1954 Chevrolet Corvette - The Customizer's Touch

This '54 Vette Started Off As A Stocker, But It Couldn't Avoid...

John Nelson Mar 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0103_01_z 1954_chevrolet_corvette Roadster_passenger_side_front_view 1/1

Many, if not most, Corvette enthusiasts would consider it sacrilege to desecrate an original solid-axle Corvette with any custom touches. But this point of view, of course, came after the cars attained classic collectible status. It's almost a certainty that the first Corvette was customized shortly after the marque came into being, and we suspect the practice has never really stopped. It's re-emerged in the "recent" trend of uniting of classic Corvette styling and modern powertrain and suspension components, which you've seen in the VETTE features "Prescription for Fun" (Mar. '00) and "Modern Conveniences" (July '00). But hobbyists known as "custom rodders" have been doing this type of thing for years, while adding their own touches to classic bodylines as well.

Steve and Pat McCain of Summerfield, North Carolina, certainly fit that mold of Corvette enthusiasts and customizers. Steve is a member of the NCRS, but also belongs to Goodguys and Kustoms of America. With such diverse interests, it's only logical that Steve would covet a certain '54 Vette, which he first tried to buy in 1970. What he ended up with, though, was plenty of time to think about what he wanted to do with the car. You see, the owner was saving it for his six-year-old son, and would not sell. Fast forward to 1989; the son had grown and gotten married, and wanted to buy his first house. But to do that he had to sell the Corvette, so he called Steve to have him put it on the market for him. Steve immediately bought the '54 himself, and after five years of accumulating parts, began a three-year build-up process that would culminate in the completion of a custom Vette capable of grabbing your undivided attention-whether stationary or in motion.

To make Steve's long thought-out vision happen, major modifications had to be made to the chassis. The frame was modified to accept the complete front and rear suspension, brake assemblies, and independent rearend from a '90 Corvette, with a custom-built crossmember serving to locate the '90's upper and lower control arms. The chassis was then filled and smoothed for cosmetic purposes. The stock '54 Corvette antiroll bar was retained and Bilstein shocks were added at all four corners. A 944 Porsche steering box joins to the stock '54 Corvette steering column. To complete the rolling chassis, a set of 17 x 9.5-inch ZR-1 wheels wrapped in 275/40 Z-rated rubber were mounted at each corner.

Under the hood, Steve mounted a '93 LT1 between the newly refurbished rails using custom-built stainless steel motor mounts. The modern powerplant sports Street & Performance pulleys and exhales through Hooker headers, 2-inch stainless steel pipes, and Flowmaster mufflers. A 16-gallon stainless steel fuel tank feeds the LT1, and power is transmitted to the The real customizing fun, however, came when Steve and his friend Roy White massaged the fiberglass skin. The front was kept very simple in appearance, but is still noticeably modified. The crossed flags medallion was "frenched" into its original location, the valance narrowed, the cowl vent filled, the parking lights moved from the body to the lower portion of each outside grille tooth, and the bumper sections were removed. Under the hood the firewall was filled and the brake booster set into it, while the underside of the hood was smoothed and the hinges moved to the rear.

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