, highlighted with six-piston calipers with the Corvette name machined into them. Greening’s also modified the GM spindles by removing the antilock brake sensor, and welded 1.5-inch extensions to the rear hubs to further lower the car. Automotive illustrator Eric Brockmeyer, who did extensive drawings of the car for the owner, designed the wheels specifically for this car. They are 19x8.5 and 20x10 and were machined by Greening Auto Company before being wrapped in Pirelli PZero 235/45-19 and 335/45-20 rubber.

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Big motors have always been a part of the Corvette lore, and Woodall’s choice combines a historic displacement with contemporary castings. At 427 ci, the LS7 was used because Alan wanted something reliable but with enough horsepower. Greening’s smoothed the block and filled all unnecessary holes before it was painted and assembled. The motor, dyno’d at 421 hp at the rear wheels with 385 lb/ft of torque, might be surprising to some because of the automatic transmission and single muffler. Stainless Works created the exhaust system from 2-1/2-inch tubing, and Greening’s mounted the muffler transverse in the frame. Mated to the engine is a six-speed 6L80E transmission (also ground smooth), which is controlled by a MasterShift electronic paddle shift system mounted to the car’s custom CNC-machined steering wheel, and a polished aluminum Inland Empire Driveline driveshaft connects the trans and the rear.

014 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Black Ridler Woodall 5/42

Greening’s borrowed from the GM family by using a radiator and fan from a ’90s Camaro and the brake lines, made from stainless steel, run inside the car, as does the one-piece fuel line, which is lined in Teflon and outfitted with -AN fittings. The Rock Valley gas tank, also made from stainless steel, has a 26-gallon capacity. Greening’s also fab’d a fair amount of one-off aluminum shrouds, covers, and panels to smooth up the look of the engine compartment, and they even created new hood hinges so the hood operates alligator style, opposite the factory-designed method. New floors were also made to follow the new “kicked up” design of the chassis.

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As anyone who has been around the early Corvettes will tell you, the cars were not as solid as they could have been. To beef up the body, multiple coats of resin were applied to add structural strength. More than 100 major body modifications were performed, including the replacement of much of the front end below the beltline to accommodate custom-fabricated headlights, bumper, and grille opening (for the dry sump tank and trans cooler), plus the car’s profile was widened an inch and lowered the same amount. In order to use the Honda HID low beam and standard high-beam headlights, Greening’s CNC-machined new buckets, with the headlight lenses machined from 16x8x8-inch clear acrylic blocks. The bumper was made by forming flat sheetmetal so it would fit flat to the body, then a skeleton made of copper tubing formed to hold the pieces of sheet that were welded together. Advanced Plating helped Greening’s to get the bumpers perfect before they were repeatedly dipped in their chroming tanks.

016 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Black Ridler Woodall 7/42

The same type of work was performed on the rear section, too, with the license plate recess moved up, another scratchbuilt bumper made, and reshaping the original fastback tail section into something that may remind some of a modified Kamm tail design. Greening’s CNC-machined new taillight housings and exhaust bezels, as well as a new license plate light housing and a mini spoiler added to the beltline. Greening’s also re-contoured the section of the body between the front and rear wheel openings, massaging the area so the body lines would flow better. Other major modifications were the smoothing of the sail panels (between the door tops and the rear window), removal of the cowl vents and the three vents behind the front wheels, and the removal of the windwings, which required Greeening’s to split the doors apart to add a new metal structure as well as moving the bottom hinge so the new compound-curve windows could completely roll down.

015 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Black Ridler Woodall 8/42

To make the underside of the hood look like the top side, Greening’s added a new skin, and also machined a new grille from aluminum. Another custom trick that initially goes unnoticed is how the rear window is now flush-mounted with hand-formed trim added. Once all of the extensive bodywork was complete, Greening’s rolled the Vette into their paint booth where Greenings’ Jacob Edens and Jeff Greening covered the car with Glasurit Ink Black paint.

For the interior, Greening’s created a new dash, a console (with custom aluminum insert) that runs front to back, a rear package tray, and garnish moldings all from fiberglass. Dakota Digital gauges are found in the custom-machined insert, and the controls for the car (including the Vintage Air A/C system) are located on an ISIS touch-screen. Lizard Skin insulation was sprayed throughout the car before Paul Atkins added the brick red square-weave carpet accented with silver stitching. He then followed the same red-and-silver combo in leather when he covered the custom (by Atkins) fiberglass seats in leather. Even the three-point seatbelt system was custom dyed to match. A C2/SS logo is found throughout the car to signify the melding of the second-generation Corvette moniker and the SS level of trim (the highest Chevrolet offered).

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Woodall grew up in a time that was depicted in the film American Graffiti—when males of certain age were just expected to be involved with automobiles in some manner. When he started his project he hadn’t thought about competing for the Don Ridler Memorial Award at the Detroit Autorama, but as the car went together, thoughts turned to just that. In 2013, Woodall entered the competition and came away with a place in the Great 8 (the eight finalists from which the Ridler is chosen). To get to that level, Alan had to endure months of itchy fiberglass work as well as the fact the 8,500-hour build went 300 percent over its original budget. But you can’t seriously compete at that high a level without a major investment in time, effort, and cash. The least you can hope for is to come out of it with a special, one-of-a-kind vehicle that will floor people when they see it parked, and be even more impressed when the car drives by.

But, above all, Woodall doesn’t want to own a show car. He built it to drive and he’s been doing just that, and has even wheeled it around the autocross course at a couple of the Goodguys events this past year. When you do get to see this car rolling down the road, you instantly recognize the timeless profile, but the more you look the more you see, and then it hits you: you’re looking at something with not only an understated elegance, but something unlike any other car you’ve ever seen.

001 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Black Ridler Woodall 12/42
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