1963 Chevrolet Corvette - Pro Classic Unveiled

Judges & Show-Goers Alike Wowed By America's Best Vette Rod

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"Split Personality" scored four trophies at Quebec City's Auto-Salon: Best in Show-American, Best Custom, Outstanding Display, plus First Place in its class.

When last we featured Rich and Barb Lagasse's '63 Sting Ray Coupe, it was to tell the world the definition of "Pro Classic." That was in our February issue ("Pro Classic, Defined," Page 46), and it wrapped up the series of articles CF brought you on this special split-window's construction. We called them recently to see what's happened since then, and to get an update on their experiences with this very special Corvette.

Since completing the car, "Split Personality" has hit the show scene, garnering praise from show-goers while scoring a trophy haul that includes multiple Best in Show trophies, along with more than a few Outstanding awards for paint, chassis, body detail and display, as well as First Place trophies for its class wins. (Editor's Note: While you might expect that a car such as this would place very well at Corvette specific events, it is interesting to note the intense competition at the events where the car is now being shown includes all types, makes, models and year vehicles and yet the car continues to be well recognized.)

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One of the interesting aspects for the Lagasse's since they have been traveling around the country to all these great shows has been the fact that many of the spectators came to the shows specifically to see the car in person having seen it in the project series right here in Corvette Fever. Other spectators unaware that the car was in attendance immediately recognized the car from the magazine and were very happy to see it up close and personal for the first time.

Does he expect to get a trophy every time they show off their vivid red '63? Far from it.

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World Premiere: Here's the team that brought "Split Personality" to its first show at the Detroit Autorama--and came away with four trophies, including the CASI Cup: (L to R) Bottom Row: Barb, youngest son Mike, and Janet Dawes. Top Row: Matt Devlin, Jim Dawes, Rich, oldest son Chris and Dave Laney.

"We go to these shows to enjoy ourselves, meet the people, see the cars from different areas of the country and have a mini-vacation" says Rich. "We go in expecting nothing, and we're happy with whatever we get. The judges at these shows know their stuff and we know they do their best at what is a difficult job. We go for the experience, and for meeting the nice people (both car owners and spectators), and not for the hardware. That said, it's nice to have something that shows the recognition and appreciation of what we've built having put so much of ourselves into the project. Our best memories though are from talking to all of the people that we meet and the new friends we make."

Rich also says that he believes that show awards should be spread around, as most shows have enough Class, Outstanding, Best and Sweepstakes awards to cover a good number of the cars in the show. "For example, if you're fortunate enough to win a Best in Show that pretty much says it all," he says. "If there are separate awards for paint, undercarriage, engine, interior, etc, the car owners who have scored well in those areas should receive those awards to recognize their hard work. Many shows do that and we feel it makes the show a better experience for everyone."

But it's the comments and good words from show-goers that the Lagasses remember the best. As Rich says, "By the end of each day, we've spoken to so many people--which we both enjoy--that our voices are almost shot!" He adds that because show-goers like to see things that they haven't seen before, or at least what they can't see at their regular cruise nights, that leads to the positive attention they--and "Split Personality"--get. Anyone who has had the chance to talk to Barb at the shows has to be impressed by her knowledge of the car as well as her enthusiasm in pointing out all the details. Having lived through the project she really knows all the details. They appreciate the level of innovation, the ideas that have been incorporated, and how they've been incorporated," Rich notes. "With everything we do, we try to tie into the car's original design concept--exterior, interior or whatever--so that it looks like we have a common theme, and we stick to that theme. Every modification that we make fits into that original design concept."

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Great Lake, Great Show: Cleveland's annual Autorama saw the Lagasse's "ProClassic" split-window score a class win plus Outstanding Display and Best Custom.

Those modifications also lead to inspiration, as Rich says that more than a few show-goers look to see how they can add some "Split Personality" features and details to their rides. "'How did you do this?' is one of the key questions that we get," he says. "Some of our changes are very subtle in nature, and that works because they've been incorporated so well that you'd think it was an extension of the original design concept. Other frequent questions are, "What color is that?" and 'Do we drive the car?'" Every car they have built is meant to be driven, and this one is no exception. Having had it out a few times thus far, Rich says the car is awesome to drive.

The highest praise they've received has come, ironically, from fellow split-window coupe owners. "Without exception, every one of them has said, 'We like what you've done,'" says Rich. "That's coming from someone who has an unmodified, restored or original coupe at home--particularly because the '63s are 'sacred cows' of Corvettes in terms of modifying them. That means a lot, coming from somebody who actually has one, and who can appreciate what you've done with it. These are the people that can spot some of the more subtle changes, as these folks know what they are looking at."

One experience that Rich relates is one of a most observant father and son. "The father is maybe 30 years old, and he and his little son are looking at the car," Rich recalls. "The father is kneeling down, and his son--I'm guessing he's around four or five years old--is laying on the floor, looking underneath the car, pointing out things to his father in an animated manner--'LOOKIT THIS! LOOKIT THIS!' It's great to see the next generation of car lovers develop."

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Chip's Choice: "Split Personality" found its place in the "Chip's Choice" display at Corvettes at Carlisle.

Upcoming events where you'll be able to see "Split Personality" include Corvettes at Carlisle, and Super Chevy Shows at Charlotte, North Carolina and Maple Grove, Pennsylvania. "Then there's the Rod & Custom Nationals, which was a new show last year and is held in Marlboro, Massachusetts," Rich says. "Its promoter really goes all out to make the show enjoyable for both the participants and the spectators. It's nice to have an event like this closer to our home for a change."

Among its other '09 shows is one that "Split Personality" qualified for--the 2009 season-finale of the International Show Car Association (ISCA), in Houston later this year. That's quite a long trip from Connecticut, according to Rich. "That's almost 1800 miles from here one way so we're giving that one some hard thought, because that's a lot of time and expense. The trip would take up the better part of two weeks for us and it opens on Thanksgiving Day afternoon, so it's actually a four-day show. But, we're doing all we can to arrange to be there as it should be a great event."

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Gold in the Grove: Keisler's "Perfect Fit" and Tremec's "Trick Stick" awards were just two of the four trophies that "Split Personality" scored at the Maple Grove, Pennsylvania Super Chevy Show.

Data File: '63 "Pro Classic Corvette Z06
"Split Personality"
Owned and built by Rich and Barb Lagasse, Enfield, Connecticut

Body
Restored/modified production 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe
Modifications: Custom front and rear bumpers, billet front grille, billet hood grilles, functional front fender vents, cold air intake, rear-view camera in rear license plate frame, custom rocker panels, center exit exhaust, and numerous under-body modifications.
Bodywork: Corvette Center, Newington, Connecticut
Paint: BASF custom-mix Red Urethane (basecoat/clearcoat); Paint preparation and applied by Corvette Center, Newington, Connecticut

Chassis
Frame: SRIII Motorsports custom round-tube frame
Suspension: (Front) C5 Corvette with QA-1 coilovers and custom sway bar; (Rear) C4 Corvette with QA-1 coilovers and custom sway bar
Steering: C4 Corvette power rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Baer EradiSpeed rotors, Z06 Corvette calipers and Hydratech power brake system
Wheels: Corvette C6 Z06, 17 x 9 1/2-inch front, 18 x 9 1/2-inch rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, 265/40ZR17 front, 275/40ZR19 rear

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Lookin' Pretty in the Steel City: Rich and Barb took home four awards from the Pittsburgh World of Wheels show, including best Custom, the Master Builder Award, and the Steel City Award of Excellence for the Best First Time Shown car.

Engine
Overhead-valve V8, Chevrolet LS7
Displacement: 427 cubic inches
Ignition: Stock LS7 individual cylinder coils and Taylor plug wires
Induction: Fuel injection with 90 mm throttle body and cold-air intake
Engine Management: Speartech custom computer program/wiring harness
Exhaust: Street & Performance ceramic-coated headers, custom Random Technology mufflers and 2 1/2-inch diameter stainless steel exhaust pipes
Fuel Delivery: LS7 electric fuel pump
Horsepower: 550+ @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 500+ lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm

Transmission
Keisler manual conversion, using Tremec 6-speed transmission and Keisler Pro Shifter
Clutch: Clutch/pressure plate: C6 Z06 Corvette (with C6 Z06 hydraulic clutch)
Rearend: Dana 44 with Positraction, custom half-shafts and 3.90:1 gears

Interior
Custom-designed interior by Rich and Barb Lagasse
Modifications: Custom center console, rear compartment panels, door panels, kick panels and visors
Seats: Modified C5 Corvette with '63 Sting Ray upholstery pattern and custom embroidery
Upholstery: Two-tone gray leather
Upholstery By: Interior Motives, Manchester, Connecticut
Carpets: Grey Porsche cut-pile
Insulation: Lizard Skin spray-on insulation.
Instrumentation: Custom cluster by Classic Instruments (0-200 mph speedometer, 0-10,000 r.p.m. tachometer, voltmeter, fuel level, oil pressure and coolant temperature)
Sound System: Custom Autosound "Secret Audio" with 10 speakers and subwoofer
HVAC: Vintage Air "Gen II" HVAC system

See It Here: The "Split Personality" Series
"The Split Personality" Z06 build was covered in these issues of Corvette Fever:

* February, 2007 (Research, Planning, Budgeting and Finding the Car)
* March, 2007 (Chassis and Suspension Upgrades)
* April, 2007 (Engine, Drivetrain and Brake Upgrades)
* June, 2007 (C5 Seats for Midyear Vettes)
* June, 2008 (Exhaust, Fuel and Engine Electronics)
* December, 2008 (Body and Interior)
* January, 2009 (Engine Compartment, Air Intake and Cooling Systems)
* March, 2009 (Project Wrap-Up)

(Did you miss any of these back issues? To order them, please visit www.simbackissues.com on the web or you can also view the articles at www.corvettefever.com)

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