Fast forward 25 years. Rob and Bonnie dedicated themselves to raising two daughters and dealing with the day-to-day matters of life, while Karen Ann slept quietly. In the meantime, Rob found the time to help his good friend Bob Yeoman build a magnificent resto-mod '55 Chevy two-door hardtop. Rob, a welding and metallurgical engineer, built a rotisserie and welded in new floors, rockers, a trunk floor, and a variety of patch panels, spending hundreds of hours in the process. The result was a breathtaking street/show '55.
When Rob and Bob became business partners and started their own consulting company, the '55 was sold to generate start-up capital, and Karen Ann found a new home in the warehouse at the back of the new company's building. As the business began to blossom, Bob realized he had never properly thanked Rob for all the work he had done on his resto-mod '55. And he also knew that Rob was so committed to his family responsibilities that he never took much time for himself.
So, in the spirit of a popular television series, Bob decided to surprise Rob by having a new and totally drivable GM crate engine installed in place of Karen Ann's inherited dragster engine. It just so happened that Gary Gardner, who owns Gardner's Automotive in the Easton, Pennsylvania, area, had done a great deal of work on C1 Corvettes over the years, and he quickly accepted the assignment to do an engine transplant. A flatbed transported Karen Ann to Gardner's, right out from under Rob's nose, and the secret project began to take shape.
As anyone who has ever undertaken an engine swap or other major automotive project knows all so well, a job is never as simple as expected. It always escalates, and this project was no exception. Naturally, the new crate engine wanted a decent intake manifold and carburetor in place of the vintage WCFB and cast-iron manifold, plus a starter, plus a water pump, and then the nearly 50-year-old radiator was questionable, and . . . well, you get the idea. What started out as a simple crate engine transplant became much more.
Actually, the quicksand quickly deepened. As Bob was discussing his surprise with Bonnie, she asked, innocently enough, "Gee, are those old brakes going to be safe with all that added horsepower?" Bob told her he thought the brakes would be marginal. recognizing that Bob had already invested far more into this project than he originally intended, Bonnie offered to dig into her piggy bank to ensure the car was safe.