1957 Chevrolet Corvette - Mechanical Mistress Makeover

This C1 Vette Rod Swaps Psychedelia For Style & Power

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Though the chassis went together fairly easily, the body was another matter. Aside from the sibling-induced crash damage mentioned above, there was plenty of remedial work needed on the C1's OEM fiberglass body. "I probably should have put a new front clip on the body, but I ended up matting everything," Bill says of the time-consuming bodywork that was done in his garage, which included repairing the inner front fenders, which were cut by the '57's previous owner to make the big-block fit. While he was at it, a pair of wide rear quarter-panels from Outrageous Paints went on, which are an inch and a half wider than stock.

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Bill's choice of colors for his '57 look like they came off the Corvette color selections chart that year, but aren't. Instead, Bill chose Turquoise and Cream Pearl (the latter for the coves) from PPG's "Hot Licks" line. His friend, Frank Pleil-who'd helped him with the bodywork-sprayed the two colors onto the now-restified body. Bill says the Turquoise reminded him of the original '57 Corvette Cascade Green color. "A lot of people think that it's the original color," he says of the comments he receives on his C1's colors. "It'll never go out of style on that car-not ten years from now, fifteen years from now, or ever!"

Inside, Bill called on Portage Trim in Ravenna, Ohio, for help. The result was a custom interior boasting a pair of Wise Guys buckets upholstered in beige ultra leather, custom wool carpets, a billet Budnik steering wheel, a set of Classic Instruments gauges, a Pioneer/Alpine sound system, and the controls for the Hot Rod Air HVAC system.

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One finishing touch that Bill added was a '57-vintage Pennsylvania license plate. "Matter of fact, I have the 'right' plate for it," Bill says of the current Keystone State plate that he puts over top of the '57 one when he takes to the road, as Pennsylvania doesn't allow "year of manufacture" plates to be used. "If I lived in Ohio, I could use that plate on the street. So, I have two spring clips to hold my 'right' plate on, and when I get to a show, I take it off."

In all, this project took about five years, resulting in the Vette Rod that you see here. What's it like to drive? "It's great to drive," Bill says. "It's really nice and smooth. It's way nicer than the '57 suspension that was underneath it, that was worn when I got it, and may not have been great to drive brand-new."

Does Bill have any advice for potential first-generation Vette Rodders-to-be? "I'd say call Billy Dawson first, because he'll help you all the way through it. I'm sure that Paul Newman's a great guy too, but Billy is like a regular guy-he really helped me a lot with this."

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As for how this "Mechanical Mistress" affected Bill's family and friends, it only did so in a positive way. Bill credits his wife, Debby, for her love and support during this project-and the lunches she made for him while he was out in his shop. Along with Frank Pleil (who Bill says spent two years worth of Saturdays in the shop with him), Bill also thanks his buddy Conrad Escher for his help in the shop, and at the swap meets they ventured to in search of parts.

Plus, you have to think that a vigorous drive on any of Western Pennsylvania's twisty roads is one way that this Vette Rod collects its "Vette-imony."




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