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LS9 Power Nestled into a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Drop-Top

On Cloud LS9: Building a Mod Rod C2 with Chevy’s top performing powerplant

Scotty Lachenauer Jul 11, 2016
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Corvette aficionado Bill Nagle remembers doodling custom Corvettes on his notebook, all the while trudging and traipsing through the daily rigors of high school life. These drawings were fueled by the teenager’s “car-nal” influenced imagination, and bolstered by his growing need to score a hot ride to call his own.

By the time Bill was set to get his license he was already scoping out his first possible street burner. The new for 1963 Impala SS convertible, stuffed with the potent 409/425 big-block powerplant and a four-speed, had all the right stuff in the right places according to young Bill. But good ol’ dad had ideas of his own and balked at his son’s proposal, turning down the teenager’s bid for the dreamy ride. Instead, he prodded the new driver to settle for a base model Bel Air; a basic means of transportation equipped with a small-block and a three-speed. “He probably saved my life,” is what Bill figures.

1967 Chevy Corvette Front 2/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Front Grille 3/29

After graduating high school in 1962, Bill bounced around for a few years before finally landing with the Navy in 1965. During his tour of duty, he scraped and sacrificed, and by the time he left the service he managed to save up $2,000 of his $238/month salary. Armed with his potent bankroll, Bill went car shopping and laid it all out on a used but well-maintained 1964 C2 roadster. It was a hot little number, as it was a drop-top sporting the potent 327ci/365hp engine, and a ride backed by a four-speed between the seats.

That particular Vette handled his daily driving duties for a few years before Bill fell for a sweet 1959 equipped with a 327ci/350hp setup under the hood. With a four on the floor between the buckets and gold flake coves on the flanks, the ebony C1 was not only a great performer on the streets, but it also had looks to die for. That 1959 lasted several years in Bill’s driveway, but soon the yearning for something different once again came creeping up on this Corvette revering enthusiast.

1967 Chevy Corvette Engine 4/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Engine 5/29

In 1989, Bill spied his next ride: a needy 1967. It would be the car that would slowly morph into his main street burner for the next 25 years. The C2 in question had a host of issues out front and center, but somehow Bill saw the inner beauty in this beaten beast. At the time of purchase the Vette wore a shoddy blue paintjob and sported a poorly patched big-block hood; the latter covering what was a really smokin’ 350 … and that’s smokin’ in the bad sense! Along with a grinding four-speed and bent-up rear suspension, this C2 was calling out “Uncle” loud and clear. But Bill wasn’t ready to let her “go into the light” just yet.

Bill quickly initiated the repairs needed to help keep the 1967 out on the road, and then treated the downtrodden ride to an assortment of healthy powerplants. First to grace the 1967’s engine bay was a 377ci small-block, an engine built in conjunction with Greg Colletti at Controlled Performance in Belvidere, New Jersey, and Bobby Ida at Ida Automotive in Morganville, New Jersey. Over the years the engine was both carbureted and injected, and went through an array of mechanical changes along its lifespan. This particular engine went on to last for 12 years of faithful service before Greg built another killer powerplant for the 1967: a Vortec supercharged 406 small-block. Making 17 psi of boost and sporting a pair of 34lb fuel injectors at each port (ran off the “primary” injector until the boost ramped up and turned on the “secondary”); this engine combination was a top performer out on the street.

1967 Chevy Corvette Side View 6/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Wheel 7/29

Once he was satisfied with the motivation, Greg started on some serious structural work. First off, the Corvette received some major upgrades underneath its shell. The 1967 rides on a custom-built suspension with coilovers at all four corners. A three-link suspension handles the chores out back. Stopping power for this C2 is achieved by using big Wilwood 14-inch rotors up front and stock-size rotors out back. Wheels of choice are Billet Specialties 17x8 up front and 17x10 out back, shod with 245/45/17 and 275/40/17 Nitto rubber, respectively.

To get the power to the pavement, this restomod uses a six-speed TREMEC transmission, built-up with carbon-fiber syncros, a strengthened input shaft and finished with a McLeod dual disc clutch setup. All this goodness leads to a narrowed and extended 9-inch Moser rear and axles out back. It’s here that Greg Colletti built a custom sheetmetal cover for the big Ford pumpkin so it could fit comfortably in the rear compartment of this particular Chevy roadster.

1967 Chevy Corvette Bill Nagle 8/29

It was during that time that the body of the C2 went in for an extreme makeover. The car was handed over to Rob Ida at Ida Automotive for some serious skin massaging. The challenge was how to fit the stock body over its new wide suspension stance and big tires. The answer was to give Bill’s 1967 some beefier shoulders out back, thanks to a set of widebody quarter-panels. After installation, Rob worked wonders to get them to appear like they were factory installed. Rob and Team Ida built out the body, putting several custom touches on the ’glass. Once they accomplished their goal, Rob then laid out a flawless paint scheme of 2003 Anniversary Red, accented by a custom black cherry blend on the stinger.

The interior was freshened up, receiving a collection of Auto Meter gauges in stock configuration, except for the fact that oil and fuel gauges are reversed for easier monitoring of oil pressure. A tach shift light has also taken up residence within eye’s view. When Bill tried to remove the dash clock he got a bad surprise; it had been Bondoed in by one of the previous owners. So it stayed where it was. Finally, a six-point rollcage was added for extra safety when running quarter-mile hits at the track.

1967 Chevy Corvette Interior Seats 9/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Interior Dashboard 10/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Gauges 11/29

Bill was happy with how his 1967 came out. But he knew that down the road there would be another change to this Vette’s inner heartbeat. He always said that if he hit it big at work, and got a big payday, that money would go into purchasing the ultimate Corvette powerplant: the LS9. Well that day soon came, and without a blink Bill laid down his cash on a new crate LS9 from Scoggin-Dickey out of Lubbock, Texas. Bill was now set to build the car of his dreams: a ZR-1 motivated 1967.

The car was once again put in the able hands of Greg Colletti and the transformation ensued. The 406 was pulled and set aside, as Bill’s good friend was going to re-commission the engine in his custom 1964 Vette. The LS9 crate engine comes ready to install, and Greg wasted no time in getting it into the car. In stock form these supercharged powerplants push 638 hp at the crank. Bill then encased it with some high-quality components, including a 2 1/2-inch heat exchanger and a 20 gal/min circulating pump for the intercooler. An Aeromotive A-1000 fuel pump with variable fuel pressure regulator, along with custom relay circuitry, help keep this beast fed.

1967 Chevy Corvette License Plate 12/29

This LS9 sends its spent gasses out through shorty headers that dump into a custom 3-inch exhaust. Throaty tones are courtesy of a set of Borla SS mufflers. With this setup the car was dynoed at Ida Automotive, and tweaked by Bobby himself. With Bob’s experience handling supercharged engines, this LS9 was pushed to the tune of 582 hp at the rear wheels (est. 675 hp at crank).

Bill has used the 1967 in this configuration now for the last three years, making adjustments along the way. You see, the owner drives this C2; it’s never babied, never trailered. It’s been all over the East Coast, hitting the big shows whenever possible. Bill’s Corvette club routinely takes long trips in and around the greater Northeast. Needless to say, man and machine have become inseparable.

1967 Chevy Corvette Front Side View 13/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Bill Nagle 14/29

To make long drives easier, Bill has added some creature comforts; a Vintage Air system running a stock Chevy A/C compressor supplies cool relief in the summer heat, an aftermarket cruise control unit makes long drives easier and finally a power steering unit was added this year. Bill found it a little too “quick” for his steering geometry, so a reducer was added. All of this fits nicely in and around a custom engine cover designed and fabbed by Rob Ida himself.

What’s the future hold for Bill and his 1967? His club has plans to take a 300-mile ride to Lake Placid, New York, to enjoy the cool mountain air of the Adirondacks. And of course there will always be adjustments and improvements to this C2, as Bill is always looking for that extra punch where it counts.

1967 Chevy Corvette Birds Eye View 15/29
13 Nagle Ls9 Moving 16/29
1967 Chevy Corvette Rear View Sunset 17/29

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