There are a million and one reasons for wanting to own a Corvette, with the highest common denominator revolving around one word: passion. It’s what drives the urge to experience firsthand the exhilaration of owning a piece of history while feeling the power of immediate throttle response as you sit low to the ground hugging each and every curve, knowing the car can take you to the limits. This applies to every generation of Corvette, from the C1 models thorough the most technologically advanced C7 models since each one engages a driver to take a journey with every turn of the key.
For Susan Ciappa of Lockport, New York, growing up in Niagara County she was surrounded by plenty of automotive fascination during the ’60s since the area was a thriving region, it being home to the Harrison Radiator Corporation, a division of GM. It was pretty commonplace to see myriad of the latest GM muscle cars tearing up the streets and hitting the local drive-ins on Saturday night. During this time period, Susan was able to get up close with many different models. The C2 Corvette with its classic styling and true sports car feel being her absolute favorite.
It wasn’t long after when she graduated college in 1976 and acquired a job at Harrison in the Material Controls division, later moving onto the Engineering department. Along the way she started getting involved in cars, starting with a Firebird Formula, later moving onto a 1948 Chevy pickup and then an impeccably restored 1966 C2. It was at this time when she met and later married Dave Ciappa, who was also employed at Harrison. Dave brought with him a long history of both being a well-respected drag racer and equally accomplished car builder. It was at this time when Susan’s automotive interests turned into a passion now that Dave brought with him an endless enthusiasm for everything packing a hopped-up V-8. Before long the pair established HotRods n Stuff, a full-service hot rod shop in Lockport, New York, where they have designed and crafted an endless stream of hot rods and custom cars for over the last 20 years. They also operate an online service to place cool cars with new owners worldwide.
We recently saw a 1957 C1 Corvette across the pages of Vette magazine, which they completed in an article titled “Resplendent in Red,” illustrating the style and attention to detail in their builds. After all the years, however; Susan still longed for a custom C2 roadster that captured her heart as a teenager. The pair set out to search for just the right car to transform into her dream ride. Being very active on the scene they canvassed a number of shows across the country as well as looking online where they finally located a respectable 1964 red roadster that would be a perfect base for their project. The idea was to fuse the looks of a classic C2 with the handling of a late-model by upping the ante on the chassis and suspension and completing it with their personal design updates.
Once the car was delivered to their shop, the couple laid out the build and got started. To instill the desired handling dynamics the factory chassis was separated from the car and stripped clean. The frame was then prepped and sent off to be powdercoated in vibrant red gloss. Once back, reassembly commenced after a call to Vansteel to order up a number of their cutting-edge suspension components. Out back, the original rearend was rebuilt, filled with 3.50:1 gears and suspended in place with Vansteel’s exclusive Street & Slalom suspension package. Components included their 360-lb fiberglass mono-spring combined with Bilstein sport gas shocks, 550-lb/in powdercoated coil springs, adjustable strut rods with smart strut bracket and 3/4-inch rear sway bar. Wanting to add wider rear tires, Dave also included their 2-inch offset trailing arms in gloss black powdercoat along with zerk-fitted Johnny Joints with poly bushings. To set the stance and add increased handling up front a set of Vansteel lightweight tubular upper and lower control arms made from 4130 chromoly steel were packed with Delrin bushings and Moog ball joints. They were matched to Heidts 2-inch dropped spindles along with QA1 adjustable coilover shocks and 1 1/8-inch sway bar. To complete the chassis a Flaming River power rack-and-pinion steering upgrade was installed.
It’s awesome to have impeccable handling but when the need to stop happens you’d better have the right hardware to get the job done. A dual power master cylinder from CPP pushes fluid through stainless lines to SSBC 13-inch slotted rotors and their Force 10 four-piston calipers. To anchor the chassis to the street and give it plenty of stance and personality, a set of Budnik Knife wheels in 18x7 and 18x8.5 sizes are capped with Diamond Back red line tires.
When it came time to adding plenty of power between the framerails it was an easy decision to contact Street & Performance for one of their flawlessly detailed engines packed with a speed shop full of go-fast goods. To get started, a Chevrolet Performance LS1 5.7L crate V-8 engine features a cast-aluminum block filled with a nodular iron crank linked to powdered metal steel rods wearing hypereutectic aluminum pistons being urged by a hydraulic roller cam. Plenty of power comes from a set of aluminum heads with symmetrical ports while up-top a Street & Performance EFI system delivers the final punch with a dazzling finish. A K&N dual short ram air cleaner adds the final icing while an MSD ignition lights the fire with spent gasses exiting through a set of Sanderson headers to a custom 3-inch stainless coated exhaust featuring Pypes Performance Exhaust mufflers. To move the goods rearward, a GM 4L60E trans warmed over by the team at North East Transmissions of Hamburg, New York, features a custom-tailored shift kit, BRD 11-inch 2,800-stall torque converter and heavy-duty clutches.
Thankfully, the body was in decent shape, requiring minimal work to bring it to the next level. Susan had Cody Carpenter Customs of Lockport spend plenty of time prepping it to perfection while also setting all the gaps. Seeing how her favorite color is red, she went into the color books to look for just the right hue to give it plenty of personality. It didn’t take long for her to select PPG Riverside Red gloss, which Cody loaded into his spray gun to lay down the vibe. When reassembly time came, plenty of fresh stock was installed from Corvette America, including new chrome bumpers, grille, rocker panels, mirrors, door handles, turn signals and emblems.
Focusing on the business office, the stock dash was restored and filled with freshened stock dials to monitor the vitals. A factory steering wheel plots the course while shifts move through a unit from Lokar. To add plenty of comfort, cool breezes are courtesy of Vintage Air while 1000 watts of sound move through Pioneer electronics. The car was rewired utilizing a kit from Ron Francis with insulation from Dynamat. To bring the interior back to its original glory, Al Knoch supplied everything needed from seat covers to door and kick panels and carpeting all in the original factory colors. To complete the look a fresh convertible top was installed, also from Al Knoch. Throughout the build Susan and David also received plenty of help from good friend Ralph Mazurkiewicz who was always ready to lend a hand on any project large or small. We know one thing for sure is that Susan has already racked up over 2,000 miles on her new ride, and to us that is just plain cool.