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1967 Chevrolet Corvette - Body And Soul

Wes Watts' '67 Blends Old And New In Perfect Harmony

Wade Cassels Apr 1, 2004
0404_CORP_01_z_LS1MY 2/1

The Paddock's Wes Watts is used to seeing beautifully restored classic cars, but every so often, one catches his eye that he simply must have. This silver '67 Corvette is one of those cars. It's a classy blend of classic stock appearance and up-to-date technology.

From 1997 to 2000, Richard Bushbom of East Peoria, Illinois, performed the complete, frame-off restoration on this car. At the 2000 Indianapolis Super Chevy show, Wes' good friend, Tom True, bought the car. Then, in December 2001, Wes made the difficult decision of trading his nearly brand-new '01 Corvette convertible in exchange for the '67. At the time, the '01 had just 1,500 miles on it.

"The ['01] was only six months old," Wes says. "I told Tom, 'I'm not sure who's getting the better end of this deal.' I had been looking for [a '67], and I was impressed by the condition of the car and the quality of the restoration. With the original stock appearance and the late-model engine, it is a one-of-a-kind, vintage Corvette."

Ordinarily, a swap between an '01 and a '67 would be a matter of driveability versus collectibility. But that isn't so in this case. While this Sting Ray may look bone stock on the outside, under the hood there is something decidedly new-school. Bushbom restored the car with a '94 Camaro LT1 engine. It's unusual to see an early Corvette restored this painstakingly with a late-model engine. But Wes says he has heard nothing but good reviews.

"I met [Bushbom] at Bloomington Gold, and he's done a few of these [restorations]," Wes says. "Nobody has been critical of it. I think it is becoming more widely accepted."

The '67 is not really a driver, but there are around 600 miles on the Tuned Port LT1, with Wes using the car for Paddock promotions. One of the things you notice upon peering into the engine bay is the smoothed firewall, which Wes says immediately got his attention. Another eye-catcher is the set of Coker Classic Red Line tires (P205/75R15), which the Corvette wears for every occasion.

Power is transferred through a '95 Corvette 4L60E transmission all the way to the 3.55 Posi-traction rearend.

The interior was restored to like-new condition with Al Knoch red leather, and features a woodgrain steering wheel and Custom Autosound stereo system. Texas Air supplied the air conditioning, and the tachometer and speedometer were converted to electric gauges.

The automatic, power steering, front and rear disc brakes, and interior amenities all enhance the Corvette's tractability. "It's very user-friendly," Wes notes.

In addition to the '67, Wes owns a red '62 Corvette and an '04 Z06. However, he has no plans of parting with the C5 the way he did the '01. "I'm not trading that one anytime soon," he says.

By sacrificing numbers-matching correctness for modern convenience, builders like Bushbom are creating cars that epitomize the best of both worlds. If Wes' experience is typical, it's no wonder this type of Corvette heart transplant is growing in popularity.

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