Corvettes have been a big part of guys' lives since 1953, but we don't often see mention of women and America's sport car. Rhonda Ralph and her husband, David, already have a stock 1962 convertible and have put many miles on the car.
However, a couple of seasons ago they attended the Goodguys event in Puyallup, Washington, and saw a wild, yellow, custom 1957 roadster. That's right a true roadster, no roll-up windows. It was the product of Steve's Auto Restorations (SAR) in Portland, Oregon. They inquired about buying the car on the spot but it was not for sale. So David suggested that SAR build Rhonda her own custom 1957 Corvette. She wanted hers at the same level of build as the yellow car, but with design and mechanical changes of her choosing, including a custom paint mix. Rhonda wanted a Corvette to drive the wheels off of and SAR was the place to get it. Her plan was to be able to pull away from her husband's '62 Corvette and do it with style and flash to boot.
SAR started with a donor body and chassis, with the wrong engine, no transmission or top assembly. The roadster transformation begins with a '53 windshield, which is 2 inches shorter than a 1957. The door windows are removed and the openings 'glassed over. A pattern is shaped as a door cap to allow the chrome to flow from the windshield to the trim that wraps around the seats. The pattern is then cast in brass and metal finished. All the trim pieces were then sent off to Sherm's Custom Plating in Sacramento, California.
Brand new is a one-off hood designed with a "baby stinger" air intake. A '53 Corvette trunk with a recessed license plate housing was fitted to the rear deck. The rear exhaust ports are 2004 Z06, with Z06 checkerboard pattern on the stock gauges restored by Classic Instruments. Hints of a C2 waterfall house the Antique Automobile Radio head unit. Topping the ididit steering column is a beautiful SAR-designed steering wheel machined by EVOD Inc. Up front, the stock 1957 grille is set back 2 inches and the front and rear bumpers are designed and made in-house. The front ones house custom glass parking light lenses to match the prism pattern of the 12volt T-3 headlight bulbs. American Autowire supplied the wiring and was installed by SAR. Designed and built in-house, the seats are covered by Ivory Spinneybeck leather expertly stitched by Dan's Auto Upholstery in Portland, Oregon. Color on anything is a big deal, and they sure dialed in the shade of paint on Rhonda's Corvette. Mixed right there in the SAR paint department, the final color is Crem'e De Menthe Pearl.
Well, that old, stock chassis was not going to work any longer. Art Morrison Enterprises out of Fife, Washington, is the place for complete chassis builds for classic cars. The one for this Vette is a 2x4-inch rectangular tube bruiser with a Corvette-style front suspension and 9-inch Ford rear with Truetrac limited-slip diff. Brakes are Wilwood 13-inch discs with an electric booster. Strange shocks help smooth out the ride.
Serious horsepower comes from a new GM crate LS3 V-8 rated at 430 hp at 5,900 rpm running through Ultimate headers, MagnaFlow mufflers and a stainless exhaust system. It is topped off with modified Pontiac GTO engine covers, chrome-plated with painted accents. Locked to it is a TREMEC TKO-600 transmission with a billet flywheel and Kevlar disc, catching those gears is handled by ProShift.
The 18x9 and 19x10.5 wheels are SAR designed just for Rhonda and machined by EVOD Inc. They are shod with BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2 255/40R18 in front and 285/352R19 in the rear.
Rhonda was told that her Corvette would not be completed until March 2019. This was a ruse to surprise her at the January 2019 Grand National Roadster Show. Word has it that her first reaction upon seeing the finished Corvette was wondering how someone else copied her car until she read her name on the show sign. At the point her expression was priceless. Vette
Photography by Dale Moreau, Jay Moreau