Subtlety is a term we throw around a lot when talking about cars featured here in Vette magazine. It’s a concept (some) people put a lot of effort into. You know, making subtle changes to a car that, at first glance, an onlooker might not notice but when they do catch sight of it, there’s a moment of awe and some version of, “Oh, I see what you did there.” Sometimes though, subtle changes can be so insignificant they aren’t worth noting at all. This is where Darren Heavner comes in. He decided the whole “subtle” thing wasn’t for him. He’d rather just inspire that moment of awe at first glance, not the fourth glance, and what better platform to start with than a 1960 Corvette.
His passion for Corvettes—and more specifically C1 Corvettes—started at a young age. “When I was a little kit,” Heavner told us, “my best friend’s dad had a ’59 Vette he used to give us rides in.” Obviously that memory stuck because he continued, saying, “I’ve been infatuated with that car ever since.”
As with a lot of things in life, the greatest rewards take a long time to come to fruition with years of sacrifice and hard work building to a crescendo. Heavner didn’t get his own Corvette until just a few years ago when time and finances finally allowed him the opportunity. After looking for quite a while, he eventually came across a ’60 Corvette that was ripe for the picking. It was being sold on eBay by a dealer for the original owners and had been sitting in storage for the past 15 years. Reportedly, the engine ran but the car needed brakes and tires to get it back on the road again. Heavner purchased the car and then had it shipped back to his hometown in Fort Worth, Texas.
When the car showed up, it didn’t take long for Heavner to start wrenching. “I got the brakes working and put new tires on it and was able to drive it around the neighborhood,” he recalled, “but that was about as far as I felt comfortable driving it.” From there he started looking for a shop to take his project to the next level. “I met with several shops and decided to go with Triple F Automotive [out of Fort Worth, Texas] to do the restoration—or what we’re calling a hybrid restomod,” said Heavner. And what he means by hybrid restoration is as follows: “Modern steering, suspension and brakes along with a new drivetrain while completely maintaining the 1960 body lines and interior design.” Some might question his definition of restomod because not too long ago, that might have actually constituted a restomod. But, these days, the term restomod has gone way past the concept of just updating a few things while restoring everything else to stock. Thus his clarification of calling it a restomod hybrid might actually hold water.
So with that all cleared up, hopefully, let’s dig into what actually went into building this so-called hybrid restomod. When the car showed up at Triple F Automotive, the guys knew they had their hands full. The Corvette required a full frame-off restoration. Lots of fiberglass work was needed to get the body anywhere near ready for paint. But eventually, it was ready and was sprayed in Velocity Yellow—a factory color option for 2014 and 2015 Corvettes—from BASF. In the meantime, the frame got a lot of attention as well. It was repaired and refurbished to factory specifications before being mated back with the body. All the stock trim pieces were re-chromed by JB Chrome of Fort Worth, Texas, and then re-installed to retain the classic styling Heavner wanted.
With the body back on the frame, it was time to start thinking about the powertrain. They ended up dropping in a 350ci small-block crate engine from Chevrolet Performance. Heavner wanted to keep it looking reasonably stock, so a brand-new small-block fit the bill. The engine was dressed up with Billet Specialties valve covers—painted yellow to match the body—and serpentine front drive system. Underneath the stock-style air cleaner, the guys at Triple F hid a modern EFI throttle body from FiTech fed by an in-tank Walbro electric fuel pump. Keeping things cool, a four-row aluminum radiator from Champion was dropped in. Finally, Hooker Block Hugger 1 5/8-inch headers were hung on the side of the 350 and dumped into custom exhaust system. Triple F fabricated the pipes using 2 1/4-inch aluminized steel that fed into Dynaflow mufflers.
Behind the small-block was bolted a TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed manual. An original Muncie four-speed might have been fun, but having that extra gear makes all the difference in driveability. Heavner wasn’t too worried about keeping the underpinnings of his Corvette stock either, so Triple F Automotive updated the suspension with an independent front suspension system from Martz Chassis. Out back, the stock rearend was retained but 2-inch lowering blocks were used to give the Corvette the perfect stance. Next, the stock brakes were thrown out in favor of Wilwood disc brakes at all four corners. Then to put the power down and make the most of the modern suspension, the Corvette was fitted with an equally modern wheel and tire combination. The wheels of choice were 18-inch American Racing ASR605M wrapped in 245/45ZR18 Nitto rubber.
The final piece of the puzzle was the interior. Like the rest of the car, Heavner wanted to keep most of the original styling, so the guys at Triple F installed stock seats covered in black leather. Ecklers black door panels and carpet tied together the rest of the interior. A TREMEC shifter topped by a number one yellow pool ball was installed to match the exterior color, then Dakota Digital HDX gauges replaced the stock units to give Heavner all his readouts.
After the 20-month build, Heavner finally got his C1 back and boy was it everything he had hoped for. “The car is a pleasure to drive,” he exclaimed, “and turns heads wherever I go—due in no small part to the color.” So, whether you are a fan subtlety or not, there’s no denying the eye-catching quality of this 1960 Corvette restomod. Vette
Photography by Joseph Dowling