Mixing and matching. It's one of life's great pleasures. Whether it's putting our own toppings on a nice big ice cream sundae, ordering a favorite combination on a piping hot pizza, or picking out the perfect wine to go with a fine dinner, the ability to create exactly what we want is something to relish. Jim Waldschmidt of San Carlos, California, likes to do his mixing and matching in fiberglass, and has the years of experience to turn imaginary creations into tasty dishes that he-and others-can enjoy.
As a young man, Jim was working part-time at Sears and learning to paint cars on the side. When his brother Bob landed a job with a large company that manufactured, among other things, fiberglass body parts, Jim got the opportunity that set the direction for his life. In his 13 years with that company, Jim learned all the intricacies of creating plugs (the patterns from which molds are made), body part molds, and the fiberglass body parts themselves.
Though portions of his work dealt with other fiberglass auto body parts, the bulk of his experience came with Corvettes. While with his former employer, Jim was part of a team that produced two catalogs worth of fiberglass Corvette items, and also worked with several Corvettes aftermarket accessory makers. He was pretty much hooked on Chevy's 'glass wonder at this point, so when he opened his own business, Waldschmidt Automotive, he chose to specialize in Corvette restoration and repair-and in custom fiberglass fabrication, of course. It's been a successful run. Besides creating a custom rear bumper for a '78 Vette (utilizing ZR-1-style taillights), Waldschmidt tells us he's performed his fiberglass magic on an original Grand Sport, Kim Baker's BR-1, and Bill Verboon's Paul Newman chassised '62 (see "Modern Conveniences," July '00). He also created a custom C4 body kit for his brother Jerry's car-work that would come in handy later on.
The beginning of Jim's "C4.5" project looked more like the end of the line for a certain '86 Corvette coupe. Jim was hard at work one Saturday morning in 1996 when a couple came in, looking for a Corvette to buy. They explained that their '86 had been demolished by a semi-truck on California's Highway 101. The couple was so happy with the way the car had held up (i.e., the driver had escaped unscathed) that they were looking for another one. Jim didn't have a car to sell them, but he did take a look at the hammered '86. According to Jim, the body had "basically exploded," with every panel and the doorskins suffering some kind of damage. Among the more notable scars were a shattered rear window, a lug nut hole in the driver's door, and truck-sized tire marks on the hood.
Incredibly, the Vette still ran and drove, and even had a "clean" title. Jim bought the car and had one frame rail straightened, intending to build a car similar to the custom C4 he'd created for Jerry. At this point, however, Jim found reason to make a major change in his plans. That reason was his first look at concept photos of the soon-to-be released C5. His reaction to the new car's sexy shape was instantaneous: "I wanna do that, it's a better upgrade." So he put his plans for the '86 on hold until after the C5 was released, and then got to work.
As Jim tells it, "an idea comes to you, and you just do it. My imagination went wild." As a starting point, he purchased OEM C5 front and rear bumpers, as well as fenders. Using his years of experience creating custom fiberglass components, Jim made molds of the C5 parts. These molds were then used to adapt the C5 styling cues to the "plugs" that Jim had used for his previous C4 body kit. These plugs, in turn, were used to create new molds-the basis for the "C4.5" you see here.