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1967 Chevy Corvette - Light My Fire!

One Man's Near Disaster Is Another Vette's Chance At A New Life

James Miles Dec 1, 2004
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You know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I were to say to you that this '67 Corvette wasn't an eye turner in every sense of the word. Whether it's the 500hp Chevy 350 or the thoroughly plated suspension and exhaust pieces, there's not much about this Corvette that won't gather attention. And would you believe had it not been for a near-catastrophic fire, owner Michael Bochnak of Colorado Springs, Colorado, might not have ended up with what he believed "a Corvette should have looked like in 1967."

It all started in 1977 after the purchase of a yellow convertible with only 23,000 miles on the clock. Originally an Arizona car, the dry climate had kept the Vette in reasonable condition over its first 10-year period. From 1977 to 1980 the car was only gaining about 2,000 miles a year and had so far been a dream in terms of upkeep. It was then that Michael decided to increase the output from the stock 327 to 400-plus ponies. Later on, he picked up an '82 Collector's Edition Stingray when they hit the dealer's room, and with the new Stingray providing the major mode of transportation to the budding Corvette enthusiast, the '67 was retired to joy trips and was cut back to 1,000 miles a year of road service.

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It was on one of these road trips that Michael almost lost his original pride and joy. A mere four years after reworking the engine bay, a piece of the sponge air filter became lodged in the dual carburetors and started a fire in the engine bay. "I put the fire out without much damage happening to the car," Michael tells us, "[but the hood] had developed a small sag in the middle where the resin had melted a little." This is when the transformation of the '67 from a low-miles, "air-car" original began.

In the fall of 1984 the '67 went to a local dealer for a possible changing out of the hood and repainting. "As I looked at the car, I noticed that the dealer must have sprayed sound-deadening material on the underside. This stuff was everywhere and on everything," the owner lamented. "I decided I wanted to clean up the underside of the Corvette, and within a matter of 72 hours the body was off the car and flipped upside down next to the rolling frame."

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With the process started, Bochnak went to friend and owner of Knob Hill Plating, Mark Clark, to discuss cleanup methods. "His solution to this problem? Why not just strip everything off the frame and take it to his shop and we'll hot tank everything clean," Mark told us. "Only problem was we didn't stop. Before I knew it I'd given Mark permission to plate and polish everything that had come off the frame." With Mark Clark taking care of the underpinnings, the owner and his friends at the Colorado Springs Corvette Center stripped the frame and underside of the '67 and returned it to original condition. As the one-year mark approached, the frame was beginning to be reassembled with the reconditioned, newly chrome-plated pieces.

It seemed like a reasonable project was reaching a reasonable conclusion until the modification bug bit Michael and the Corvette took off down a different stretch of road when he decided to bump the horsepower up again-to over 600! "With the help of an engine-building friend [Gary Crumb], we started getting crazy," Michael says with a grin. "We didn't think the 327 was a good place to start so we swapped my original motor with the engine from my '70 Chevy truck, a 350 four-bolt main." As it turns out, this wasn't a bad choice and the magic number of 650 was soon achieved with the help of a blower. If seemed as if everything was set, but before the body rejoined the frame, a set of Eckler's fender flares was glassed in to increase the available tire space.

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At end of 1986 the body was mounted back on the frame and ready for paint. While the mid-year sat waiting for paint, someone stopped by who liked the bodywork just as much as the owner did-enough that he tried to steal the entire front clip of the Corvette. Regretfully, all he ended up doing was destroying the fiberglass from the doors forward. With an insurance battle raging, it took all of 1987 to return the car to what it had been before the near-theft-with the addition of the new-style headlight pods. During this time, Michael married his girlfriend who he'd met through their mutual Corvette club, Colorado Springs Corvette Club, and the Corvette was placed on the back burner.

Before long the new couple had both a daughter and son, and it was suddenly 1998. With the car sitting in his parent's garage, Walter and Joann Bochnak "relit his fire" and soon Michael was off again on another tangent, installing the interior and working on the paint scheme. In the end, friend Bob Braidwood sprayed 45 coats of candy Brandywine paint, 20 of those buffed off. With the final coat of clear applied, this '67 became a real "ICATCHR." Six years later the Corvette still takes Best of Show and People's Choice at 75 percent of the shows it attends, proving that this '67 is still as hot today as when it burned up the streets long ago-almost literally.



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