Every great project starts with a plan. Savvy car builders know the importance of evaluating their time, tools, talent, and temperament as well as creating a theme that justifies squandering the children’s inheritance. If the goal is a showroom-correct restoration, the approach is relatively straightforward since you are returning the car to its original appearance.
The dilemma arises when the plan calls for personalizing a ride to your own tastes since every classic icon has its own band of followers who believe original lines are sacred. Corvette owners have favorites and meddling with the design will arouse their ire. Redefining those lines is like drawing eyebrows on the Mona Lisa. She does quite well without them. There is, however, an equally vocal group that says the end of the assembly line is the beginning of the personalizing process. When it’s finally time to do your Corvette your way, what’s the best approach that blends respect for its iconic looks with infusion of new technology, power, handling, safety and comfort?
Ronnie Edge from Jacksonville, Florida, has the answer. He’s been a Corvette enthusiast since high school when he took his girlfriend Pam to the dance in his 1956 convertible. That connection blossomed, Ronnie and Pam have enjoyed owning, driving and building Corvettes for the last 50 years. Currently, there are four pristine NCRS-level Corvette restorations in the Edge garage and while driving stock is nice, it was time for something new. Enter Black Ice, their stunning 1956 restomod. As you would expect, transforming a 60-year-old car into a new millennium ride had to begin with detailed research and a careful plan. Since the couple wanted to re-create the Corvette that started it all, Pam and Ronnie located another 1956 convertible not far from home in Ormond Beach, Florida. The paint had already been stripped from the body, happily revealing unmolested fiberglass in great condition. Just as important, the drag racing chassis had been modified many times over the years, making it the right choice for a restomod. The exterior could retain its classic lines while everything underneath could be scrapped.
Ronnie had worked with J&M Enterprises in Brooksville, Florida, on past projects and knew they had the talent to achieve his goal. Although they have done dozens of NCRS restorations in the past, this would be their very first C1 restomod and they were excited at the prospect. Ronnie’s guidance was simple; no drastic modifications to the body, dash or interior, but everything underneath was fair game. Pam’s request was equally simple; she wanted an all-black engine compartment to amplify the sinister look of the new powerplant.
Everything starts with a firm foundation. In this case it’s a custom-built chassis, lighter and stronger than the original, using 4x2x0.120-inch rectangular tube framerails. The experts at Street Shop in Athens, Alabama, designed the powdercoated frame to accommodate 1988 or newer Corvette suspension components, ensuring that body mounts, engine mounts, and bumpers matched the stock locations, although the engine is positioned slightly lower than stock to improve handling. Pam says, “The chassis was so pretty, it was almost a shame to cover it up.”
Ronnie’s research lead to a hot rodders dream sheet of upgrades, combining the latest products from the aftermarket with original Corvette parts. Up front, C4 suspension components guaranteed the ’56 would have autocross-level handling, running Hyperco springs and damped with QA1 Ultra Ride adjustable coilovers. Out back, a custom-built C4-style Trac-Lok independent rear from Street Shop was fitted with QA1s and 3.73 gears. The rear tire well was modified to clear the chunk.
Addressing the stopping issues began with Baer PBR calipers on C4 cross-drilled and slotted rotors, 13-inches up front and 12-inches in the rear. A Wilwood tandem master cylinder, Hydraboost, and pushbutton E-Stopp emergency brake system completed the brake package. A Detroit Speed Inc., power rack-and-pinion optimized the steering.
It’s always a milestone whenever you finally get the chassis rolling. Accomplishing the task and filling the wheelwells was a set of 17x8 American Racing VF481 two-piece forged rims wrapped in 235/45R17 Toyo Extensa HP redline rubber. Of course, no restomod is complete without a modern powerplant. The choice was easy with Ronnie opting for a 430hp LS3 paired with a Chevrolet Performance 4L70E four-speed automatic. More than quick enough straight out of the crate, the only engine mod was a set of MagnaFlow mufflers on the 2 1/2-inch aluminized exhaust, complete with X-pipe. A DeWitts HP series radiator and electric fan keeps engine temps in the green.
Cognizant of that admonition about eyebrows and the Mona Lisa, Ronnie kept body mods to a minimum, adding a linear-actuated hood, running the larger exhaust pipes through the rear pan, installing auxiliary brake lights in the rear bumper where the pipes use to be and finishing with LED headlights and taillights. John Ames of J&M Enterprises completed the exterior, block-sanding the vintage body to perfection and spraying the rich Axalta ChromaBase Black with Inca Silver in the cove.
Moving inside, HushMat Ultra was added everywhere for heat and noise abatement. Pam chose bright-red leather for the seats, doors and dash with the trunk upholstered to match. Although air-conditioning was not available when this car rolled off the line, Vintage Air now keeps Ronnie and Pam cool throughout Florida’s hot summer nights. Subtle A/C vents were built into the dash and covered in matching red leather. Classic Instruments gauges with shining silver faces and red pointers replace the originals. To ensure it matched, the original Corvette speedometer face was removed and redesigned by Classic Instruments. For another subtle touch, J&M incorporated the E-Stopp brake button in the center of the dash where the original emergency brake indicator light use to be. The modern AM/FM/CD radio from Antique Audio Radio imitates a vintage Wonder Bar radio and a Flaming River column holds the red leather-wrapped wheel, providing the perfect haptic connection. J&M uses Blevins Auto in Brooksville, Florida, for their interior work and they did an amazing job. The black Stayfast three-ply canvas top wrapped up the 19-month build, completed just in time for the 2017 Jacksonville Corvette Club car show. It was held at St. Augustine, Florida’s World Golf Village, the site of our photo shoot.
How is the car to drive? Ronnie says “it is unbelievable! It has late-model get up and go, even though you’re in a nostalgic, old classic.” Pam says, “We love it and it’s amazing how much attention it attracts when we drive it.” This high-performance restomod has become the perfect addition to an already amazing Corvette collection. Vette
Photos by: Joe Greeves