LS7-powered 1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Total Transformation

No concours Corvettes were harmed in the making of Larry Allman's incredible, radical '61 Vette-Rod

Tom Shaw Feb 3, 2010 0 Comment(s)

What if you could transplant the heart and soul of the sizzling Z06 Corvette into a vintage Corvette with its classic style? Larry Allman pondered the same thing and decided to find out. He says, "The real inspiration for the project were two things: my love for the timeless styling of the C1 series Corvettes, and the wealth of world class components available today from which to re-engineer the car." He studied every early Corvette he saw with an updated chassis. "I thought about this project for a year before I started," he says.

Finally, Larry was ready to swing into action. He used to drag race a '62 back in college, but began looking for a '61 because he liked the two-tone body/cove color combinations that weren't available on the '62s. A friend and fellow Corvette aficionado had a '61, but it had issues. "It was wrecked in the front, apparently in the '70s, and left unattended until the mid-'90s," Larry says. "It was a total wreck." The current owner had made some repairs to the front end and then lost interest. It had been sitting in his garage for five years when Larry looked it over.

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"The original 283 engine was seized. There were scores of parts missing, and all the trim parts that were there were in rough shape," Larry says. it looked like just what he needed. "I purchased the car specifically for this project in June 2005 after hearing that the LS7 engines were going to be released by General Motors Performance Parts," he says.

He sold the frame and engine and kept the body, then had SRIII Motorsports in New Lenox, Illinois, construct a custom tubular-steel frame. Up front, a C5 suspension was installed. A C4 power rack updates the steering, and the column is from Ididit. For the rear suspension, SRIII installed a C4 setup from a manual-trans '89 Corvette, which has the tougher Dana 44 differential. Gearset is a 3.89:1, and the axles are stock C4 units. QA1 shocks and coilover springs were used all around instead of the factory leaf springs. Wheels are by Intro, and are 18x8-inch front and 19x10-inch rear. Tires are 235/40 ZR18 front and 275/30 ZR19 rear. Rock Valley in Nashville fabricated a stainless steel fuel tank that incorporates the in-tank pump and EFI return line, and even mounts the sender in the stock location. The finished chassis was then powdercoated a color complementary to the exterior.

After placing deposits at several GM dealerships across the U.S., Larry was fortuate to receive one of the first LS7s delivered, which turned out to be a good-news/bad-news thing. With a level of power unheard of in a '61, the LS7's 505 hp definitely put Larry's roadster on the cutting edge, but many of the supporting parts had not yet been released. Again Larry turned to the specialists, in this case, John Spears at Speartech Fuel Injection Systems in Anderson, Indiana. John's background as a GM electrical systems engineer made him the ideal guy to sort out the brave new world of LS7 engine management, which he did with medical precision. Inside, the LS7 was left stock, but the block and oil pan were polished; the engine covers/intake were painted to match the body/cove colors; a 12-quart oil sump from Peterson Fluid Systems was added. The accessory drive system is from Street & Performance in Mena, Arkansas. Behind the engine is a McLeod 11-inch clutch and Tremec six-speed transmission with Hurst shifter. Sounding good so far, right?




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