Lots of automotive builds begin with a modest approach. Repair a few things here, replace a few things there, hop in and enjoy your handiwork. The process becomes a lot more intense, however, when you decide to name your car The Punisher. It gets even hotter when your stated goal is to design a car that can compete with any vehicle on the planet. Finally, when the raw material you are planning to improve upon is the iconic 1963 Corvette coupe (split-window), the holy grail of the Corvette family and GM’s legendary example of style and performance; you’d better be really good.
Fortunately, Mark Pierson, owner of God Speed Rides in Sarasota, Florida, is. Mark is a professional drummer and has been an avid car lover all his life. He got into the business almost by accident, helping a friend restore a Camaro in his garage. Word traveled and a second friend wanted his car done. Before long, Mark outgrew his garage and found himself the owner of a 12,000-square-foot facility and managing an expert staff. Originally the shop catered to paint and bodywork but soon evolved into complete custom builds. Mark’s role is the business manager and designer who loves to think outside the box. He’s the one who helps you sort out the thousands of combinations of paint, fabric, and custom touches so that your completed dream vehicle is a rolling work of art. The shop deals with about 40 cars a year, in for various levels of repair, along with four or five major builds.
This iconic 1963 split-window Corvette was a barn find in St. Louis where it had been stored for 45 years. Already stripped to bare fiberglass, the car had only minor damage to the left front fender. Interestingly, it had a handwritten bill of sale that showed the Corvette had been traded even for a Pinto station wagon! Like many builds, the Vette started off as just a simple refresh, updated with a few modern conveniences. Originally fitted with a small-block, Powerglide and drum brakes, it was calling out for new technology. Suspension work and an LS3 were part of the initial plan to make it a modern driver along with a bright-red paintjob, chrome wheels and a quick flip. Somewhere along the way however, the magnetism of the car and the creative juices of the staff took over and the rejuvenation project became one that the whole team adopted as their own. As you can guess, the effort accelerated several light years ahead of the original plan.
Starting with a firm foundation, the car was fitted with an SRIII Motorsports chassis using C6 Corvette coilover components that included four-wheel independent suspension, power steering, ABS electric power brakes activating six-piston, 14-inch Wilwood discs and custom, one-of-a-kind wheels from Nutek. The 20x13 versions in the rear and the 19x9s in the front are wrapped in Nitto Invo 345/25R20 and 255/35R19 rubber, respectively. The engine is a brand-new LS3, 525 hp crate engine, putting out more than enough horsepower in stock form without any additional modification. The V-8 is mated to a six-speed TREMEC Magnum with a Hydromax hydraulic clutch and aluminum driveshaft that sends power to a Currie Fab 9 independent rear. The combination ensures that the Vette will stop, start and corner with autocross precision. Engine compartments are one of Mark’s favorite places to detail and he explains: “I like them clean and simple. We smoothed the firewall and designed the removable inner fender panels to cover up the suspension components. There is more than a week of bodywork just in smoothing the underside of the hood. All the heater lines are -AN fittings, all the brake lines are stainless steel, all the electrical wires are hidden. A one-off radiator support was constructed to house the oversized DeWitts radiator with twin fans. We purposely left the coil packs bright red to tie in with the interior. The headers are by Ultimate and connect to a mandrel bent, stainless steel system with polished MagnaFlow mufflers. The exhaust culminates in centrally mounted tips, hidden behind satin-black mesh.” Obviously, Mark knows his stuff!
The interior has its own marvelous look and was one of the first ones the team did entirely in-house. All the industrial-looking truss work was hand-fabricated with accents on the door panels, speaker grilles and stereo covers. The red leather interior contrasts with the gray exterior, using bucket seats from a C6, trimmed for a vintage look. The matching one-piece leather headliner adds an air of luxury. Behind the seats, the cargo area was formed using custom fiberglass panels and now holds stereo components behind custom grilles. Fully updated with modern air conditioning, climate control, power door locks and power windows, the car even sports several new millennium upgrades like GPS tracking, diagnostics, EStopp electric emergency brake and remote locking from your iPhone. Dakota Digital VHX series gauges retain the classic look and comfort is assured thanks to the Dakota Digital climate control for the Gen IV Vintage Air. Allowing Pierson to get a good grip on the situation, the Nardi Torino steering wheel combines a stylish wood rim with satin spokes, turning on an ididit column. Lingenfelter pedals complete the tactile connection. Driver and passenger are entertained by concert hall sounds, thanks to the Custom Autosound stereo head unit that controls the illuminated 1,200-watt ARC Audio five-channel amp in the rear cargo wall, flanked by a pair of 8-inch ARC subs, all residing behind custom grilles. Mids and highs come from ARC 6 1/2-inch component sets, blended into the custom door panels that feature hand-formed armrests. Socket-head bolts, individually threaded into the car’s billet aluminum truss work, amplify the industrial theme.
Once the powertrain and interior was complete, the primary body mod was widening the rear fenders to accommodate the fat, 25-series rear rubber. The rear lower valance was smoothed and molded to the body, and then LED taillights were positioned behind custom machined bezels. The slightly raised license plate opening calls attention to the unique central exhaust. Slick and modern looking, the pushbutton hood latches are from Quick Latch and fit nicely with the car’s industrial theme, as do the one-off billet aluminum hood trays. Ring Brothers unique retro door handles, stainless steel with sprocket-head bolts, were designed for a Camaro and adapted to fit. Up front, the team opted for a European flair with a blacked out grille, LED turn signals, and HID/Halo headlights. Detroit Speed electric headlights and wipers update the originals. New rocker panels were custom fabricated using clay molds and countless hours were devoted to tucking and narrowing the bumpers until they fit the body like a glove. After two years and 2,500 hours, Pierson’s “Industrial Restomod” theme came together with a mix of satin black, billet aluminum and stainless steel along with the elegant BASF Alto Gray as the perfect finishing touch.
Mark’s goal was to build a restomod without boundaries and with attention to detail like no other. The tremendous number of modifications have been done in such a way that no one thing jumps out, although additional subtleties surface with every glance. He wanted to create one of the most elegantly detailed 1963 Corvette split-windows ever and we think he definitely has a winner. His original, “quick-flip Vette” is now his personal car and it’s not leaving anytime soon.