When we've seen some Vette Rods before, we've described them as a "C4 hiding inside a C2," for their later-generation (or later) Corvette powertrain and chassis hidden underneath an earlier-generation Vette body. This car does it the same way, but differently. The body is a reproduction '63 split window coupe, while the frame, powertrain, chassis, and interior are original '96 items. Confused? No need to be once you hear A-1 Fiberglass' Dan Gernstein. "I've always liked the '63," he says from his Omaha, Nebraska, shop. "We decided that we'd build our own 'tools' and see what we came up with, and that's what it ended up to be," he says of the silver split-window that you see here.
A-1 is already in the fiberglass-body business, whose products include repro '58-'62 C1 bodies for Macon, Illinois' Street Rods Only. Thanks to some dedicated in-house work, A-1 came up with the tooling to reproduce the classic split-window Sting Ray coupe body. "I've got a couple of really talented guys that work for me, Gary Berthelsen and Jim Hatch," says Dan. "They did a bunch of research on which newer Corvette would fit under a '63 body, and the '92-'96 was the closest measurement to it. That's what we ended up using-we bought a '96 that had about 70,000 miles on it. We took the body off, and we started from there." Dan adds, "It turned out to be a really neat project, and they did a heck of a job on it. They're car guys stuck in a fiberglass shop. We do a lot of different high-tech projects, but for them to do this project, they really got into it." If you think they tore up a perfectly good '96 Corvette in the process, guess again. "It was hit in the front right corner," says Dan. "The frame horn was bent a little bit, the hood was broken, and the right rear quarter was broken." He adds, however, that the car was in great mechanical condition.
Speaking of great mechanical condition, if you can't find your copy of Mike Antonick's Corvette Black Book, let us fill you in on some of the mechanical goodies that the '96 Corvette has that many of its predecessor C4 variants don't have. That starts with the 300-horsepower LT1 version of the venerable Chevy small-block V8, standard on all automatic-equipped '96 Vettes (including the donor car that A-1 used). Add to that options like the available RPO Z51 Performance Handling package, and you're talking "Factory Vette Rod" with or without the RPO Z15 Collector's Edition or Z16 Grand Sport option packages.
Adding the genuine C4 to the repro C2 body started with subtraction. "We unglued the original body and left the box area that the seats and dash are contained in," Dan says. "After we made our body, we made sections that would attach to the original box and to our body, and then we glued the car back together, as it should have been from the factory. So, there are no rivets or screws-it's a bonded car." Plus, Dan adds that A-1 took about a year to design, engineer, and develop their split-window body, so when they put this one on, a top-quality fiberglass creation was created. Dan also says there were some other aspects of the C4-to-C2 conversion that went extremely well. "We didn't cut one wire on this car," he says. "The only thing we did was change the ends, to plug them back into the taillights. Matter of fact, we didn't even drain the refrigerant out of the air-conditioning system."
Inside the wheelwells, Dan went with something that looks like Chevrolet Styling (back in the day) or GM Design (nowadays) could have come up with. "I wanted to have the 'fin'-style, knock-off wheel look," he says. "We found a company out in California, EVOD Industries. They cut the wheels for us, and we put 19s on the front and 20s on the back." Another component that came from the 21st Century customizers' kit: The paint that went on this retro split window. "It's an '08 Chrysler color (Bright Silver Metallic) that they painted their Chargers and 300s with," says Dan. "Walker Street Rods out of Macon, Illinois, painted the car for us."