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1965 Chevrolet Corvette - Red Rod

This '65 Vette Rod Is Brilliant From Top To Bottom

Scott Ross Dec 2, 2009
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Isn't this the reddest Midyear you've ever seen? A lot of folks, especially those with crimson-hued Top Flight winners may disagree. But, if Jerry Heasley's photos are any indication, this one glows like a lit taillight when the sun hits its finish. "I spent about 200 hours with a random-orbital buffer on that body," says its owner, Dave Laney. "The more I worked on that paint, the deeper and more metallic it appeared," he says of the House of Kolor Cimarron Red that covers its original fiberglass.

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That attention to the body and paint is one aspect of this car that Dave changed, upgraded, or made perfect in his way. When he bought it, it already had the 502-inch Mark IV big-block in it and that red finish on it. But it wasn't quite done...yet. "When I got it, it was about 65-70 percent of what you see there," Dave recalls from his Lenexa, Kansas, home. "A friend of mine, Tom Russell, performed top-gun wrenching abilities on the suspension. It's a full Vette Brakes & Products (VBP) C2X suspension kit that I had chromed."

But, chrome wasn't a surface-finish option that VBP offered. "When I called them up to order it, they asked me what color I wanted to powdercoat it. I said, 'I don't want it powdercoated, I just want it in bare steel. I said, 'I'm going to chrome it-everything except for the carbon-fiber springs.'" Dave called on Bubb, Harry, and Dale at A&A Plating in nearby Independence, Missouri, and their work resulted in the dazzling chassis hardware you see under this C2.

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But Dave wasn't done. "I added the Flaming River stainless steel tilt column and their 'Waterfall' steering wheel, which was new at the time," he says. "I also took an NOS '65 horn button and adapted it to that steering wheel."

One interior feature took some outside help to figure out how to put on-the five-point belts that hold you into the restored stock bucket seats. Dave called on Larry Barnett of Star Chassis, a shop that makes NHRA-certified drag race chassis, to help him devise a way to anchor those belts without cutting fiberglass or welding on the frame. "I did some research and found that I could go into the birdcage, which is the only steel other than the frame," he says. "I figured if I could get into it and build a plate, bracket, and harness bar that fits in there, that would suffice." Dave had autocrossed a '65 Sting Ray coupe called "Smokum" in the '70s and wanted something that made him feel more secure in a 600-horsepower convertible.

The result was a computer-designed bar, located aft of the seats, that was ready a few weeks later. There's also a bar under each seat where the "anti-submarining" strap anchors, which, like the shoulder-belt anchorages, is a bolt-on item that's easily removed to get the '65 back to stock if desired. "Larry had the one-piece bar installed, and he said, 'I spent about 85 percent of my time on the computer doing 3-D modeling of this thing, and 15 percent of the time actually doing the welding. I cut it once, I welded it once, and it works!'" Dave wanted Larry to make some more for friends with drop-top C2s but Larry stopped that by pointing out that he had to "custom-tailor" them, taking six hours just to do the needed measurements. "Larry said, 'If I make those, none of them will fit their cars, because every convertible has settled differently."

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Dave doesn't foresee restoring this one to stock, especially under the hood. That's where a 454, bored-and-stroked to 502 cubic inches, resides. As mentioned above, Dave figures that the dual-quad-equipped big-block is good for 600 horsepower, but not many miles per gallon. "There are two 650-cfm Carter competition mechanical-linkage four-barrels on it," he says. "The very first time that I figured out how much mileage I was getting, I drove it to a Corvette show in Liberty, Missouri, which is about 36 miles from my house. It's all highway, and I was in fifth gear all the way at 70 mph." When he got home, he thought his gas gauge was broken. It wasn't-Dave had used over 3/4 of a tank to go 72 miles!" The upside of that engine: "Unbelieveable acceleration," as Dave puts it.

It's got a functioning sound system that's music to his ears-disguised as a side-mount exhaust system. Sanderson "block hugger" headers flow into custom-made collectors and tubing under stock sidepipe covers, but the openings face outward, instead of downward as on the factory setups. Dave says he doesn't know if the radio in the dash works, as he never listens to it while underway.

Those spinners on the American Racing Torq-Thrust D wheels look impressive while underway or parked, and they're also upgrades (like the C2X suspension, Carrera QA1 adjustable shocks and rechromed bumpers) that he added after buying it from an unlikely Vette Rod source: Pro Team Corvettes in Napoleon, Ohio.

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As Dave tells it, "Mike Wilson, who was out in California buying cars for them, was buying big-blocks-427/435 horsepower convertibles, 396/425 horsepower cars, all NCRS quality stuff. He comes across this car, calls Terry (Michaelis) up, and says this is a car they need to buy. Terry says, 'Tell me about it,' and Mike gives him the spiel, and Terry says, 'We don't buy those. We don't sell resto mods, because that's not our niche.' Mike says, 'You've got to drive this car-it has all this power, and it handles great.' Terry says, 'Don't buy it. We won't be able to sell it.' Mike says, 'You've got to see this paint-it's really gorgeous!' Terry finally says, 'Don't buy it-I don't want it!' and Mike says, 'It's the first one that I put on the transporter. It's already loaded, and I can't take it off!'" Once it got to Ohio, the Pro Team staffers who drove it loved it for its power and the fact that it could be driven hard without risking rare components or Top Flight condition. And, once Dave found out that Pro Team had it, it wasn't long before he bought it and trailered it home.

But this car is no trailer queen when it comes to events close to Kansas City. "I have more fun meeting people and seeing their reactions to the car," he says about the shows he drives it to-though he does trailer it if the distance is more than 150 miles one way.

One recent show he took it to was in Columbia, Missouri, for the Mid Missouri Corvette Club's premier event, called the Corvette Cup. This is the club's charity fundraiser for kids and the Dream Factory, which raises money for sick children to grant a wish they have always wanted. "I have mirrors that I put under it, to show off the chrome suspension. Two little girls were down on their knees looking under my car. I thought, 'That's what this sport's about. Maybe in ten or fifteen years, these girls will remember that, and they'll want a car, or buy a car, or have something to do with the hot rod hobby.' Sooner or later, all of us old guys will be gone, and we have to pass this down to somebody.

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"I took a picture of them, and their mom said, 'They don't know what they're looking at.' Both of them then looked up at me and said, 'Boy, that sure is shiny, mister!'"

This Vette Rod may upset some purists, but Dave says when it comes to finding or building a Corvette of your own, follow your instincts-not someone else's. "Find something that you like. Don't worry about what everybody else is doing to their cars. That's the beauty of this sport-everybody has a different interpretation of what a Corvette should be.

"Some people think it ought to be exactly the way it came from St. Louis, and I respect that. I enjoy seeing survivors and NCRS cars. I think we're finding that a lot of those people are looking at the Vette Rod-or as Rich Lagasse calls them, Pro Classics. Rich's first Pro Classic is now owned by a good friend of mine, Matt Devlin. The Pro Classic movement keeps the classic look of the car-no flares or spoilers outside-but is upgraded with newer engines, upgraded transmissions, newer suspension, and nicer paint."

Dave continues, "The highlight of my Corvette life (so far) was being invited to participate in Chip's Choice at Corvettes at Carlisle in 2008. The theme that year was Vette Rods, and Rich Lagasse was there with Split Personality, Matt Devlin also was there with his '67, and I was honored to be a part of the twelve Corvettes in the display. It was great to see the people's reaction of viewing all those Corvettes."

Data File
'65 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Convertible
Owned by: Dave and Becky Laney, Lenexa, Kansas

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Modified production '65 Sting Ray convertible body
Modifications: Windshield wipers removed, wiper cowling filled and smoothed
Bodywork: Paint preparation & applied by a custom rod shop in Southern California
Paint: House of Kolor's Cimarron Red Metallic basecoat/clearcoat

Frame: Modified production '65 Sting Ray
Modifications: Notched trailing arms
Suspension: Vette Brakes & Parts (VBP) C2X composite leaf, front and rear, with Carrera QA1 adjustable shocks, chromed suspension components and ARP 12-point stainless steel hardware
Steering: Standard power steering
Brakes: SSBC discs with cross-drilled rotors, front and rear via custom electric brake servo unit hidden in left-side wheel well
Wheels: 16-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust D's with three-prong spinners
Tires: Nitto NT450, P205/55R16 front, P225/55R16 rear

Chevrolet Mark IV overhead valve V8
Displacement: 502 cubic inches
Compression Ratio: 9.75:1
Cylinder Heads: Chevrolet LS7 cast iron, ported and polished with raised exhaust ports
Ignition: Mallory electronic
Induction: 2 Carter Competition 650 cfm four-barrel carburetors atop an Offenhauser dual-quad intake
Camshaft: Comp Cam's hydraulic roller
Exhaust: Sanderson "Block Hugger" headers, 3 1/2-inch exhaust pipes leading into 4-inch resonators and OEM-style sidecovers
Horsepower: 600 @ 5500 rpm (Estimated)
Torque: 650 ft./lbs. @ 4300 rpm (Advertised)

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Borg-Warner T-5 5-speed manual
Shifter: Borg Warner with OEM-style stick, knob and spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rear End: OEM '65 Sting Ray with 3.70 rear gears and Positraction

Modified production 1965 Sting Ray
Modifications: Flaming River tilt steering column and steering wheel, safety harness anchorages attached to floor and body "birdcage"
Seats: Restored OEM buckets upholstered in black leather
Carpets: OEM black nylon loop-pile
Instrumentation: Restored OEM '65 Sting Ray (0-160 mph speedometer, 0-7000 rpm tach with 6500 rpm redline, plus ammeter, oil pressure, coolant temperature and fuel level gauges)
Sound System: (Functioning) See Exhaust System above. (Maybe functioning) Custom Autosound AM/FM Stereo/Cassette receiver in stock dash location
Heater: No heater needed, as the car was built in Southern California
A/C: Lower top and windows, then drive briskly



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