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1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - What The Boss Wants, The Boss Gets

Especially When She Owns A Street-Rod Shop.

Rob Wallace III Jan 1, 2001
Vemp_0101_01_z 1966_chevrolet_corvette_convertible Drop_top_passenger_side_front_view 2/1

The name "Lobeck" has been synonymous with top-quality street rods and street rod components for over two decades. Barry Lobeck has built many notable cars, including numerous show winners of all types, as well as three of Street Rodder magazine's Road Tour cars. The Lobeck corporate entities, including Lobeck's V8 Shop, Lobeck's Hot Rods, and Just-A-Hobby Chassis, are housed in a 14,000 square-foot shop in Cleveland, from which three to four new, turnkey vintage creations roll out each year.

So what kind of car would be appropriate for the wife of this street-rodding legend to drive? One might expect her regular wheels to be something along the lines of an artfully crafted '34 three-window coupe with shaved body panels, a leather-wrapped interior, and lots of billet and chrome. That would be an "ordinary" choice.

But like Barry says, "Ginny is not your ordinary woman." Virginia (Ginny) Lobeck is the owner of the Lobecks' street-rod empire, and every bit as much of a car fanatic as her husband. Ginny is the driving force behind the family business, so she calls the shots, especially when it comes to her cars. And, as it happens, Ginny loves mid-year Corvettes.

Back in 1974, Ginny went shopping for a '67 Vette, but couldn't find one in acceptable condition. She did, however find a '66 small-block, four-speed convertible. In the ensuing years, Ginny drove the ragtop regularly, Midwest weather allowing, even in the hottest, most humid parts of summer, thanks to its being one of just 3,520 '66s equipped with factory air conditioning. As the vintage Vette racked up miles and began showing signs of age, she drove it less and less. Finally, in late 1998, she and Barry decided the time was right to give the car a thorough, frame-off refurbishing.

The Vette was originally from California, and even after years of driving in Ohio, the frame still showed virtually zero corrosion, nor had the body ever suffered collision damage. With such a solid car to work with, Ginny dismissed the idea of radically modifying her convertible. She opted instead for a careful and subtle "restification" to preserve all of the Vette's old flavor while taking advantage of some of the technological advancements over the past 35 years.

All the work, with the exception of the upholstery, was done "in-house." Although it was the first Corvette to ever be built at Lobeck's, the crew proved they are quite able with these cars. In fact, two of the shop's employees had previously worked at Corvette specialty shops before coming to work for Ginny.

The Vette is not as wild as most of the cars that roll out of the shop, but it received the same level of detail that goes into every Lobeck-built car. For power, the Vette received a '99 GM Goodwrench 350 crate motor, box-stock other than custom-fabricated aluminum valve covers. The stock four-speed, complete with the original shifter, was refurbished and bolted to the new engine. They fitted the third member with 3.73:1 gears to add a little extra muscle.

The underside of Ginny's Corvette has been given just as much attention as the rest of the car, with custom stainless steel brake and fuel lines and a one-off, full stainless steel exhaust system. Its handling has been enhanced with a composite rear monoleaf spring and urethane bushings throughout. The roadster hugs corners with 225/45ZR17 and 245/45ZR17 BFGoodrich tires, wrapped around 17x7- and 17x8.5-inch Billet Specialties "Octane" wheels. The wide rear tires and wheels could be fitted within the mid-year's stock fenders thanks to custom offset trailing arms. Barry had suggested going for the timeless look of American Racing wheels, but Ginny was adamant about wanting "big and billet."

The flawlessly prepared body shell was lavishly coated with PPG Ultra Bright Viper Silver. The Vette still sports all the proper trim and emblems, but for extra shine, the stainless body moldings were polished and then chromed, and the original bumpers were re-plated. The soft-top received a subtle, yet unique demeanor with a black Hartzcloth cover, made by Portage Trim of Ravenna, Ohio.

The interior of the '66 is almost completely stock. Ginny wasn't too nuts about the large and thin-rimmed stock steering wheel, though, and replaced it with a leather-wrapped Lecarra "Vette 3." She also had Portage Trim re-cover the stock seats with black leather. The dash insert and gauges have been fully restored to original, and for a little added driving pleasure, a Custom Autosound stereo/cassette player sits in the original radio opening.

While the '66 is Ginny's trophy car, it's not her only Corvette. Two years after buying her '66, Ginny found the '67 convertible she'd wanted, and thus far its life has paralleled that of the '66. Ultimately, the '67 will receive the same sort of restoration and mild updating as the '66, but that's probably three to four years away. As Ginny told us, "We have to build some more cars for customers first."

Ginny Lobeck's drop-top '66 is evidence of the magic that can happen when different elements of the car hobby meet. This cross-pollinating between restoration and street-rodding has produced a beautifully detailed and eye-catching Vette. With this being "only" the first try, we can't wait to see the '67 when it's finished!

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