When taking on the build of a tribute car it’s important that it be artfully executed with specific attention paid to the finer points without going overboard on its intent. If there are too few details the concept will miss its mark and too many will make it look overdone. While there are plenty of reasons to take on a build of this type, one of the best has to be for honoring your dad and his military career.
For Al McDonald of North Bay, Ontario, Canada, it’s even more special since he serves as mayor of the city, which also has a very rich military history by being home to one of Canada’s most well-known NORAD bases. While growing up as a youngster he has vivid memories of his dad, Ron, who was stationed at RCAF Bagotville, Quebec. As a pilot in the 425 Squadron, Ron regularly flew McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo all-weather interceptor jets during the Cold War as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The CF-101’s were the hot rods of the sky at the time, capable of cruising at 35,000 feet, a top speed of Mach 1.72 (1,134 mph) and a range of 1,520 miles.
Having had a fascination with speed and performance from an early age, Al recalls at age 12 visiting the road racing circuit at CFB Rockcliffe in Ottawa as a turning point when his dad introduced him to all-out competition. He quickly developed a fascination with Indy car racing as well as factory muscle cars, which roared across local streets with their hopped-up V-8s. From that point on a fuse was lit, leading him on a journey racing on the CMA Motocross Championship Series till retiring from it at age 20. In 1978, however, everything changed when he had his first opportunity to sit in a brand-new Corvette. The car’s styling and overall feel overwhelmed his senses, leading him to buy a 1979 Corvette a few years later, which he drove nonstop for the next decade.
His appreciation for all generations of Corvettes continued to evolve with his particular passion revolving around C1 models. Having been born in 1960 he felt it would be a perfect year to focus on to replace the 1979 with. He eventually located a nice restored model to enjoy as a regular driver. Somehow though, he still longed to begin a search for another 1960 C1 to start a fresh build with. In his mind he wanted to create a car that would honor his dad’s memory, as well as members of the Armed Forces (past and present) who serve to protect freedom and liberty every day. There’s no better way to take on a build of this magnitude than to have a professional shop help you out. Having known Blaine Schmidt, owner of Boot Hill Auto in Erin, Ontario, for a number of years, the pair discussed ideas for the build, including the fusion of a military theme into the concept along with that of cutting-edge technology and a fresh, high-performance edge. Seeing that this would be a full build, Blaine began a search for a suitable base to start with. It wasn’t long till he located a 1960 C1 body shell (from the firewall back) that had been picked clean and laid to rest in storage. Seeing that it had the right amount of potential a deal was made and the shell was hauled back to Boot Hill to get started.
There’s nothing like starting a build with a fresh sheet of paper where you can literally custom tailor everything from the ground up. For the ultimate in handling a call was placed to The Roadster Shop for one of their cutting-edge Fast Track Stage III chassis to act as a rock-solid base. The design elements of the new frame start with 10-gauge steel boxed ’rails tied to custom-fabricated crossmembers to bring it all together. A unique feature is that the frame accommodates all of the stock body mounts to make installation a breeze. Out back, an upgraded Fast Track Elite Series IRS assembly features exclusive CNC-machined billet control arms and spindles along with a 3.50:1 rearend ratio combined with a 1.25-inch splined sway bar and Penske RS Edition double-adjustable coilover shocks. To make the car handle like it’s glued to the street the upgraded Fast Track Elite series IFS utilizes proprietary suspension geometry matched to 1-piece billet C6 spindles with integrated Fast Track steering arm and Z06 hub assemblies combined with exclusive CNC-machined billet upper and lower control arms, 1.25-inch splined sway bar and Penske RS Edition double-adjustable coilover shocks. For plenty of stopping power, a Wilwood dual power master pushes fluid through custom stainless lines to Baer Pro+ 14-inch cross-drilled rotors with six-piston calipers anchored at each corner. Linking everything to the street are a set of Boze Traction 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels wrapped in Nitto Invo low-profile rubber sized 235/40-18 and 345/30-19, respectively.
When it came time for plenty of power, Al contacted Chevrolet Performance for one of their freshly minted 6.2L LT1 crate V-8s filled with the ultimate in performance and technology. The Gen 5 small-block features a modern speed shop full of go-fast goods starting with a block cast from 319-T7 aluminum with six-bolt nodular iron main bearing caps. It’s packed with a forged steel crankshaft linked to forged powdered metal rods wearing exclusive forged hypereutectic aluminum pistons given a healthy beat from a billet steel roller cam. Up top, cylinder heads cast from 319-T7 aluminum feature rectangular ports and generate plenty of seamless power when matched to the new Gen 5 composite intake manifold featuring an 87mm electronic throttle body and GM’s exclusive Direct Injection with high-pressure fuel pump. Plenty of cold air moves through a custom intake system from Spectre Performance. Spent gasses move through cast four-into-one short-tube headers to a custom 2 1/2-inch stainless exhaust by Boot Hill matched to mufflers from Vibrant Performance. To move the power rearward a TREMEC T-56 Super Magnum six-speed manual trans pushes the goods through a custom driveshaft from Denny’s. It all translates to a stout 11.5:1 compression ratio with 460 hp at 6,000 rpm to give the C1 plenty of go.
To set the car apart from the rest and incorporate myriad changes to the body while infusing the military theme, Blaine worked with lead technician Tyson Stintson (design and assembly) to come up with a perfect balance along with team members Kelley Morrison (metal fabrication) and Cameron Buchanan (body fabrication) throughout the project. Once all of the refurbishing was done to the body shell, including replacing the inner and outer rockers, repairing the floors and firewall and reinstalling the aluminum bracing for the dash and windshield posts, it was time to shift gears. With plenty of updates made throughout the body we’ll start at the front and work our way back spotlighting many of the changes. To start, a fresh front clip from Corvette Image of Gresham, Oregon, was set in place to make the body whole again. The unique front bumper was actually fashioned from three ’69 Camaro bumpers incorporating six sections per side and when completed it was then sunken into the reshaped opening. From there the team re-arched and smoothed the grille opening, filling it with hand-fabricated floating grille teeth while also installing a pair of Alpena quad-LED projection headlights and lowering the fender-top peaks. Plenty of time was spent reworking the body side coves to give them not only a fresh look while incorporating custom trim but also to make them functional to pull heat from the engine bay. A custom-fabricated driver-side rearview mirror adds vintage aircraft allure along with shaved the handles, locks and most of the trim.
One of the most distinctive elements was incorporating the fighter plane-look into the factory windshield by first eliminating its frame, shaving the top of the glass, sinking and anchoring it into the cowl and creating one-off custom aviation-style brushed stainless side posts while also reshaping the door tops to accept the changes. The team continued on by gracefully reshaping the tops of the rear quarter-panels to add perfect flow to the recessed vintage Beechcraft Aircraft Gabb-style fuel filler. To give the body a subtle nod to the twin-cockpit look, the convertible top decklid was treated to a pair of subtle raised rear humps while custom taillight openings were fashioned to accommodate the new recessed LED-style taillight units. Out back, the license plate was recessed into the trunk lid while the lock was relocated to the lower valance. Custom-fabricated rear bumpers were then smoothed and tucked to the body. With all of the updates completed Cameron prepped the body to perfection and treated it to a very subtle coating of custom-blended Spies Hecker charcoal grey metallic vibe bringing it all to life.
Carrying the aviation them into the interior was equally important to complete the look of the car. The team started by updating the stock dash by first installing custom dials from Classic Instruments to monitor the vitals while a Flaming River tilt column topped with a Billet Specialties steering wheel sets the course. Shifts move through a unit from Hurst capped with a custom Voodoo Operations shift knob while cool breezes flow thanks to Vintage Air. A custom-fabricated, flowing console was designed to incorporate a number of Cessna aviation toggle switches as well as a full-bore audio system from utilizing Focal Utopia Be components. There’s also plenty of tastefully designed brushed aluminum and riveting used in key areas, including the door panels, console and passenger grab bar, to add allure to the theme. For plenty of comfort Kirkey Racing aluminum seats were covered in rich, deep, baseball glove orange leather in a classic stitched pattern by team member Shamiah Olembe who also installed the complementing plush wool carpeting to complete the look. The team at Boot Hill Auto nailed the look on the C1 to capture just the right aviation feel to give Al a memorable experience every time he turns the key bringing the car to life, and to us that’s as cool as it gets.
Photography By Chuck Vranas