In 1987, Bill Waugh took a ride with his son Chris to look at a diamond in the rough. Bill was in search of a project to work on, and as you can guess, the plan—at the time—was the ever-popular father-and-son restoration. “He always liked the older cars and doing the work on them, and was quite fond of Corvettes,” Chris recalls. Their ride took them to Charlotte, North Carolina, to look at a ’69 Corvette convertible that had been advertised as an “unfinished custom project.” The seller claimed that he was on the brink of a third divorce so the C3 had to go—reluctantly. What Bill and Chris walked into was indeed a ’69 Corvette from the doors back—the front clip was from an ’80 Corvette. As part of the custom theme the seller had tacked on L88 fender flares, shaved the door handles, louvered the headlight openings, de-chromed it and blasted it in flat black. This car seemed like a good candidate, so Bill pulled the trigger on the purchase.
At the time, Chris was reaching the ripe old age of 16 and was in possession of a learner’s permit, so the prospect of getting behind the wheel of the Corvette was high. As time permitted both would work on the car, and that time slowly dwindled as Chris reached the age of 18. Bill sold paving equipment for a living, but always had ambitions of owning his own business so when Chris was 18, they started their own paving company. As a result, the father-and-son project was quickly relegated to the back burner. Bill would occasionally do some work on the car; managing to install a new interior and convertible soft-top. He also swapped the less-than-tame 350-cubic-inch engine with a stock 350 purchased from a neighbor.
In 2002, Bill passed away after a prolonged illness, leaving Chris to run the business on his own. The Corvette was just a footnote at that point, but never really forgotten. It was moved to a corner of the business warehouse where it stayed until 2006. “I kept talking about redoing it, but I was so busy with work all the time,” Chris says. “It was a project Dad and I got, and I just wanted to see it through. I felt it needed to be finished, but realized that I was never going to have the time to finish it myself.”
A visit to Mike Boyles Corvette Center in Archdale, North Carolina, in 2007 was the needed spark to get the tired C3 back on the road. Chris wanted to be able to drive the Corvette while staying true to what his dad’s intentions were from the beginning—build a driver. Beyond that goal, nothing was set in stone once the car was wheeled into the shop. “Dad was going to keep it with the ’80 front end,” he points out. “I didn’t like that idea. I like the bumper cars and thought it was too weird for me the way it was, so we decided to replace it with the correct one.”
The Corvette Center crew promptly tore into the car and had it down to the bare frame. When Mike started peeling back the layers of paint on the body, the sins of the past were slowly revealed. There were signs of front and rear collision damage at some point that had been covered up by poor fiberglass work. While that was disappointing, the birdcage and frame were in excellent condition. Since the front end was going to be replaced, the rest of the panels were also substituted. The only original items used were the doors and the rear deck.
Work on the Corvette continued at a steady pace but Chris didn’t really have a clear direction for the car. Many hours were spent looking online and in the pages of Vette magazine for ideas. He didn’t want to ruin the classic factory lines so things were always kept fairly conservative—sort of. He wasn’t fond of the anemic 350 mill and tired Turbo-Hydramatic 350 transmission combo tucked between the fenders. That dislike green-lit the installation of a big-block and manual gearbox to up the fun factor. It also steered the build into a different direction. The conservative approach went out the window and the L88 fenders and hood came back into the equation, as well as a long list of drivetrain upgrades.
As the body was coming together, Mike suggested a number of different engine options. Chris wanted to keep it old-school with big cubes and a big carburetor so they dove into the Chevrolet Performance catalog and ordered up a ZZ502/502 crate engine. A Tremec five-speed was the choice to handle the shifting, while Hooker Big Tube chrome side-pipe headers handle exhaust duties. A March Performance chrome serpentine pulley system was added for its functionality and good looks, while a DeWitts aluminum radiator with dual fans keeps things cool.
When it came time to assemble the chassis, Mike left no stone unturned. He had the frame powdercoated and replaced every part with something that would complement the additional performance under the hood. The front and rear suspensions were fitted with Vette Brakes and Products suspension kits featuring monosprings front and rear. Wilwood six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors at all four corners handle the stopping, while Bilstein Sport shocks and urethane bushings level the ride.
In terms of rolling stock, Mike suggested something different, as in tall, modern wide wheels fitted with low-profile rubber. After viewing many options, a set of Intro Wheels Gallup Rt 66 rims were the final choice. Featuring a polished aluminum finish, these 18-inch wheels are 10 inches wide in front and a whopping 12 inches in the rear (taking full advantage of the fender flares). Sticky Michelin Pilot Sport tires measuring 275/35ZR18 and 335/30ZR18 wrap these alloys.
The Corvette’s interior is the most stock-appearing aspect of the car, though hardly any of it is original. Bill had replaced the interior and top, but the ravages of time in the warehouse had taken its toll. Not wanting to deviate from stock, Chris decided to replace every interior piece but keep it bone stock with the exception of the seats. A set of ’93 units were found, wrapped in leather and installed. Corvette America was the go-to supplier for all the interior trim.
Perhaps the most difficult part for Mike to keep moving the project along was the color choice. Chris was always busy with work, so deciding on a color took a few months. He eventually opted to have the Corvette sprayed in Magnetic Red Metallic basecoat/clearcoat paint.
With all the pieces in place, the car gradually came together. The end result was something that Chris didn’t envision when he set out to finish what Bill had started. He thinks that his dad would be quite pleased with the outcome, and it’s still a driver.