As we said a few issues back, many Corvette enthusiasts point to the '67 Sting Ray as the best of the second-generation Vettes. But how do you improve on the best? The improvement came by adding that earlier generation's legendary styling to the current world-class C6, and that's what Karl Kustom Corvettes has done. Located just north of Des Moines, Iowa, this 12,000-square-foot shop-owned by the same company that owns the Karl Chevrolet dealership in Ankeny-converted a C6 convertible into the C2 look-alike seen here.
Sounds like a good idea-but how did it start? Dave Carnock, the custom shop's team leader, recalls that a very particular Vette customer, Jarred Johnson, who'd had many previous-generation Vettes over the years, inspired them. "He decided that he wanted a Midyear, and he went and bought a nice '63, drove it, and was terribly disappointed with it," says Dave. "He thought he'd bought a bad car, so he bought a '67, but it wasn't any better. His son said, 'You're not buying bad cars, you're buying old cars!'" It turned out that customer's son happened to own a C6, and he told his dad to go drive it. As Dave puts it, "Once he came back, he said, 'That's what I want!'"
There's a lot to like about the C6, especially when its standard LS3 engine puts out as much advertised horsepower as the ultra-rare '67 RPO L88 427. (Stop laughing already! We know the L88's "advertised" 430hp rating was both a way to keep it a race-only option, as well as an inside joke for the Vette community -Ed.) But, instead of a de-contented, race-only car, the LS3-powered C6 comes with a raft of standard features and options that were once the wildest dreams of every Vette engineer since Zora Arkus-Duntov, and every Chevy division boss since Ed Cole.
Dave says with enough time, anything is possible, and his shop set out to make a C6 body that looked just like the'67 Sting Ray. They wound up changing nearly every panel on the car. "On a roadster, the only original body panels on the car are the trunk lid, the two mirrors, the gas door, and the rocker panels," he notes. Instead of using a factory-style press molding operation, the Karl Kustom Corvettes team uses hand-laminated fiberglass, using modern-tech vinyl ester resin. "Every panel we build uses the factory fasteners and attaches where the original fenders on the C6 attach," says Dave. "Every door hinge and latch, every hood hinge and latch, and every weather seal is the factory C6 part."
And every powertrain, chassis, interior, electric and electronic component is also factory C6, as is the factory warranty that covers the car once it rolls out of their shop. By the way, the body panels that they take off don't go to waste. Dave says that they go into the parts pipeline to repair unfortunately-crunched C6s.
When long-time Vette owner Bob Young was looking for a Midyear not long ago, he heard of the new concept taking shape in Karl shop. Bob was a long-time customer of Karl Chevrolet, as well as a long-time acquaintance of dealer founder Carl Moyer. "He's an old racer, a drag racer, and he still races ARCA trucks on the circuit," says Bob, who's purchased more than a few Chevys (including Vettes) from Karl over the years.
Bob, who'd graduated from high school in 1967, had always wanted a '67 Sting Ray. "About every 5-6 years, I find a good '67 convertible, and after I drove it for ten minutes, I knew why I wouldn't buy it," he says. "They squeak, they rattle, and the high-performance clutch makes your left leg tired. I could never bring myself to own one because I wanted it as a driver."
Carl called Bob to tell him of this concept, and all it took for Bob to decide that he wanted one of these "old-look" C6s was one look through his discerning eyes. "Those guys did it right," he says. "They have all the right dimensions, they use the original taillights, and the headlights are hidden in the grille." Bob adds enthusiastically, "They're a quality bunch-they love automobiles. When the owner says, 'Do it only one way, and do it right,' they do it right. They do a lot of work building a lot of special-interest cars. They can do it all, and they've done some national-prize-winning street rods, in addition to this Corvette stuff."