Most of us who now qualify for the "middle-age" moniker look forward to the day we can retire and take life a little easier. It is a proven fact that staying busy after retirement is a key ingredient to living a longer, more productive life in our later years. Obviously, staying busy can mean different things to different people, but if most of us who read Corvette Fever can build a midyear Corvette when that time comes, I believe we would all want to be on that train.
Ron Champe retired a few years ago and his retirement plan included building the incredible Corvette featured here. At the time, Ron was heavily into Corvettes and wanted to build a Vette-rod while performing most of the work himself. Ron says, "I wanted to attempt to build a Vette-rod, not disturbing the original body lines of the car, but hoping that most of my changes would get lost in the simplicity of its appearance. I also wanted the car to have panache for many years to come. I didn't want to use any current trendy appearance parts that would be out of style in a few short years."
The search was then on for a midyear with the solid C2 body features that were imperative to Ron. He finally found the right car at Corvettes at Carlisle. Items such as the interior, trim, glass, and mechanical parts were not that important as he knew he wanted to build the car his way from the ground up. As with most projects like this, the car was built many times over in Ron's mind as he attempted to come up with just the right look and stance.
In designing the car prior to the rebuild, Ron's primary goals were quite simple: build the car to the best of his abilities, while still retaining all of its Corvette "character." Ron was somewhat of an amateur in car building when the build began, but with the exception of the final sand, fit and finish (in addition to approximately 50 hours of interior work), the car was totally built by him in his garage. Ron had never painted a car before, but the final finish of the frame, suspension, and driveline turned out exceptional, especially considering this was a first-time effort. All frame seams and suspension parts were welded and filled prior to applying the base/clear finish. To maximize the rebuild, Ron decided to hand-block and finish the complete underside of the body, wheelwells, hood, firewall, and inner fenders in a base/clear finish.
Another piece of this midyear puzzle was upgrading the electrical and mechanical systems to "current year status" to ensure dependability and drivability for years to come. During the build, every mechanical and electrical part was rebuilt and/or replaced for quality control. Also, every nut, bolt, and screw was replaced using polished stainless steel and black oxide grade-5/grade-8 fasteners for strength and appearance. All told, Ron spent about 2,300 hours on his creation. He admits that too much money was spent on the project, but I am sure that most of us commit the same crime with our own projects.
The rebuild officially began in January 2003 with a completion date and testdrive in June 2005. As the car was readied for paint in August 2004, Ron decided to have Ken Zikelli of Zeke's Street Machines in Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, perform his magic and finish the car in an incredible Twilight Blue Pearl (base/clear). A custom-mix shadow stripe down the center of the car was also applied. Ken paid particular attention to critical areas such as the smoothed firewall and especially the smoothed and filled door jams. these areas finish off the restoration to a "T."
Finally Ron adds "I must thank my understanding wife, not to mention my neighbors for putting up with all the noise, dirt, and many miscellaneous body panels curing in the sun in my back yard. Also, special thanks must go to Kip Sudak and Joe Ducci for walking me through the tough times.
Hey Ron, now the car is done, how is retirement treating you? we all know the answer to that question!
FeaturesOther features that make this Corvette so special are:Interior*George Yago Interiors, Bethel Park, PA*Lipstick Red color*Custom polished billet dash and glove box insert*Leveled rear floor with battery and fuse panel concealed in rear well*Custom dash, rear compartment, and kick panels*Custom cut (Daytona Weave) carpet, originally used in '55-'56 Chevrolets*Billet Specialties (Chicayne) steering wheel*Flaming River polished stainless steel steering column*Auto Meter (ultra-lite) custom gauge package*Hidden Pioneer stereo system with remote control*American Auto Wire-all wires were run in a concealed area*Vintage Air Sure-Fit system with concealed lines
Exterior*Custom-made inner fender panels to conceal open inner fender vents, wiring harness, and Vintage Air lines; battery was moved to interior rear well to clean up the engine compartment*Custom billet grille built by Alumicraft*Door handles, front bumper, emblems, and antenna removed*Intro 17x 7 (Radicalli-style) billet wheels*Nitto Extreme Performance tires-225x45x17 front, 225x50x17 rear*Custom exterior mirrors*Watson's remote door openers*Vintage auto glass (tinted)
Performance*Big-block 396ci, bored .060 over*Comp Cam .525 lift camshaft*Barry Grant 650 Speed Demon, electrical fuel pump, fuel regulator*Meziere water pump and reservoir*Concept One serpentine pulley system with custom power steering reservoir*Custom bent polished s/s fuel and break lines*SSBC polished billet master cylinder*Jet-Hot ceramic coated headers and exhaust*Ram 11-inch high-performance clutch*Be-Cool polished aluminum radiator and electrical fan*Borg-Warner four-speed*Richmond 3.55 posi*Billet Specialties air cleaner, valve covers, and wire looms*Power Stop drilled rotors*All concealed wires in custom-bent polished s/s tubing*Concealed wiring harness to front headlights, parking lights, headlight motors, and so on*Engine painted PPG Deltron DBC Light Argent Met. with PPG 2021 Clear
SuspensionVBP Performance "Plus" Suspension System provides the great handling improvement for the performance-minded owner in addition to being fully adjustable, which allows you to alter spring rate and ride height requirements in moments. This system includes:*Transverse front monospring system*Quick ratio steering box*Adjustable dual-mount rear monospring system*1.125-inch Addco anti-sway bar kit (front)*.75 Addco anti-sway bar kit (rear)*Heavy-duty boxed upper/lower A-arms*Bilstein Sport gas shocks*Crossmember reinforcement kit*2-inch off-set trailing arms *Adjustable "Smart-Struts" assembly*Paint-PPG Deltron DBC Bright Argent Silver, PPG Concept DCC Crested Navy and PPG 2021 Clear.