In the grand scheme of things automotive, Corvette has always been a standout. The melding of such a fine balance of style, power, and luxury makes the car unique among its domestic brethren. For a great many owners, this is as good as it gets, and they see no reason to mess with success. The true enthusiast, however, has a completely different point of view. Though it may sound like heresy, one C5 looks pretty much like the next after you've been around the scene for a while. A stock Vette becomes a blank canvas, and personalization is the pigment that completes the picture. Marc and Vanessa Halphen, of Spring Hill, Florida, can be counted among this crowd.
Radical styling has always been a big part of the Corvette experience, and the masses often forego further embellishment, instead heading straight for the hood latch with an armful of bolt-on goodies. Not so for the Halphens. "We want our car to look as good as possible. We really enjoy attending car shows and cruise-ins, so adding a lot of extra performance isn't something we have wanted to do," explained Marc
The Halphens purchased their car with the exterior paintwork already completed, though the rest of the car was stock. After owning the car for only one week, they entered it in their first show, where it scored the award for Best Paint. Feeling pretty good, they entered another show the following week, where they had a truly eye-opening experience. Just as Marc opened the hood to his then-stock engine compartment, another C5 owner pulled in alongside and followed suit. To the Halphens' amazement, not a stock surface remained to be seen under the hood of their neighbor's car. The owner of the modified car turned out to be Joe Gloria, whom the Halphens credit with mentoring them through the oft-confusing world of C5 modification.
With a good amount of guidance from their new friend Joe, the Halphens got to work on the engine room. They quickly decided to carry on with the flamed-and-checkered theme from the exterior paint. All of the underhood and engine chrome was designed to meticulously emulate the paintwork on the bonnet's topside and flow into the overall theme. Even the hood liner has been supplanted by chrome and flame.
Walk up to the car and lift the door handle, and you may not find too much out of the ordinary. Perhaps you'll notice the door doesn't swing open quite as far as normal. Instead, the door's travel is now in the vertical plane, Countach-style. "We decided on the Lambo-style doors after getting repeatedly beat at shows by another C5 that had them." Even though he had never before attempted a project like it, Halphen says the vertical doors install was completed, with the help of a friend, in just eight hours
Feeling the interior was showing far too much wear, Halphen contacted Mid America Corvettes for some fresh seat covers. While he was at it, he opted for a custom armrest and pewter lower dash and door panels. They had never performed such work before, but Marc and Vanessa dove into the install and even re-covered the seats themselves. The finishing touch to the cockpit was a set of American Car Craft diamond-plate floor mats. ACC powdercoats the diamond plate black and then grinds the surface, creating a hip, industrial look for the interior that's nearly indestructible.
Viewed from the rear, the C5's most impressive aspect may be its etched hatch glass, which features the same crossed-flags-a la flamb design as the rest of the car. Lift the hatch, and you'll find more powdercoated diamond plate. Here, the plate has been windowed to showcase a chrome background that again features Halphen's stylized logo.
Since many shows and gatherings extend well into the twilight hours, Halphen felt it important to draw in the admirers even after ambient light has faded. To that end, he added extensive LED lighting throughout the car's interior, engine compartment, and undercarriage. Depending on his mood, the system can be set to provide a steady blue electroluminescence or flash in over a dozen different patterns
Many C5 owners opt for increased performance in their quest for the ultimate ride. There's an old hot-rod adage that goes something like this: "No matter how fast you are, there is always someone faster." Halphen has not fallen into that trap. "Everyone asks me why I haven't modified the car for more power. To me, the car is already as fast as I want it to be. When you punch the gas, it'll pass pretty much everything on the road. It is a Corvette, after all."
Oh, sure, there are a few bolt-ons that are de rigueur on any C5, such as the cold-air intake and the B&B Tri-Flo exhaust. "I had to change the exhaust because the car's stock exhaust note just didn't match its appearance." The rest of the drivetrain retains its factory-stock driveability and reliability. That's important when you like to drive as much as the Halphens. They manage to get out several times a week in their Corvette, attending shows and cruise-ins or just stepping out for a special night on the town.
And although Halphen tells us he's taken this car just about as far as he intends to, there are plans afoot for another C5 in the not-too-distant future. Will the new car be as elaborate as this one? Time will tell, but for now, the Halphens will continue looking for every bit of attention their C5 can get.