Would you believe the Vette-Rod you see here almost became a race-only car? Believe it, because at one point in its history, any change would have improved it. That's because Bob Lucas started his '73 Corvette project with something less than a complete car. "There was nothing there but the back end of the car and a crap frame," he recalls from his Union City, Pennsylvania, home about what he started with. "We then went to Spring Carlisle and bought a really nice frame. Then we bought the front clip, and that was the start of the build."
Prior good service from HarborVette Corvette Restorations in Erie, Pennsylvania, led Bob to pick that shop to turn his basket-case '73 into something special. He says they met by accident. "I had a Z06 that I sent to Lingenfelter's," he says. "I got forced off the road in it, and I went to see [HarborVette]. They did the work to put it back together, and I was really happy with [it]." When Bob decided to move forward with this project, HarborVette Corvette Restorations got the call.
Over time, Brad Goetz and the HarborVette crew transformed the body panels and pieces into a smooth, yet aggressive unit. They added big L88 flares at each corner-with rocker panel flares linking them-and an L88 hood while smoothing the firewall and engine bay, fashioning a custom nose and grille, and widening the rear spoiler. All this before the silver/grey PPG paint went on. The body modifications were part of Bob's original plan for the '73: Build it as a track-only screamer. "Originally, it was going to be a race car," he says. "But it kind of got out of hand-we spent more and more money, and it's now so nice that I won't race it."
Those niceties include a chassis that had plenty of show-caliber work done to it. Bob says the Vette Brakes and Parts (VBP) C5 front brake conversion kit was prototyped on his car. "The folks at Vette Brakes would send us pieces that we would fit, and we would then send them back and tell them what needed to be done," says Bob. "Finally, they were able to get it all done, and they [VBP] now offer it as a package for C3s."
Once the suspension-as well as a VBP Grand Touring Plus monoleaf suspension kit and a Steeroids rack-and-pinion steering setup-had been fitted, HarborVette gave the frame some special attention. "They filled in all the frame holes that weren't being used with welded-in plugs, and ground everything down," recalls Bob. "We had it powdercoated silver, and coated the suspension and everything else in red."
Onto that dressed-up frame went a built-up LS1 and 4L60E automatic, which Bob says came from an unfortunate donor car. "The guy that had the engine before me had it in a Camaro, and he spent $8,000 on it," Bob says of the much-modified engine. "Then, the poor kid got hit from the rear, and that demolished his car. And I came out as the winner when he liquidated the engine."
As this project evolved from a pure racer to a Vette-Rod-style grand tourer, the interior got its share of special attention, thanks to Scott Zielinski at Sew it Seems in Erie, Pennsylvania. "The kid's a young kid, and he does really nice work," says Bob. "He does tuner cars for the most part. I saw one of those, and I liked what he did." Zielinski made the door panels and custom console, while the seat upholstery was entrusted to another local craftsman, Charles Sanner. "He's a guy that Brad knew, and he did a really nice job on the seats, putting in the stitching and all. It really turned out nice."
But nice isn't one of the words you'll use to describe Bob's '73 "C3-HR" (named for the Corvette's third generation and HarborVette Restoration), once he turns the key. "This car sounds so mean!" says Bob, who also notes a key feature of the VBP-enriched undercarriage. "It's a very strong, adjustable chassis, where you can change the ride exactly as you want it. There are four different settings. I ride it pretty hard-I just like that feel." Though it's a car that can carve up the twisties on a road course like Mid-Ohio with no problem, Bob says it hasn't shaken itself apart when he's driven it hard. "We built it so it was tight," he says. "I've been driving it, and there are no rattles in the chassis-it's solid as a rock!"
Should you be considering building your own Vette-Rod, Bob advises, "Buy one with a complete body. Don't start from the ground up."