By now, you're familiar with the terms Vette-Rod, Pro Touring, Pro Street, and Resto Mod. Here's the car that defines another term: Pro Classic. It's Rich and Barbara Lagasse's '63 Corvette Z06 Coupe, the same car whose construction was featured in the Corvette Fever series "Split Personality."
How do you put the term Pro Classic into words? Let Rich spell it out. "We're trying to take advantage of how far the Corvette has come, from a technological standpoint," he says. "We're trying to upgrade the handling, comfort, ride, and performance with modern technology, while using primarily Corvette components that are currently available, to improve all those areas. When it comes to the exterior and interior styling, we make only subtle changes, within the context of the original styling, which are designed to improve their appearance, performance, and function."
The Lagasse's trip through the Corvette hobby began in 1989 with an all-original '66 big-block coupe that was restored only in those areas absolutely necessary, such as rebuilding the engine, which was in sad shape. After participating in NCRS Chapter and Regional events and receiving Top Flight awards, they found themselves with the dilemma of not feeling comfortable driving an original car as much as they had planned. Their feeling was that "a car is only original once in its life, and we felt a responsibility to preserve the car as it was." As a consequence, it became more "garage furniture" and not driven often.
The Lagasses then began purchasing and restoring other Corvettes which they felt more comfortable using the way they had planned. But then the itch to design a Corvette reflecting their ideas took hold. "While we really enjoyed those cars and the events we participated in, we began to look for a different way to enjoy the Corvette hobby," Rich says. "There are many different avenues to come at it. We decided that our focus would be to find a way to retain the integrity of that original styling, but develop a car that would make use of the current technology available and incorporate our own design ideas." As a result, they built their first Pro Classic in 1998, which was a '67 convertible. Having enjoyed that project so much, a '62 followed in 2001, following the same approach.
When planning began for their next project, the Lagasses decided to build a Vette to compete for the "big trophy" at one of North America's longest running rod and customs shows: the Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama. That highly-sought-after prize, named for legendary Detroit show promoter Don Ridler, recognizes the finest of the new, never-before-seen-anywhere show vehicles. "We fully knew what we would be up against but believed that a Corvette hadn't competed in the Ridler in over 30 years. We wanted to have the experience once in our lives and represent the Corvette hobby as best we could," Rich says.
The C2 they started with was far from pristine-in fact, it was far from a complete car. "If you look back at the very first article, Installment 1, you'll see a picture of what we started with. It was virtually nothing but a bare shell," he says. "It had a modified rolling chassis, which we sold to a fellow who had a car with a rotten frame, but everything else was missing. As far as what we ended up with, (there was a picture of the body [in Installment 1] after it was media-blasted and the nose was removed). It looked like a horror story and definitely not what we usually advise people to use for a project like this. Our advice to anyone who asks is to start with as complete a non-numbers-matching car as you can find. Sometimes we should listen more closely to our own advice!"