In recent years we've been seeing quite a resurgence in popularity in the last of the first-generation "straight-axle" Corvettes. Considered to be "transitional cars" by many purists, the '61-62 Corvettes hinted of things to come with their Stingray-like rear bodywork. These square-tail Vettes likewise proved popular with the drag racing crowd with their 315hp, Rochester fuel-injected 283s in 1961, and, with a glimpse of the coming small-block greatness, 360hp 327s in 1962. They were easy to modify, and they could definitely haul the mail.
Hilo, Hawaii's, Ralph Taroma has always had a fancy to own one of these little gems. So when the opportunity arose in February 1996 to purchase one in good condition and at a reasonable price, Taroma jumped at the chance. However, rather than restoring the car, Ralph decided to transform his "new" '62 into a full-on resto-rod. "Finding parts in Hawaii for this particular year of Corvette was no easy task," says Taroma. "Luckily, I found some vintage Corvette parts dealers on the Internet. I replaced virtually every available part on the car I could."
Obviously, that included stripping the Corvette down to the bare frame and performing a full rebuild. "We started a frame-off restoration in 1998. First, we shipped the body over to Bay City Auto Body and Paint to have all the fiberglass bodywork and the paint job done. And while that was being done, we tackled the chassis," said Taroma. Taroma repainted and replaced virtually every component on the chassis. The rearend was updated to a 12-bolt '68 Camaro model with 4.88:1 gearing and a Posi-traction differential. A set of Lakewood traction bars and Koni shock absorbers were also installed.
The front suspension on the '62 was totally rebuilt, with another pair of Koni shocks and a Master Power Brakes front disc brake kit were added. With all that done, Taroma installed a pair of 7x18 (front) and 9x18 (rear) Boyd Coddington "Smoothie" billet wheels and 225/45 and 255/45ZR-18 Bridgestone Potenza radial rubber.
Powering this beauty is a Magio's Auto Machining, .030-inch overbore (355 cid,) '70 Chevrolet LT1 short-block featuring a Magio's balanced GMPP steel 350 crank and "pink" LT1 connecting rods, 11:1 Speed Pro pistons, Clevite engine bearings, and a Lunati split-pattern cam and kit. Also along for the ride is a set of Air Flow Research (AFR) cylinder heads featuring a 2.08-inch intake and 1.60-inch stainless-steel exhaust valves, Harland Sharp 1.5-ratio roller rocker arms, along with AFR dual valve springs, locks, and keepers. Induction comes in the form of a Holley Strip Dominator intake and a Holley 830-cfm four-barrel carburetor that breathes purified air through a Mr. Gasket air cleaner. Ignition duties are handled by an MSD Pro Billet distributor, while spent exhaust gasses flow through a pair of Jet-Hot-coated Hedman headers connected to a duo of Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers.
Backing up this reasonably potent small-block is a Hurst-equipped Muncie M-21 four-speed transmission using a Center Force II clutch and pressure plate housed in a Lakewood bellhousing.
With requisite bodywork completed, body and chassis were again reunited. Then painter Dickie Giel sprayed the Vette with multiple coasts of House of Kolor Cobalt Blue over a Pearl White underbase. The look is incredible!
On the inside, Taroma updated the his '62 with a Flaming River/GM six-way-tilt column and a Colorado Custom billet steering wheel, custom-wrapped in white leather. There is also a Custom AutoSound audio system and Auto Meter gauges, and he installed a complete Painless Performance wiring harness. Additionally, Ralph's wife, Joyce, installed the Al Knoch-stitched white vinyl upholstery and black carpeting.
Completed just days prior to its formal debuted at last summer's "Cruise Paradise 2003" or "Big Island Cruise," Taroma's Vette was an instant hit with the locals, as well as with the 64 visiting cruiser attendees who brought their cars over from the Mainland to attend the two-week-long event.
Ralph is quick to credit brothers-in-law Greg and Royden Wong with lending a helping hand on the five-year project. "Without their help and help from my lovely wife Joyce, (who happens to own a pretty mean '68 Camaro of her own,) the car turned out even better than I expected!"