Bet you thought this midyear was pretty much a stock one when you first looked at it. Then you looked at it again, and its fine details began emerging. So it is with Jeff Hess' "Coupester," a '66 Sting Ray Coupe that he and Vestris Vettes collaborated on together.
Turn back the clock a few years to when Jeff began this project. He was looking for a C2, and the one that he eventually located didn't look that good-at first. "It looked like it was someone else's project-every body panel was in primer," says Jeff from his Woodland Hills, California, home. "It was a bare-bones car, but we picked it because the frame seemed to be straight with no apparent hits, damage, or repairs. It was pretty straight to begin with, but we knew that we wouldn't reuse 80-90 percent of it."
That's half the battle when choosing a project Vette of any generation-one needing as little "remedial" work as possible. Jeff turned to Vestris Vettes, one of a handful of top-shelf shops specializing in turning "experienced" Corvettes into incredible Vette Rods. Jeff says that he was looking for more than a Sting Ray that still looked stock. "Ninety-nine percent of the ideas in the car are mine," he says. "I came to John and said, 'Here's what I want to do.' Most of his customers are the true restomod people who want wide whitewalls and hubcaps-they want the car to look exactly the way it did in 1966, or 1958, or whatever the year was."
John's ideas included a radical redo of the '66's suspension, doing away with the original front coils/rear leaf system. Instead, Vette Brakes & Products' (VBP) composite monoleaf suspension went in, front and rear, on the original frame. Before the suspension upgrade, that frame received some additional bracing before it was powdercoated in charcoal gray. "You don't really see the frame unless you jack up the car, but rather than using a plain black coating, we did this," Jeff says. "Once they did it, John said, 'Whoa-I like this-we may do this on some other cars.'"
Into that frame went an engine that had never been swapped into a second-generation before then: GM's new LS7, which at that time had just been introduced in the '06 production Z06. Jeff recalls that he told John at that time, "This will make it a little bit more special than an LS1, or an LS2."
So did the modified GM 4L65E overdrive automatic transmission. Jeff says there was a very practical reason for picking it over a manual one. "We picked the automatic because, if you've ever been in California, you know the traffic is awful. My left leg would be twice as big as my right leg if it had a stick."
Jeff adds another reason why the 4L65E was chosen: "We believe that we were the first-and maybe the only-to mate an LS7 to an automatic transmission, because they all came with six-speeds in the Z06." Other updates and upgrades that went onto the '66's chassis included a Steeroids rack-and-pinion steering system, plus SSBC disc brakes and Bilstein shocks all around.