Forget what the snob Corvette collectors in our midst might say, there’s no such thing as a bad Corvette. Yes, it’s true there were some dark years where horsepower outputs and cubic-inch displacements decreased. But today is a new day. Thanks to aftermarket manufacturers, the punier year models can be enhanced with restomod wonderfulness. Wonderful in the sense that all of the nostalgic styling cues can remain and everything great about a new Corvette can be added to the mix, including one-off customizing touches.
An excellent example of what can be done with a dark year Corvette is the 1976 Sport Coupe owned by Joyce and Jim Marshall of Greenwood, South Carolina. The mid-1970s were the bleakest of all years for American cars, and the Corvette was no exception. The year 1975 saw the last Corvette convertible made for a decade and the year’s only high-performance option was a 205hp slug. Things didn’t get much better for 1976. The Sport Coupes rolled of the assembly line in St. Louis like Krispy Kreme donuts into a white box. Joyce’s 1976 is 1 of 46,558 Sport Coupes made and 1 of 3,268 in Bright Blue. The only rarity worth mentioning for 1976 was only one Code 39 Dark Green Metallic Corvette was built. There was also one inexplicably high number; there were 1,203 radio delete cars produced for the bicentennial year.
The saga of Joyce and her 1976 Corvette began in deception and inspired her to name the Vette Lola in homage to the lyrics Ray Davies penned in the 1970 Kinks’ song “Lola” “… she walked like a woman and talked like a man, Oh my Lola la-la … Lola.” The Marshalls weren’t new to Corvettes when Joyce found the ’76 online. It pushed the number of Corvettes in their stable to five. As promised by the eBay seller, the ’76 was in nice shape and the air-conditioning blew cold air. Joyce remarked that as soon the car arrived on a transporter from Illinois they knew they had big problems. “Everything metal was completely rusted or pocked. The frame was ready to break in half, the windshield posts and birdcage was completely disintegrated. Nothing worked. Jim declared it a complete basket case and determined there were few, if any, salvageable parts on the car at all. We parked Lola in a little garage beside the house and life went on.”
A number of years had passed when Joyce began to notice restomod Corvettes were crossing the block at the major car auctions, but it took a little longer to convince Jim, “Mr. NCRS” as she calls him, to allow her to build the restomod Corvette of her dreams.
The couple admired the work they saw on a customized 1948 Cadillac by Ryan’s Rod & Kustom at a local car show so they got in touch with Chris Ryan, Michael Jones, and Ricky Bowie, and the build was on.
The stock chassis was rusted-out junk so replacing it was a great opportunity to upgrade from a cancerous recirculating ball steering skeleton to a rack-and-pinion steered tube chassis from SRIII with C5 suspension. The rear suspension on Joyce’s ’76 Sport Coupe is a Viper Dana 44 IRS with deep 4.12 gears, limited-slip, and custom narrowed axles. Viking coilover shocks handle damping and Corvette C5 13.5-inch disc brakes stop the rear half. Ryan mentioned the modifications required to fit the Viper rearend was kind of a shame because the original steel floor that had to be cut out was about the only reusable part of the car. The front suspension is pure C5, including the 13.5-inch disc brakes, with the exception of Viking coilovers replacing the stock Corvette transverse spring.
Ryan explained Joyce took an impressive active part in the direction of her Corvette’s overall styling. So much in fact, she designed the billet aluminum wheels Mike Curtis at Curtis Speed Equipment in Orange, California, custom made. The front wheels are 17x9 with an 8-inch backspace and the rear wheels are 18x10 with an 8-inch backspace. The four wheels sport billet center caps inscribed Lola. The fully polished main spokes with black powdercoated minor spoke wheels are shod with 245/45R17 Michelin Pilot tires in front and 275/40R18 Michelin Pilot tires in rear.
It was the bright candy apple red paint and sexy pure white interior that hooked Joyce on the Sport Coupe when she first spotted it on eBay; this color combination inspired the Vette’s reincarnation to follow. Joyce brought Ryan a fresh Bing cherry for the color she desired and he went right to PPG’s Street Sweets Cherry Cordial followed with a deep coating of PPG DCU 2002 Clear. Prior to its Cherry Cordial topping the ’76 Sport Coupe required a massive amount of new fiberglass body panels and metal, including the birdcage—the steel structure that forms the cabin and adjoins outer areas. Ryan advised Joyce they should search for the nicest 1976 Corvette they could find, but Joyce insisted the core had to be Lola. Lola’s rear quarter-panels were the only exterior body parts reused. CNC Plating Services of Greenwood, South Carolina, handled all of the brilliant chrome plating and polishing work, and the one-off custom grille came from Dan Baker’s Alumicraft in Bellwood, Pennsylvania.
Interior design work began with Joyce’s sketches and progressed into physical reality at Hot Rod Interiors by Chuck in Mooresville, North Carolina. Chuck and Daryl fabricated a molded fiberglass dashboard that transitions seamlessly into the center console. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a Billet Specialties Rat Tail atop an ididit steering column. Starting at the far left of the dash cluster, full instrumentation begins with a Classic Instruments All American Series speedometer and then a tachometer, moving right to a quartet of Classic Instruments American Series oil pressure, voltage, and temperature monitoring gauges mid-dash. Vintage Air A/C controls at the top of the console lead down to the remote controlled in-car entertainment, a Clarion MW1 – Kicker system, and shifting via a Powertrain Control Systems pushbutton keypad, with power window switches at bottom.
The bucket seats and door panels are stock 1976 Corvette issue Hot Rod Interiors restyled and covered in Dove Grey leather in kind with leather wrapped dashboard, console, kick panels, and headliner. Juliano’s was the source for aircraft-latch seatbelts, and Daryl laid dark Grey Daytona Weave carpeting.
Lola walks like a woman and talks like a man due to its 2014 LS3 Chevrolet Performance engine with a Billet Specialties Tru Trac serpentine belt system and trick engine covers by BH Custom Designs. The automatic transmission is a Chevrolet Performance 4L65E, and thanks to a pushbutton shifter should be safe to assume it’s gender neutral.