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The Ultimate 1963 Chevy Corvette - 2008 Car Of The Year

After 30 Years Of Speed And Originality, Rod And Tina Saboury Have Achieved Unmatched Excellence With Their '63 Split-Window Corvette.

Mike Ficacci Feb 1, 2009
Sucp_0902_01_z Ultimate_1963_chevy_corvette Front_side_shot 2/14

As we left the McDonald's drive-thru, piping hot coffee in hand, I was worried. Here I was, sitting in a car that pretty much defies every known law of physics and common sense, and the last thing I wanted was to spill the hot, tasty beverage on it and me. As we pulled onto the street, I braced myself for what I knew was coming. As Rod Saboury laid into the throttle, I took one hand and latched onto the seat, and the other I kept tightly grasping the cup. I knew that when the boost kicked in from the 2,400 hp, twin-turbocharged beast underneath the flip-top hood, things would go rearward in a hurry.

Rod told me to brace myself for an experience like no other, and I shook him off, having felt the sensation of 8- and 9-second hot rods smoking the tires on the pavement in the past. I replaced that little flappy thing in my coffee cup lid just in case. We pulled out behind a pickup truck who was much more interested in us than we were than him. At that instant, Rod put his foot to the floor, banging through second gear, accelerating from 15 mph to well past 80 in the blink of a eye, and I felt a sensation not only of being sucked into the seat, but also of not being able to move a muscle. The 22-inch tires were whining, but held us in check-the mark of a truly well-engineered vehicle. The ridiculous amount of g-forces pressed my entire frame so hard that I could not lift my head back to the sitting up position I was used to. I could only compare it to a spinning Gravitron much like they have at the fair, which, at top speed, makes it near impossible to lift your arms. Once he lifted his foot off the throttle, I grinned like a small child who has just endured his first burnout in pop's big-block Bow Tie.

Finally, we were cruising in the Sabourys' '63 Vette. We'd wanted to put something together on this car for awhile, but Rod wanted to see it go in the 6-second zone in the quarter-mile first. He reached that milestone last summer at the Super Chevy Show in Norwalk, Ohio. On the first day of the event, it ran a heart-stopping 6.95 at 210 mph on street tires-and it was far from a perfect run.

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The creative juice behind the world's fastest honest-to-goodness street machine is none other than Rod Saboury, a man synonymous with the Corvette, speed, and ingenuity. His '57 Corvette practically invented the fast streetcar genre when it ran in the 7s in the early '90s. Another essential piece of the puzzle is derived from a pioneer in the business of hair-dried horsepower known as Mike Moran. He custom-built a 400 cubic inch, all-aluminum, twin-turbo small-block that produces 2,400 horsepower and gets a ridiculous 11 miles per gallon on the highway. Do I stutter? No. This street mouse has more manners than an Englishman at tea with the queen.

A lot of people claim to own really sick street cars, but this Vette backs up the claim with civility and reliability. We drove around Maryland for the better part of one Thursday morning, refueling, cruising, and picking up McDonald's, and let me be the first to say-what a dream. Power windows, back-up lights, turn signals, factory roll-up headlights, interior lights, rear-view mirror, built-in cup holders, and air conditioning on order-my brand-new rental car didn't have as many amenities!

I have driven in racecars, street cars, and a bunch in between, and this car is most definitely a street car. Rod and I were able to keep a conversation without shouting, I still have all the fillings in my teeth, I didn't spill a single drop of coffee, and we drove through some potholes that I would avoid with my Suburban.

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Moran built possibly his finest engine for Rod, and even admits that he wasn't expecting this car to run as well as it does. It is, after all, made for the road, complete with a custom-ground mild camshaft, tight ring pack, and low spring pressure. We didn't dig for too many horsepower secrets as Mike classified this baby as "Top Secret." I kept a close eye on the coolant temperature gauge the whole time were driving and never saw it slip above 190, even as we sat at a stoplight for close to 10 minutes as the po-po shut down the road for an airplane transporter.

"The key to the low temperatures is the giant four-row aluminum radiator, twin fans, and custom cooling box behind the seat that pumps cold water through a frame rail, and into the radiator," Rod said. The engine is backed by a triple-disc AFT clutch and Lenco four-speed transmission, which is absolutely seamless on the road when upshifting and downshifting.

The exterior of the car underwent a serious makeover from the dilapidated $2,500 shell Rod purchased six years ago. Yes, it is a real '63 split window Corvette, dear readers. Frank Morawski got his hands on the car first and tackled the sectioning. He cut it apart in three spots, adding a total of 12 inches to the overall length and giving it a sleeker look. Next, Dave Bell and Flavio DeCruz attacked the bodywork, including fabricating the one-off carbon-fiber hood that holds a price tag slightly higher than the last car I purchased. The Candy Brandywine/Apple paint job was applied by Connery Custom Paint, and the graphics were laid over top. Great care was taken to make sure the interior paint on the doors, dash, and tunnel matched perfectly to the outside. They even took time to mirror the inside driver door to the exterior of the passenger door and vice versa.

Underneath, Lowdown Hot Rods turned the car into a full chromoly tube chassis, as per NHRA guidelines for a car capable of such speeds. They installed a custom 4-link rear suspension and Strange rear with 4.10:1 gears and 22-inch Mickey Thompson tires out back with ET (15x15) rims. Up front are American Torq Thrust wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson radials (24x5-inches). Strange also supplied the hardware up front in the form of their drag spindles, double adjustable shocks, and lightweight drag-specific brakes. Moran has high hopes for the strip, and wants to see the car in the mid-6s at over 220 mph.

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We simply cannot say enough about this car, but can only ask the question-is this the greatest hot rod of all time? We are having a hard time finding something to match it. Rod and Tina have put close to 1,000 miles on the car in the last 18 months, and plan to do even more driving in the future. It's the only car we've ever seen that could be competitive in NHRA Comp Eliminator and do it after being driven to the track.

You are a rock star wherever you go in this unique automobile. People stop, stare, ask questions, hold up traffic, and are generally in awe at any pause the Vette makes. It's great that Rod and Tina are so personable, because they simply get mobbed at every turn.

Congratulations to Rod and Tina Saboury, as their 1963 Corvette is our Super Chevy Magazine Car Of The Year.



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