It’s not something that happens very often, but every once in a while there’s a Corvette owner that does not want their car in a magazine and, in particular, on the Internet with their name associated with it. And that’s the story we got when we called Heartland Customs to talk about the ’63 Corvette Sting Ray featured in the Griffin Radiators 2017 SEMA Show booth.
The owner, who we’ll call John Doe, wanted Heartland to take his tired and totally thrashed ’63 split-window coupe and transform it into a fire-breathing, road-going modern interpretation of the Corvette Grand Sport, known as the lightweight. In Doe’s account of the split-window he wrote, “The 1963 had been sold in Memphis at Union Chevrolet, a dealership that I believe no longer exists. I bought it from a used car dealer with a 283-inch truck motor and had aspirations to restore it back to its original fuel-injected 327 specifications, but the closer I inspected it the rougher the ’63 looked. It wasn’t a good candidate for a nut and bolt correct restoration. In front there were provisions for a tow bar hacked into the nose as well as other indications it had spent time on a road course or at a dragstrip.” Doe’s final straw was when a plume of hickory smoke billowing from underneath turned out to be from a block of wood used as an anti-rattle device jammed into the exhaust system. In short, Doe decided to nix an NCRS level restoration and have Heartland restomod the ’63 into a modern-day Grand Sport.
The stock ’63 frame was pitched in favor of a Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis complete with Penske shock absorbers and 14-inch Baer disc brakes at all corners. The front and rear 18-inch wheels—detailed with gunmetal gray centers and polished outers—are Forgeline VX3C shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport 245/40R18 in the front and 285/35R18 in the rear. The 3.50-geared rearend with positraction is a 9-inch Strange.
The front of the body was in rough shape. Heartland sourced a Grand Sport front clip from Duntov Motor Company and grafted it to the firewall. Interestingly, the Grand Sport body shell is on a slightly shrunken scale in comparison to a standard production ’63 body, and sans front turn signal pods. It took an immense amount of man-hours to produce the final look incorporating turn signal pods and reconfiguring the Grand Sport mouth to accept an N.O.S. ’63 Sting Ray grille. The side grilles were made with a 3D printer. In place of the minimally detailed original equipment Grand Sport headlight covers, a custom set of headlight covers were crafted. A lot of attention was paid to ensure a maximum amount of cooling air entered the engine bay with CNC machined vents.
Under the custom hood, 540 horsepower comes from a Lingenfelter LSX 376 with an extremely radical cam and topped with Borla 8-Stack fuel injection. To handle the heat retention of the cast-iron block and 120-degree desert drives the owner says he has plans for there’s a heavy-duty Griffin aluminum radiator. Chevrolet Orange is the engine color.
The exhaust system starts with BBK Performance stainless steel headers feeding into very trick Heartland-fabricated side pipes that are electronically controlled to raise or lower the volume from quiet to loud. Burned legs while entering or exiting are eliminated, Heartland said, thanks to custom heat shields they fabricated with a layer of insulation that’s good up to 2,500 degrees. The transmission is a TREMEC Magnum six-speed mounted to the LSX 376 with a Quick Time bellhousing and custom driveshaft by Blumenthal Companies.
Inside is where the Grand Sport 6 takes on the feel of a modernized road-going automobile. At the top of the luxury list is Vintage Air Gen IV air conditioning enabled with a Vintage Air Front Runner serpentine belt system spinning a 140-amp alternator and Sanden SD 508 compressor. The sound system is a RetroSound Long Beach head unit with two RetroSound 6x9 speakers in front and two Pioneer 6.5-inch speakers in back. A leather-covered custom steering wheel faces an instrument cluster packed with Dakota Digital VHX gauges.
Heartland Customs handled almost every phase of the ‘63’s construction in house except the interior, which was upholstered by Kutting Edge Interiors of O’Fallon, Missouri. For seating, a pair of C5 bucket seats covered in black leather and blue stitching matches the rest of the upholstery. The carpet is black Daytona weave with a carpeted trap door hidden inside for total access to the electrical components. Auto City Glass was the source for replacement windows and windshield. The two-stage PPG color Heartland Customs sprayed after numerous hours of fiberglass and bodywork is called Supersonic Blue, and it’s interesting to note the split was not eliminated as on the original Grand Sport coupes. Vette
Photos by Grant Cox