Here's a quick way to make those stuffy purists at high-dollar Corvette clubs and judging shows tear their hair out. Take a completely original red '65, 350-horse 327 convertible, meticulously restore it to the finest details, then drive the brains out of it. In this case, John Lilak of Powell, Ohio, is the guilty party.
John has always had the itch for GM's infamous sports car, but never had a chance to act upon it. He's graced his garage with fine and exquisite German and Italian machines, but never the sharp angles and throaty sounds of a mid-'60s Corvette-until recently. Waiting, like many of our readers, for their children to fly the coop, John didn't waste time mourning his empty nest. Instead, he hunted down this '65 convertible.
This Corvette has a long list of prior owners who struggled to restore the C2 to the best their resources allowed. But many hands acting on different tastes took its toll on the aged roadster, and John began the process of resurrecting the venerable small-block Sting Ray. He admits the car had been painted and the bodywork was exceptional, but the details-such as the engine compartment and undercarriage-left much to be desired.
Chevrolet's infamous 327 small-block was found in a bevy of vehicles, but the rare-option 350-horse was select to only a few, most noticeably the Corvette. John had the powerplant pulled and intricately restored by the right professionals, keeping period correctness as best as possible. The engine compartment was taken back in time, receiving all the right hoses, belts, and mounts-everything imaginable that's available in the restoration market, which is considerable. Like the engine compartment, the interior received equal handling with new detailing and treatment.
John's Corvette has a rich history, as documented by its buildsheet. The high-horsepower small-block was meant to earn its numbers with a four-speed Muncie that raced through the gears backed by a low-geared 4.11 Posi rear. The intimidating, nostalgic side pipes let the thunder roll, as John drives this convertible every sunny day he can. This work hasn't gone for naught, as the car has received several awards at various shows. John was adamant about keeping the car on the road, and says when he can't drive it, his children will be happy to fight each other for the keys.
John laughs that he still isn't satisfied leaving it be. He's currently busy rebuilding all the suspension components, restoring the many parts and pieces back to factory specs. The attack on the undercarriage has been on his to-do list for quite some time, and now he has the chance to take it on.
Even though the work on John's Corvette is comparable to that of the most rare and pampered trailer queens and garage pieces, he swears his car will never suffer such a limited existence. Both restoration and use keep these cars alive.