The roadster was stripped down to the bare frame, which was then shipped to Paul Newman's Car Creations. Newman & Co. then performed their particular brand of magic, modifying the vintage frame to accept front and rear '95 C4 suspension systems. But before the chassis was assembled for the final time, Rich took things a step beyond. Before heading to the paint booth at Corvette Center in Newington, Connecticut, Rich smoothed and filled the framerails. He also filled and sanded every aluminum suspension component to remove the casting marks before having them ceramic coated. The new frame was then assembled, using a laundry list of good stuff: Energy Suspension urethane bushings, Vette Brakes monoleaf springs, Bilstein shocks sporting Newman-spec valving, and a Dana 44 differential sporting 3.92:1 gears. Z06 calipers grabbing Baer rotors were hung on the new axles, along with 17 x 8.5-inch chromed Z06 wheels and 255/45ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. The wheels feature one of Rich's unique touches: the center caps were fabricated using '62-vintage horn buttons, creating "a link between old and new." Rich laughs when he says, "the touch gets as much attention as anything."
What really grabs people's attention, though, is the 2001 LS6 small-block sitting under the solid-axle's hood. To get air into the new mill, Rich designed his own intake system (brought into being by Mark's Machine), which feeds into a chromed Street & Performance ported throttle body. A custom computer program, created by Zac Fliss at Speed Scene Wiring, controls engine operations. Chromed S & P accessories hang on modified brackets and are run by an S & P belt system. A one-off Bill Kydd radiator, which sports an integral A/C condenser and a Spal electric fan, keeps things cool, while a custom-built Borla exhaust system (running through enlarged holes in the chassis X-member) dispenses with the spent gases. The hopped-up LS6, which Rich figures makes 435-plus horsepower, runs through a Z06 clutch and flywheel to a Hurst-shifted Tremec T56 six-speed, and a Spicer aluminum driveshaft on its way to the Dana rearend.
The 30-year-old fiberglass was prepped to perfection by the Corvette Center, but not without some extensive yet hidden modifications. The spare tire tub was cut out and raised 4 inches to make room for the exhaust system. A new trans tunnel from Alf Eberoth's Performance Automotive was mounted to accommodate the modern tranny. Eberoth also modified a stock '62 brake pedal assembly to work with the new binders, and provided the stainless steel fuel tank. The rear inner fender panels were extensively modified toaccommodate the A-arm suspension. It all got a flawless coating of RM Diamont paint, the shade of which is known only as "Rich's Red."
The interior, which was installed by Rich and Barbara, is as immaculately detailed as everything else on the '62. Al Knoch Interiors supplied many of the new items, including the deep-pile carpet and floor mats, as well as the trunk panels and carpet. The really trick stuff, though, came in the form of the custom-designed leather seats, which look like originals, but have raised back and side bolsters. The seat position is just about perfect, according to Rich, and it's a good thing. "They ended up the only place they could," he recalls. "With the new transmission tunnel, we had to modify the inner seat rails." Knoch also supplied the leather dash pad, door panels, kick panels, and visors. A leather-wrapped Corvette Central steering wheel sits in front of a Lagasse-designed and built gauge cluster sporting a full complement of VDO gauges. Rich also designed the center console, which holds the controls for the Pioneer stereo, the Vintage Air A/C, and the new electric wiper system, which is run by a modern unit in the passenger side kick panel.
It took 11 months plus one week, consisting of somewhere around 2,500 man-hours, to bring the Lagasses' vision into being. Finished just in time for Carlisle, Rich and Barbara took pleasure in the overwhelming response they got. But this car was built to satisfy on other levels. "It's the total immersion in the project," Rich says. "And seeing it through to completion, while retaining the integrity of the theme. It's my concept of this, and I don't apologize for it." We don't think that's a problem, Rich. In fact, we'd say being the star of the show means no apologies. (Rich and Barbara Lagasse invite you to check out their '62 and their '67 at www.corvetteforum.net/c5/richs7/ -Ed.)