Whiners love complaining about how the top 1% is ruining society. Car guys aren’t exactly immune to this sort of woe-is-me thinking, either. Ironically, although the hot rodding community shuns posers trying to buy their way into the hobby, it’s the top 1% that continually build the best cars, like Barry Blomquist’s LT1-powered, direct-injected ’64 Corvette. Haters gotta hate, but there’s a big difference between some random rich dude who decides he likes muscle cars one day, and a genuine car guy that happens to have some extra spending money. Within the first 10 seconds of chatting with Barry, there is no mystery surrounding which category he falls into.
Long before Barry had the means to live out his deepest hot rodding fantasies, he grew up drooling over cars he couldn’t afford. “At 70 years old, I am just as nuts about cars today as when I was 12 years old. My father ran a used car dealership, so I was always surrounded by cars at an early age,” Barry recalls. He built hot rods all throughout his teenage years, but after getting married and starting a family, turning wrenches got put on the back burner. While his day job kept him busy, it set the stage for Barry to one day enjoy building cars at a whole new level. “I started a steel fabrication business, and running it kept me very busy for 40 years. Once I retired, I finally had the time to get back into building hot rods.”
After decades of running a very successful business, Barry finally had the time and the means to build some truly over-the-top creations once he retired. Although he appreciates cars of all makes and models, Barry has always been a Corvette fanatic. About 10 years ago, he commissioned Roadster Shop to build one of the wildest C1 Corvettes to ever roam the earth. Dubbed C1RS, the groundbreaking ’62 Corvette packed a 600-plus hp LS7 and a Tremec T-56 inside a Roadster Shop chassis. Finishing it off was a heavily reworked body that dramatically morphed the car’s proportions into a more modernized version of its former self. The Vette smoked all challengers on the autocross at the 2009 Goodguys PPG Nationals and took home the Street Machine of the Year crown.
That’s one tough act to follow, but Barry’s plans for his ’64 Vette were much, much different. “The ’62 Vette turned out so over-the-top because I let Roadster Shop go wild. With this car, I had a very specific set of requirements,” he explains. “To me, midyear Vettes are some of the most beautiful cars ever made. Every time someone tries to heavily modify the aesthetics on one of these cars, they end up ruining them. Midyears are such beautiful cars straight from the factory, so why would you want to change anything?”
Nevertheless, Barry doesn’t get excited over stock restorations. Although his new C2 project was a survivor in every sense of the word, he didn’t hesitate to transform it into a fully modernized Pro Touring machine. “When I saw this car for sale at a local car show, I was shocked to learn that it was an original, one-owner car. It still had the original, numbers-matching 327 small-block and factory driveline with 197,000 miles,” he recollects. Equally as amazing, the car had never suffered any body damage.
Despite the fact that the C2 still had all its original running gear, Barry felt that its non-original frame detracted from its concours potential. “Up here in the tundra of Wisconsin, salt gets trapped inside the frame and rots them out. Since the frame on this car had already been replaced at some point, it hindered the ultimate value of the car,” he opines. “I knew I didn’t want to go as extreme as I did with C1RS, but I didn’t want a stock restoration, either. I love to drive cars that perform well, ride well and handle well. I built a stock 427 Vette before, but I’m sorry, it didn’t drive that nice. I’m not into putting undercoating or overspray on brand-new parts just because that’s how they did it at the factory.”
This time around, Barry sought to strike an optimum balance between C1RS and a bone-stock C2. “I wanted the perfect blend of classic elegance and new technology. The mission was to retain the car’s original looks but update every mechanical component to modern standards,” he explains. “I told Phil and Jeremy Gerber at Roadster Shop that I wanted a midyear Vette that looked stock, but rides and handles as well as a new Corvette. I also wanted a civilized engine that makes a hell of a lot of hp and torque, so we decided to go with a new 6.2L LT1 small-block, which at this stage is pretty unique. We matched it up with a Legend LGT700 five-speed manual trans.”
Although the C2’s suspension was cutting-edge for its day, it’s hopelessly inadequate when shooting for C7-caliber handling and ride quality. To help reach that ambitious benchmark, Roadster Shop installed one of its Fast Track chassis complete with beefy control arms, aluminum spindles, splined sway bars, Penske coilovers, and an all-new independent rear suspension. Managing the stopping duties are Baer six-piston calipers at each corner that clamp down on 13-inch rotors.
While the finished product looks like just another clean midyear Vette with a big set of rollers, a host of subtle changes intensify the overall aesthetic impact dramatically over a stock C2. “There are no major changes to the body, but everything about it was perfected just a bit. All the body lines were sharpened up, and the bumpers have been moved in,” Barry explains. “Having the wrong wheels and stance can ruin a car, so we spent a lot of time getting that right. In fact, the wheels are custom 19-inch Forgelines modeled after the wheels on the 1964 CERV II Corvette concept car. Nothing on this car is overdone. It’s just really well done. Compared to stock, I think of this car as a perfectly cut diamond versus a rough-cut diamond. They’re both diamonds, but one is more brilliant.”
Anytime someone builds a car this nice, attention is sure to follow. Not surprisingly, it took home the GM Design Award for Best Chevy Sports Car at SEMA 2015. While everyone loves stories of blue collar hot rodders running with the big boys through sheer grit and determination, unfortunately, those instances are few and far between. For the haters out there still whining about how the top 1% has all the fun, what’s stopping you from staring up your own steel fabrication business?