There are decidedly very good things one can do with a '63 Sting Ray. The same goes for a 427 big-block. But what happens when you combine these two legends? If you ask Don and Frances Ellis they'll tell you, "A lot!" Don, an Elizabethton, Tennessee, resident, likes to restore vintage cars as a hobby. After working mostly with Chevelles and Camaros in the late-'60s range, Don eventually decided to try something with a little more class (or is that 'glass?).
Finding the right car didn't take long. In an old garage on the top of a mountain in Rogersville, this '63 convertible sat stripped and forgotten-that is, until the Friday after Thanksgiving of 2002. While most people were busy eating leftovers, Don was busy loading the vehicular remains of the Sting Ray on the back of a trailer. After taking the short jaunt back to Don's shop, the car sat for a year while its new owner finished up a couple of '69 Camaros.
Once knee-deep in the new project, Don realized the Vette was far worse than he had originally thought. Previously, fender flares had been installed on all four corners. Both front turn signals had also been shaved. Adding to the list of vintage modifications was a not-so-period-correct "massage" where someone, or something, had come to a hard, sudden stop against the driver-side door. So it was in September 2003, that local friend Cedric Benton, of Flag Pond, started on the body and paint. Don remembers, "He hand-laid most of the repairs to the body, except for the front turn signals. Meanwhile, we purchased a big-block hood and a new roll pan for the rear."
The remainder of the bodywork took five months, which included an all-encompassing bead-blasting by another friend, Jamie McNell. With the PPG Viper Red paint sprayed and a final buffing completed, reassembly began in mid-February 2004. Cedric painted the chassis, while Don assembled the car's 427ci powerplant. The Tremec five-speed transmission was the next detail to be added, and then the body and frame were reunited. But it didn't go together as easily as it sounds. Explains Don: "We had a few setbacks. The transmission had to be ordered twice and the instrument cluster was destroyed by UPS."
With the car complete, tuned, and ready for the street, Team VETTE asked Don what he thought of his first Corvette. "Compared with the other cars we've built, Corvette parts take longer to receive and they don't fit as well," he admitted, before adding, "The Vette really was a lot of fun to build and turned out to be a beautiful car even with the amount of damage." A true diamond in rough, one might say.