Removable hardtops were available from the factory for the first four generations of Corvette convertibles. For reasons unknown outside of Renaissance Center, GM has yet to offer a solid, removable top for C5 droptops. The aftermarket, usually a hotbed of innovation, has been extremely slow in coming up with a solution, which leaves the door, er top, wide open for a creative individual to venture, Star Trek-like, where no one has gone before. In the case of Jeff Mudd's '99 Corvette convertible, it took some highly creative efforts to pull off, or should we say to put on?
Jeff's creation gives new meaning to the concept of a removable hardtop. With its unique hardtop in place, the Torch Red convertible resembles a factory Z06 fixed roof coupe.
Tilted back, the hardtop resembles nothing else anyone from Team VETTE has ever seen.
The Murphreesboro, Tennessee, builder got the idea while replacing the fiberglass and straightening the windshield headers on this '99, a probable total that had been rolled over. "The kid that owned it had flipped it. The back tires were just as slick as can be. He said it was lightly raining and he was just two blocks from his house, turned the corner, kind of got sideways, went into the ditch and flipped. Said it landed back on its wheels. He drove it home."
Unfortunately for the kid, and fortunately for Jeff, the youngster had no insurance and just wanted to get out from under the car. Jeff paid $19,000, the mortgage, and took his prize home.
"The soft top was folded down so it didn't hurt the top, just crushed the windshield and busted up all the plastic. It really wasn't that bad. It looked real bad, but..."
The body shop estimates were around $28,000. Jeff ran a body and paint emporium for years and works for an insurance company now. "The estimate was for all new parts and paying top dollar for the labor. I bought used parts and did it all myself. I fixed it for like five."
Jeff would have never built the unique convertible except that the shop where he was straightening the windshield framework had a rare fiberglass C5 piece in their inventory. Somebody had wrecked a '99 fixed roof coupe and the shop had cut off and saved the top, which was in good condition. "When we pulled the frame, we had the convertible lid off and I noticed the opening was the same size and shape as the roof panel sitting there." Jeff is one of those types who could probably build a refrigerator if stranded on a desert island. He figured why not bond the Z06-style top onto another fiberglass convertible lid? He'd have two of them, one for the regular convertible top, and one integrated with the fixed roof top he found in the shop.
Jeff also had to take the removable top panel from a standard C5 coupe, which has latches for the targa panel, and cut out the front header bar with the latches. "I bonded that to the front of the fixed-roof panel. I essentially made a set of latches for the front, to latch just like the soft top latches on." This way, on cold days Jeff can put the top down, unboltthe stock lid, and replace it with the lid that is bonded to the fixed roof. On warm days he could unbolt the unique fixed roof lid and replace it with the stock lid.
The build became, like the personalized plates read, "4 FUN". Jeff literally went wild inside and out. He lowered the body 1.5 inches. "That's real easy. Just loosen a nut up on each corner of the car. The looser you make each nut, the lower the car goes."
Seeing as how he had a Z06-style roof, Jeff went ahead with other Z06 styling elements, including a set of rear brake cooling scoops ahead of the rear wheels and the screens in the openings around the front fog lights, plus chrome-plated Z06-style wheels.
Inside, Jeff added the heads-up display and an "export" 300 KPH (Kilometers Per Hour) speedo, like used on Corvettes that are shipped to Europe or Asia. "I found one used and put it in there 'cause I thought it was kind of cool looking. Whenever I go to car shows people go, 'Oh my god, 300 mph.' That's the first thing people want to know, how fast will it go."
Jeff gets a kick out of the interior look. "Some Z06s were two toned, so I dyed the trim panels. Z06s have the logo on the seats; instead, I fitted Wet Oakley seat covers. That's a Momo shifter knob and different colored red shifter boot. The steering wheel is fitted with a stitched-on red and black cover from a company called Wheel Skin."
The LS1 engine is mostly stock except for the trademark red Z06 fuel rail covers. "I added a Twin Flow air intake, which is low restriction. Mainly, I like the looks. That's why I got it."
For show, a 4-foot purple neon tube is mounted under the rear bumper to light up the tops of the exhaust tips. Jeff also added purple neon inside the front fender coves.
The taillights are "export." Domestic cars have solid red light assemblies. Exports have amber and red on the outside and clear and red on the inside. Jeff also went with the "export" license pocket in the back. Domestic cars have a back up light on each side of the license plate. But many countries in Europe have those big long license plates, so GM had to eliminate the back up lights in export models to make room for the big license plates. That's why they integrated the back up lights up top with the taillights.
The fixed roof hardtop is removable and can be tilted back, which is how Jeff displays the car at shows. Almost everybody's seen older Corvette convertibles with removable hardtops, but this one is unique in every respect. It took some nifty engineering work and an innovative mind to figure it out, but Jeff Mudd created a C5 convertible that is Hard To Top.