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1968 Chevy Corvette - Cursed With Ambition

That's What Dan Spindler Is When It Comes To Customizing His '68 Stingray.

Rob Wallace III Feb 1, 2001
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No, this isn't trick photography. Dan Spindler gave his '68 Stingray a racy, whole new attitude from the rear by raising the entire rear deck, and chopping the rear window a commensurate amount. He also re-contoured the rear "lip" spoiler and raised it 4 inches.

For almost half a century, the Corvette has inspired legions of enthusiasts and admirers with its sinuous lines and aura of raw performance. The spirit and passion that these cars stir is consistent through each generation, yet every era has a distinct flavor. Inevitably, Corvette fans tend to be attracted towards one of these "flavors" more than the others.

Dan Spindler of House Springs, Missouri, is drawn to the early Sharks. "I've always liked the body style of Corvettes," Dan says, "especially the curves of the third-gen cars. I think that 1968 was among the best because of their chrome bumpers and gills." That's why, when he was 18 years old and barely out of high school, Dan took on a second job just to buy a '68 Vette. It was a good-looking (superficially, at least), no-options 327/four-speed coupe. That was in 1984, and he's been working on and playing with it ever since.

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An extremely well-dressed L98 TPI 350 from an '88 Vette propels the Shark admirably. Lots of fabricating and polish have gone into the '68's engine bay, including billet pulleys, hand-formed aluminum header covers, air inlet ducting, and an aluminum air cleaner box that sits in front of the radiator. A lot of hours were expended smoothing the underside of the hood-look at the reflections in it.

After buying the '68, Dan began to realize that it wasn't nearly as solid a car as he had first thought, but he had no regrets about his decision. The road Dan traveled as he repaired and modified the Shark was long and slow, but he moved ahead whenever time and money allowed. Around 1995, Dan took a big leap and rebuilt the '68 from the bare frame up. Then, a couple of years later he went back and chromed and detailed the entire undercarriage. "I love customizing my Corvette," says Dan, and the Shark was really shaping up nicely. Alas, in September of 1999, on his way to Mid America Designs in Effingham, Illinois, to buy some parts for the '68, he was involved in a wreck that took the Vette out of commission for a while. Since it was parked and needed repairs anyway, Dan decided to really make his Corvette special.

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The inside of this '68 is a collage of Corvette influences. White-faced but otherwise original gauges grab attention, while the '82 seats and '90 rearview mirror with map lights could easily evade notice. A Grant steering wheel rests upon a tilt/telescopic column from a '76 Vette. Dan spiced up the dash slightly with milled aluminum air vents.

The outside of this Shark is simply incredible. Over the course of this project, Dan has not left a single spot on the car's surface untouched one way or another. He had never worked with fiberglass before, but thanks to a seemingly endless supply of patience he learned and gave his '68 a facelift. Being a tall guy, Dan couldn't afford to give up any headroom by chopping the top, so he did the next best thing. With the help of Dale Harding of Dale Harding's Auto Body in House Springs, Dan raised the deck lid, chopping and slightly angling the rear window, to give the same aggressive impression. The back glass is 5 inches shorter, but still removable! Dan sculpted a 4-inch spoiler onto the rear of the car, and grafted '70-style fender flares on to add a more muscular look. He raised the rear license plate recess by 5 inches, and created a custom roll pan and inner skirts that would provide an unobstructed view of the workmanship on the highly detailed rear suspension. He also notched 1-inch-deep recesses into the T-tops for more character, and grafted a '67 big-block "stinger" onto the '68 hood.

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Dan has revised the Vette's nose slightly, adding Bow-Tie-shaped turn signals at both corners. The door handles are now made of milled aluminum, and a crossed flags logo is etched into the gas filler door. Dan chose to paint his Vette in a unique color called Candy Burple, a cross between navy blue and purple, supplied by House of Color. Dan created "ghost" crossed flags on the front fenders with a few layers of the Candy Burple and some careful masking, and then sprayed the entire car with seven coats of the stuff. The center stripe is a mix of silver with blue pearl, and even continues on the smoothed underside of the hood.

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Dan remade the rear skin of his '68, raising the license plate opening and creating a custom roll pan and inner skirts, in order to more easily show off the extensively detailed and chromed rear suspension. The front suspension, while not as lavishly plated, boasts an equally high level of detailing.

Spindler's personalized Shark is powered by a L98 TPI 350 going through a 700-R4 automatic, both "donated" by an '88 C4. Copeland Transmission, again in House Spring, fortified the tranny with a manual valve body, a B&M Mega Shifter, and a 2,200-rpm stall converter. Spent gases escape though chromed Hooker side pipes. Dan dressed the engine himself, making an aluminum air cleaner box and aluminum header covers, as well as polishing everything under the hood to a radiant shine. He has also added billet engine pulleys, and the cooling power of twin electric fans. Dan created an aluminum core support and fan brackets in order to move the stock radiator back three inches, and has mounted the air cleaner in front of it, in the license plate opening

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The interior is subtle, but far from original. Dan has a leather-wrapped Grant steering wheel capping a '76 tilt-telescopic column. He opted to leave the ignition switch in the dash as it came in 1968, so he carefully removed the ignition switch from the '76 column. Dan makes use of black vinyl-clad '82 Corvette buckets and the rearview mirror out of a '90, complete with map lights. For improved visibility and style, Dan spent many hours at the kitchen table with tiny paintbrushes converting the stock instrument gauges to white-faces with orange illumination. Because he retained the TPI engine's electric distributor, Dan utilized a '75 Corvette electric tach. He milled and polished aluminum air vents, and installed a 400-watt JBL stereo system to drown out any excess road noise.

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The underside of Dan's '68 is every bit as immaculate as the rest of the car. Dan began on the frame by smoothing all the welds and polishing it to a gleam, and then chromed almost everything, including the sway bars, halfshafts, and shocks. A milled aluminum rearend cover hides a 3.92:1 Posi ring-and-pinion. He installed a composite monoleaf rear spring from Vette Brakes, and upgraded the cornering abilities with a '76 power steering and box. In the stopping department, Dan replaced all the brake lines with made stainless steel units, cross-drilled the stock rotors, and spent a lot of time smoothing the surfaces of the calipers and all the other components before chroming everything. To complete the package, the '68 rolls on a set of 15x8 and 15x9.5-inch Elite Mirage wheels wrapped in 225/60-15 and 275/60-15 tires.

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Working non-stop in his spare time, Dan completed the repairs and enhancements to his Vette in almost exactly a year and thus far has been well rewarded for his efforts. Almost exactly on the anniversary of its wreck, Dan's '68 earned its reprisal by sitting in the Winners Circle at Mid America Design's Funfest 2000, as a Celebrity Pick-just three days after its completion! "I love having something to show for my time," Dan says. But the party's not stopping here. Dan loves customizing his Corvette nearly as much as driving it, and is planning to add a billet grille and billet console, Dart heads, and a fairly radical Comp Cams camshaft this coming winter. Dan is, in his own words, "Cursed with ambition!"



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