Shari Fogaley knew exactly what she wanted: a fast, reliable, comfortable, and distinctive looking '63 Corvette convertible. And she knew exactly how to get it; she would build it with her own two hands. After all, aside from swiping someone else's '63 roadster, that was probably the only way to obtain one given Shari's initial self-inflicted mandate that total cost for the car could not exceed $10,000. Fifteen years ago that much money could still buy a nice ride, but a lot has changed since then. In spite of the rather stagnant market for vintage Corvettes that the past few years have witnessed, 10 grand simply doesn't cut it for a pre-'68 Corvette any more
Of course, $10,000 can get the job done if sufficient measures of blood, sweat, tears, ingenuity, and unyielding focus are thrown into the mixture. And that is exactly what Shari and her equally devoted husband Scott brought to the project. "I sanded the fiberglass until my fingers were bleeding," she exclaims. "They really were bleeding!" pipes in Scott with a chuckle.
Aside from actually spraying the exterior paint, the husband and wife team did absolutely everything else themselves. This included the aforementioned bodywork and endless sanding. It also included removing the body from the chassis and replacing or rebuilding every single piece, down to the very last nut and bolt.
But just because this car was treated to a comprehensive body-off-the-frame rehabilitation, don't assume it was built to compete at Bloomington. Bucking the trend, which is to restore Corvettes to 100-percent factory correct condition, the Fogaleys instead chose to build this convertible exactly the way Shari wanted it. "I did it my way," she says very matter-of-factly. And who can dare find fault with that? After all, rather than satisfying a bunch of uptight numbers crunchers, isn't it far more important that she is happy with the results of all her efforts?
And as you can see from the photos, those efforts have really paid off. Even though the car began life as a bare bones, Riverside Red-with-red-interior '63, there is very little left that is original. The Corvette was in extremely rough shape when the Fogaleys started the project. So rough, in fact, that most people still in posession of their sanity would probably have parted it out. The body was really trashed and required a tremendous investment of time and effort. The few original panels that did not merit replacement had to be laboriously repaired.
Like the car's body, the chassis was in pretty bad condition. It had considerable rust and other damage, so it was replaced with a nice, straight frame from a '66. Besides solving the rust and damage problem, the chassis swap also made it much easier to slip a big-block into the engine bay. Big-blocks were not available in Corvettes until 1965, so the '63 and '64 frames don't have adequate clearance in the front crossmember for the larger engine's balancer pulley. Sixty-sixes, of course, have the necessary clearance provisions, since big-blocks were a regular production option that year.
Why did the Fogaleys decide to install a big- block into the Corvette? If this question even occurred to you then I can't possibly help you to understand. Close the magazine right now, take a tonic, and go soak your head. For the majority, who would never question the lure of ever more cubic inches, please continue reading. Motivation for Shari's '63 comes from a late-model 454 bored .060 over and mildly massaged inside. Connected to a pair of factory '65-67 side exhaust pipes, the engine's tone is as sweet as the song of the Sirens.
The big-displacement powerplant is coupled to a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission. Shari wanted the convenience of an automatic and the Turbo 400 was clearly the unit of choice, given its outstanding durability and strength.
As evidenced by the engine pick, Shari likes to put her foot into it once in a while, but in addition to raw power she made sure her car offers all-around balanced performance. The original four-wheel drum brake system was replaced with a later four-wheel disc set up. Likewise, all suspension, steering, and drivetrain pieces were also updated to later Corvette specs. The differential and suspension were borrowed from a '77, which means stiffer springs, larger-diameter and stronger halfshafts and U-joints, stronger rear strut rods, and various other improvements. A stronger, lighter and tighter steering box salvaged out of an '81, combined with larger steering linkage bits and pieces, competently handles the turning chores
The propensity to update and enhance as the car progressed was carried over to the skin covering the mechanicals. The arrow-straight, stock looking '63 body is enveloped in '98 Corvette Light Pewter Metallic basecoat/clearcoat urethane paint. "I love the color," explains Shari, "and though we weren't sure how it would look on the older body until it was actually sprayed on, I think the results are great. It just looks perfect to me!"
The Light Pewter Metallic paint is jazzed up a little bit with the addition of two vivid red slashes across the driver's side front fender. Reminiscent of certain Corvettes of yesteryear, most recently the '96 Grand Sports, the dash of red says "this baby is built to go!" The red slashes also nicely tie the exterior to the lovely red interior.
Complementing the up-to-date exterior hue is a handsome set of Western 10-spoke mag wheels wearing 215/75x15 tires. The tires actually look a little like vintage road race skins at first glance. When I said this to Shari she laughed and said "they are vintage...vintage Montgomery Ward!"
After photographing the Corvette I went for a quick ride in it through the Illinois countryside. As I soaked up the rumble of the exhaust note and the sweet smell of that clean midwest air, I glanced down at the center console and noticed a rather unusual shift knob. The knob has two words written on top that sum up in as succinct a manner as possible exactly what this car means to Shari, and in a larger sense, what the Corvette hobby means to all of us. Those two words, dear readers, are "Yee Ha!"