Back in the late ’60s, Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey, was an East Coast hotbed of drag racing. The little country track out in the woods of West Jersey was a “motorway magnet” for fast cars and bitchin’ rides, all of them itching to take on its now famous quarter-mile strip. And by the time the ’70s rolled around, many of the nation’s best racers had probably, at least once, made their way to its pits. This factoid drew in spectators by the thousands to its grandstands, ready to witness history in the making.
One of those young, eager spectators was grade schooler Ed Stinson of nearby Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. On his days off, Ed’s dad would bring him out to the famous local track so the youngster could get an eye and earful of some of the finest quarter-mile racing on the East Coast. It was a great way to initiate Ed into a dream world that his dad so deeply loved and respected.
One of Ed’s earliest and fondest memories was made at a local diner on the way to Island one weekend afternoon. You see, a lot of the racers would stop there and get “fueled-up” on some grub before heading to the dragstrip. On this particular day there was a small crowd out front, formed around a large transport with some precious cargo stored inside. It was no ordinary hauler to say the least. Turns out all the hoopla was for none other than TV Tommy Ivo’s dragster, encased in the rad Dodge glass-sided hauler. With that vision now etched in his cerebrum, the inner hot rodder came out in Ed, and there was no turning back for the gung-ho pre-teen.
You see once Ed saw the now cult classic American Graffiti, he like many other young hot rodders had to have a bad-ass black 1955 Chevy. So Ed quickly started his search, and was aided by the local Want Ad Press, the bible for finding used cars in the New Jersey/New York metro area back in the day.
Wasn’t long before Ed found a suitable starting point for his Tri-Five hot rod, and quickly sent the newly purchased Chevy into his mom’s garage for restoration. He worked on it during his junior and senior years. Once completed, the Bowtie was a sight to behold with its slick black skin and red crushed velvet and vinyl interior. He drove that car for the better part of two years until the day everything changed.
One day Ed was out cruising in the ’55 out on the other side of town. And then he spotted it. Through a partially opened garage door, he saw the front end of a 1959 Corvette. It grabbed Ed’s attention and wouldn’t let go; he immediately knew he had to have it. Ed confronted the Vette’s owner with his dilemma; his agonizing need to own this stranger’s own personal street machine. After talking to the young hot rodder, the owner relented and agreed to sell the 1959 to Ed. A deal was struck between the two for the Corvette; a deal for Ed’s ’55 Chevy in exchange. With that, the titles were swapped and Ed towed his trophy home to his mom’s garage.
But this particular plastic Chevy was rough. The car was a racer in the making and was never properly finished. And this guy was building it right from the start. It already had a potent ’69 L88 427ci between the ’rails, along with fenderwell headers, a four-speed between the seats and a 4.88 posi rear out back. A Moon rollbar was in place and the ride had some big 15x10 Ansen slots out back with a set of slicks. It was a start, but there was not much else to the ride. It pretty much needed everything! But that didn’t deter Ed. He was raring to put this ride back on the street.
Ed needed some help, and some luck to get this ride back on the road. And it turns out Ed is one lucky guy. Lucky because his uncle Paul and his sons Walt and Paul Jr. owned P&W Machining in nearby Whippany, New Jersey. Ed had them build him a stout 327, an engine that would be a better option for getting the Corvette back on the street in the near future. So once the small-block was finished, the potent engine was installed by Ed in his new ride.
This particular 327ci engine runs with 10.5:1 compression and sports a Mallory distributor and Comp camshaft. Ed then installed an Edelbrock tunnel-ram, a pair of 500-cfm Edelbrock carbs and cool set of chromed fenderwell headers that were put together in 1967. A Muncie four-speed set up with Hurst between the buckets does the Corvette’s shifting. To get the power to the ground, the Vette received a proper 4.11 posi rear setup. And to shore up the ride on the 1959, the car received a helping of new chassis parts, and a nice street machine stance that was about five inches higher than stock.
Ed kept those nice polished Ansen Sprints and meaty L60 tires. For paint, the car was re-skinned in Snowcrest White lacquer. Ed added pearl in the coves and hardtop to break up the paint scheme, and add a little punch to the exterior. Ed even chromed the Moon rollbar, and kept the cool ’66 Jaguar steering wheel that came with the Vette. Last but not least, Ed even chromed the dash, as he saw it in a 1967 custom car magazine and knew he had to do it as well.
Ed drove the car this way from 1979 to 1997, racking up miles in the sleek Corvette. But Ed decided the car needed a change; something a little more radical. He wanted it higher, as his nearly half foot over stock just wasn’t enough for him. So he took his ride to the famous Hot Rod Farm where proprietor, good friend, and Radir wheel CEO Rich Conklin had his garage.
There the twosome would create Gasser Magic, giving the Corvette the proportions of a true ’60’s jacked-up racer. The ’59 received a tube straight-axle, springs, backing plate, steering arms, Hurst Drag shocks and front spindles … all chromed and polished for that ’70’s street machine look. To finish it off, they installed a set of period perfect Radir 10.00x15 Drag Slicks out back. The setup was moved back 1 inch and centered in the wheelwells to clear the new rubber. When it was all said and done, the plastic Chevy was lifted 11 inches over stock up front.
Ed loved how his “sky high” Corvette came out and drove it extensively from the day he finished it. In 2003, Ed and fellow Deadman’s Curve member Mario Colasuonno, took the ’59 to the Corvettes at Carlisle event in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. While at the show he overheard a comment, “You’ve ruined it.” from someone who must have been a Corvette purist. A comment like that didn’t faze Ed one bit. Later that day he received the Chip’s Pick award from Chip Miller. Mr. Miller commented, “I positively love it,” which was Ed’s vindication for revamping the Corvette’s original styling. (Sadly, Chip Miller passed away the next year.)
Today, Ed is logging big miles in his radical ride, bringing it to shows all over the East Coast. The Corvette is still running on that rebuilt 327 he installed in 1979, and wears the lacquer paint laid on in the same year. Ed’s kept pretty much every modification he’s made over the years (except he went back to the Ansen wheels in 2015), and believe it or not, he still runs a generator. The Mad Hawaiian, as he is known by his DMC car club buddies has no plans on changing his Corvette up one bit, because he truly believes he built this “Bad to the Bowtie”, gassed-up Chevy right this time around.
Photography By Scotty Lachenauer