Is the Corvette of your dreams one that you'd like to build or restore to your level of perfection, or would you rather your dream Vette be one that you acquire with the work already done? Matt Devlin is a Vette enthusiast who has owned, built, and restored nearly two dozen second-generation Vettes. But one Sting Ray that now graces his Overland Park, Kansas, garage is one that he didn't turn a wrench on. In fact, not only was it a completed car when he got it, it was the ultimate trend-setting, show-stopping Midyear: The first "Pro Classic" Corvette built by Rich Lagasse.
A quick refresher. "Pro Classic," as Rich defines it, means to achieve a complete package which fully integrates the latest in technology available to improve performance, comfort, handling, and appearance of the car, while retaining the integrity of the original design.
Matt says that he first laid eyes on it via the Internet, not long after Rich had completed it. "I came across Rich Lagasse's website, saw the '67, and totally fell in love with the car," he says. "I read everything on the site about the car, and I liked his approach to building it. I'd restored several Corvettes in my lifetime, but he'd gone to the next level, and I was just blown away by that."
What specifically attracted Matt to this car? "That it retained all of the original body lines," says Matt. "The side pipes, bumpers, and fenderwells were original, as was the '67 big-block hood." Also grabbing Matt's eye was the then-new 17-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels, the 502-inch big-block under the hood, and that brighter-than-bright red color on the perfectly-prepared C2 body.
An email from Matt to Rich led to a quick reply, and the two struck up a friendship over the next half-dozen years. "Rich told me how he designed and made the three-bar spinners and adapters," says Matt of their subsequent conversations. "Nobody else had those, but now somebody's copied them and everyone has them-but Rich was the innovator.
That friendship also included a special Christmas present one year that Matt's wife, Carol, got thanks to Rich. Matt tells the story: "One of the pictures on Rich's website of the '67 showed a big poster of it, hanging on the wall behind the car. Carol contacted Rich and asked if there was any way to get a copy of that poster. This wasn't a paper poster-it was a beautiful piece on vinyl. Rich went back to the people who did it for him, who'd saved the artwork, and they made another one for him. That Christmas, she gave me this huge tube for my Christmas present. I opened it up and unrolled that thing, and I saw that was the poster of the '67, and it brought a tear to my eye. I thanked her, called Rich, and hung it in my garage. At no time did I ever think I'd come to own that '67 Corvette."
But that opportunity arose in 2005. "Rich called and told me that he was thinking of selling the '67 to start another project, and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in it," Matt remembers. "I said, 'Of course I'm interested, Rich, but I don't know if I could afford it or not.' He said, 'Matt, it's more important to me that the car goes to a good home and to someone that would appreciate it as much as Barb and I have.'" A couple days' worth of back-and-forth negotiating led to the deal for Matt to buy the '67. "I actually had a knot in my stomach for two days while we were talking that over," he says. "Once we arrived at the price, I felt like I could breathe again!"
That was nothing compared to July 11, 2005-the date when Matt took delivery of the Sting Ray in Fremont, Ohio, halfway between Matt's home and Rich's. "We went there to meet him, and of course, I was early," says Matt. "I was sitting on the curb in the parking lot when he pulled in with it. We met, he dropped the trailer door, and I saw it for the first time in person. He said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'I don't deserve this!' It far exceeded my expectations."
It also exceeded anyone's expectations with features that were seen for the first time on it. Along with the 17-inch Torq-Thrust wheels, other items making their first appearance on this car included the power brake booster, made to clear the left valve cover of the GMPP 502 crate engine, and the headers that let it breathe easy. "Those are the first set of 'block huggers' that Sanderson made for the 502," explains Matt.