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A Star is (Re)Born: the Chop, Cut, Rebuild C4 Corvette

The inside story of the Chop Cut Rebuild C4 project car

Barry Kluczyk Aug 23, 2006
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There's no denying the power of television, especially when it comes toautomotive and mechanical subjects these days--just ask thechopper-building Teutel family or Jesse James. Even the techno-nerds at"Mythbusters" have developed a cult-like following for stunts likeshooting guns underwater and determining whether cinnamon mixed withvodka makes a good mouth wash. (As it turns out, it does.)

Not surprisingly, the four-wheeled subjects of these shows generatetheir own publicity based on exposure on the tube. Chop Cut Rebuild(CCR) has made stars of more than a few cars. The show's unique formatfollows the restoration/rebuild of several vehicles during theseason--the opposite approach of many shows, which try to show sixmonths' worth of work crammed into a single, one-hour episode.

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CCR creator and host Dan Woods poses with the Vette in the desertoutside Las Vegas. Woods is perhaps best known for his role as Mr.Raditch in cable's "Degrassi" teen-drama series--all three of them.

What CCR (airing on the Speed Channel) brings to the throng ofauto-themed cable shows is detail. The viewer is able to take away amore realistic idea of what to takes to redo a car from the ground up.The producers and show founder/host Dan Woods had their work cut out forthem with the recent "restification" of an '88 Corvette convertible. Thesun-baked car was the first C4 project tackled by the show; its progresswill be featured on the kickoff episode of CCR's third season, in aone-hour special called "An American Seduction...The Corvette Affair."

One might ask why a whipped C4 was selected in the first place.

"There is an abundance of these vehicles on the market--cars that may notbe old enough to be a classic, but older than the factory supports withreplacement parts," says Woods. "The Corvette always has been America'ssports car, and this project shows how some attention to detail, TLC,and the right parts can transform a cast-off into something thatinspires passion."

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The CCR team started with a yellow '88 convertible obtained through aneBay auction in mid-2004, paying $5,000. Fairly rare in its own right,the Vette was one of only 578 originally painted yellow that year.Comparative rarity aside, it was a beat-up and neglected ride.

"It was in very poor condition," says Woods. "It ran, but it leaked alot and had trouble idling."

Having spent its entire previous life in the harsh sun of Scottsdale,Arizona, the car was overcooked. It also had more than 130,000 miles onits tired L98 small-block. After exchanging funds for the title, the carwas trailered to CCR's Huntington Beach, California, headquarters. Atestdrive revealed the forlorn Vette needed attention under the hood, atthe suspension and brakes, and, well, the less said about the conditionof the interior, the better.

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"But the body was in pretty good shape considering the car's overallcondition," says Woods. "Amazingly, this car showed signs of receivingvirtually no upkeep in all its years; it even looked like the originalbrake pads were in place."

The producers turned to Darryl Nance at noted Chevy restorer D&P ClassicChevy to handle the car's transformation. The shop has a strongreputation among Chevy aficionados, and if anyone had the talent tobring the Vette back from its near-death experience, it was D&P's crew.

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More than simply restoring the car, CCR's producers wanted to modernizeand update it--not to mention give the car some eyeball appeal. To thatend, a plan was devised to update the body with later-model fascias,give it a contemporary custom paint job, and shoe it with humongous--andpolished--rolling stock. In short, it would have all the boulevardbravado of a late-model "tuner," but wrapped in an 18-year-old shell.(And if you're having a hard time with the realization that 1988 wasnearly 20 years ago, welcome to the party.)

Getting to Work

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D&P Classic Chevy, in Huntington Beach, California, handled the Vette' courtesy of WAS Productions

On the lift at D&P Classic Chevy, the body was stripped of its front andrear fascias, and the rest of the body was prepped for paint. CorvetteAmerica came through with '96-style front and rear fascias, whichdramatically updated the look of the car. The new panels were hung onthe body, and the car was sprayed House of Kolor silver and accentedwith a black centersection on the hood. Custom checkered-flag graphicswere supplied by Vandemon Absolute Custom and provide tastefullydramatic enhancement to the C4's lithe body lines.

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...Although originally painted a rare-for-its-year yellow, thebody was stripped and prepped for a new coat of silver paint. photo courtesy of WAS Productions

With the paintwork finished, the exterior was buttoned up with newlenses, weatherstripping, and a new black top, the latter installed byBill Dunn One Stop Shop Custom Upholstery. The interior also was redone,as its "before" condition was fit for neither man nor dog. Again,Corvette America came to the rescue, furnishing the necessaryrestoration supplies, while Azteka Custom Upholstery re-covered theleather seats. The only noticeable deviation from stock is a Sony Xplodstereo system.

Powering the revamped Vette fell to a tried-and-true ZZ4 crate enginefrom GM Performance. To preserve the TPI look of the car's originaldrivetrain, a complete L98-style injection setup was supplied by Streetand Performance. The plenum was polished to a mirror-like finish andcomplements an eye-catching set of polished valve covers. That the CCRteam didn't go with a later-style LT1 or even LS1 is interesting.

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A polished TPI unit from Street & Performance channels air and fuel to aGM Performance ZZ4 crate engine. The classic 350-cube small-block israted at 355 hp (in carbureted form). The detailed valve covers are anice touch, too.

"From the very beginning, this was to be a daily driver," says Woods."The engine combination is strong and reliable for everyday drivingalong the Pacific Coast Highway. It also underscores the comparativeaffordability over a complete swap to a later-model powertrain."

Fair enough. And, we think, the L98's distinctive plenum and runnertubes still look great. We won't go as far as claiming the L98 setup is"retro"--this magazine's staff feels old enough already. Exhaust from theinjected ZZ4 is carried away by a set of prototype Bassani long-tubeheaders and a dual 2.5-inch Bassani "Aft-Cat" system.

SEMA Debut

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One of the more interesting modifications was the use of a Tremecfive-speed manual transmission in place of the original, archaic "4+3"Doug Nash overdrive unit. The factory insignia is still on the console,serving as an "I remember those..." conversation starter. KeislerEngineering assisted with hooking up the Vette with its row-it-yourselfTremec.

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The car's thoroughly sun-baked cabin was redone with restoration partsfrom Corvette America, along with new seat upholstery from Azteka CustomUpholstery. The "video game" dash of the '88 contrasts with the rounded,later-model front/rear fascias, causing head scratches from Corvettefans who are intimate with year-by-year differences.

When it came to the car's underpinnings, the worn-out stock suspensioncomponents were replaced or upgraded. Baer supplied a set of heftybrakes, including drilled and slotted rotors. The final touch was a setof 18-inch American Racing polished wheels and BFGoodrich rubber. "Thecar has a great look and stance," says Woods. "The polished Americansreally complement the body's silver paint."

Indeed, they do. Woods estimates only about 50 percent of the originalcar remains. It also took about one year to complete the project, whichwas unveiled last fall at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. It was a standoutin the sea of all-new production vehicles.

Like any restoration, there were unseen pitfalls and time-challengingprojects. All of the car's weatherstripping and seals were rotted, forexample. All of them. Even the desert-sandblasted windshield wasreplaced.

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At the core, however, CCR's producers accomplished their goal. Theyrevived a close-to-dead C4 with attention to detail and carefulplanning. And unlike so many of the vehicles seen on competitors' shows,this Vette represents the realization of attainable goals and acomparatively down-to-earth investment. That's not the same as cheap,mind you, but for a car built to be driven on a daily basis, itdemonstrates considerable value.

"We never took the body off the chassis," says Woods. "It's a veryrealistic representation of what can be done with a worn and tired usedcar. It's a Corvette--we had to do it."

"An American Seduction...The Corvette Affair," begins airing in July. Go to formore information and a broadcast schedule.



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