When Midland, Michigan-based independent automotive designer Don Johnson and Pacific Northwest customiser Dean 'Dino' Arnold decided to create their version of a 21st century Corvette, they were somewhat taken aback by the degree of interest shown by all and sundry. Dino already enjoyed quite a reputation for his work from followers of Washington's hot rodding and custom scene, and Don (an employee on General Motors' staff roster from 1969-1984) was a key player in both Camaro and Corvette design. The Avelate is the inspired result of their combined ingenuity.
The two buddies debuted their first C5-based Avelate-which means to achieve the highest quality-a couple of years ago. It's fair to say that since the launch, there haven't been enough hours in the day to keep on top of the demand for their wares, which are offered in three guises: Speedster, Convertible, and Split-Window. Although an example of the latter was unavailable for the photo shoot, one can glean an idea of matters from the two variants shown on these pages.
They were brought down to SoCal to tempt the movie studios into product placement, so to speak, and it's fair to say that in this respect, the enterprising company succeeded in spades. Watch out for the cars to appear on both small- and large silver-screen productions down the road, as well as playing a head-turning role in the life of anyone with around $100,000 to spend on a pretty wild version of what is regarded simply as an American icon-in much the same way as the ubiquitous Harley-Davidson is the two-wheel equivalent. Okay, so H-D celebrated its 100th birthday in 2003 whilst the Corvette has been around for exactly half this time, but both eminent marques are highly regarded by legions of loyal owners.
Purists may feel that messing with the Bowling Green, Kentucky, offering is a heinous offence, though with the West Coast being a hotbed of customising, it's fair to say that there's no shortage of folk willing to dig deep for a car that's certainly different.
The Avelate Corvette conversion cleverly incorporates a medley of styling cues from yesteryear models: side scallops are reminders of the '56-62 versions, the aft treatment reminds one of the '63-67 years, the front end has lines akin to the '68-82 models, and the grille is based on that fitted to the inaugural-year offering from Chevrolet. Add more than a hint of Mako Shark-styling and you could say that there's literally something to please all aficionados of the marque-whatever their generation of preference.
The handcrafted Evercoat Fibre Glass Products body is extremely well finished, and the design has more sex appeal than Britney Spears. Of the original body with which the car left the assembly line, only the interior lower valance is retained, along with the door handles and mirrors. Everything else has to go to make way for the major metamorphosis where the car is transformed from chic stock to street shock. For men of a certain age, it may seem pure automotive Viagra, but the "wow" factor is evident on both of these models.
Avelate's Speedster demonstrator is based on a '99 C5 that has the raked windscreen chopped by a whopping 10 inches. Along with the custom two-tone yellow leather/black suede interior treatment, rollbar hoops behind the headrests, and tapered tail-end treatment, these four modifications alone make heads swivel-to say nothing of the House of Kolor custom-mix Purple Pearl paint scheme and novel combination of 18x9 plus 20x10 Big Daddy rims mounting BFGoodrich fat-footprint G-Force T/A Z-rated rubber.
This demonstrator Speedster enjoys a 50-percent increase in power output thanks to installation of a Carroll/Vortech supercharger, the forced aspiration endowing the powerplant with enough added urge to satisfy even the most demanding speed freaks.
A Flowmaster aftermarket exhaust system offers optimum efficiency venting spent gases-the noxious fumes being expelled through a quartet of oversized, chromed, round muffler tips.
With the car being no slouch in the performance department, Avelate strongly recommends brake upgrading should a customer bring in their own C5 for a conversion package including the extra-cost blower addition. The Brembo setup includes 14-inch cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers, though there's also a Baer six-piston caliper option.
Surprisingly, the ultra-low windscreen does offer a degree of protection from adverse elements. Avelate's Eddie Harris regaled me with tales of spirited driving in the Evergreen State with rain lashing down and very little entering the open cockpit thanks to the body aerodynamics. Just don't get stuck at a red signal, I guess...
The House of Kolor Candy Apple Red pearl-painted '02 convertible may not have quite the in-your-face appeal of the outrageous Speedster, but in terms of practicality, it has an edge. Being able to raise the top whenever required offers peace of mind when motoring in fickle climes, as well as a degree of protection in the urban parking jungle.
In the car capital of the universe, Los Angeles, California, the Avelate conversion would arguably endow proverbial dream machine status on the popular C5, offering a macho combination of both retro and contemporary styling together with pertinent performance attributes. Small wonder the trick twosome attracted more attention in the City of Angels than a Hollywood movie location shoot.
The level of detail is high and the price is commensurate, but for anyone desirous of sampling life in the limelight, the rebodied Corvettes could fulfil your fantasies with aplomb.