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1967 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster - Classic Overkill

Why Settle For 427 Inches When You Can Have 540

Geoff Stunkard Apr 1, 2006
Corp_0604_03_z 1967_chevrolet_corvette_roadster_overkill Red_exterior_side_view 2/1

Back in 1967, Chevrolet had all kinds of muscle out on the street: 427 Impalas, big-block Camaros, and dealership-modified monsters from the likes of Baldwin-Motion and Yenko. When it came to factory horsepower ratings though, the 435-horse, tri-carb L71 427 was in a class by itself. The favored location for the Corvette-only option was the mid-year roadster model, a car that has become an icon of the model and the era.

Tom Brown is a roofing contactor in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the northwestern Detroit suburb traversed by the fabled Woodward Ave. He picked up the '67 roadster seen here back in 1997. It had a 390-horse 427 under the hood, but, unfortunately, no documentation. Because the car's collector value was minimized due to that lack of pedigree, the decision was made to just have fun with it.

"This is my favorite body design," says Tom. "Since it had no upside collector value, I wanted to make it a powerful driver with updated handling but keep the stock look of a factory car."

The goal: Build a car that captures the spirit of the era, but maintains a stock outward appearance. The engine could get some added thunder with stock-type detailing, while handling could be improved without the use of parts that radically modify the traditional look. Keeping a project within such parameters can be challenging, but Tom seems to have met his predetermined criteria quite amicably.

The first stop for the body and suspension was "speed doctor" Earl Brown, a Walled Lake, Michigan, artisan who has done a lot of work for Tom. Earl selected mono-leaf dual-mount composite pieces and Bilstein shocks under both the nose and tail; the suspension pieces were all cryogenically treated (which basically means they are hard-frozen for metallurgic stability). This equipment is planted to the ground via slotted-rotor brakes (four-piston front units and a stock caliper setup at the rear) and the requisite factory-appearing rally wheels. The front ones are a combination 15x7 with 215/60Rx15 Goodyear rubber; the rearend utilizes offset 15x8 rims and 245/60R-15 tires.

Thanks to Rally Red paint and the infamous 427 black stripe (both ably applied by bodyman Ted Smith), the car now looked the part and should handle like an IMSA machine.

Inside, the interior layout was left stock, and the leather upholstery, courtesy of Carl's Interior in Waterford, Michigan, keeps it classy. The tach got a revised face and a 7,500-rpm redline in keeping with the engine program. The other gauges were restored as well, a special Keisler shifter went into the console area, and Tom selected a '66 teak steering wheel to point the car in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Dr. Earl was also busy getting pieces together for the motor. Using a steel Merlin aftermarket block that got bumped up to 540-inch fat cubes, Fisher Precision Machine in Walled Lake prepped the block with an .030 overbore and balanced the Eagle crank and rods, which Earl then assembled. The center received a Cam Motion solid-lifter cam with .620 lift /305 duration specs, which directs fuel through the Dart 325 Pro 1 aluminum heads to SRP 10.0:1 pistons. The intake is a standard L88-type hosting an 850 Holley, and modified Hooker headers send fumes to 3-inch pipes and out the rear pan. more visible sidepipes would have restricted the engine, which puts out 626 horses at the flywheel. The exhaust layout was done by Ernie Miyamoto.

Since the idea was to have fun, the engine needed to cruise down the road without cranking itself into oblivion. Keeping that RPM level reasonable at highway speeds was achieved by installing a Keisler-built Tremec five-speed. even with a 4.11 ring in the differential, the car can get 15 mpg on the highway at just 2,700 rpm. That mileage number, of course, declines in the city and when Tom decides to move into the higher digits on the 150-mph speedo.

When it was complete, Tom and Earl took the car out on one of the most serious cruises of the year-Hot Rod magazine's 2005 Power Tour, where we had a chance to see it and talk to Tom. The car went 1,000 miles with no problems whatsoever, a tribute to its construction and design.

Whether out on the highway or making the Woodward Avenue loop on a summer evening, the car is a real attention getter. once you begin to look a little closer, it becomes obvious that too much is just enough for this case of classic overkill.

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