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1965 Chevrolet Corvette - Down Under Thunder

If Mad Max Had Driven A Car This Spectacular, Society Never Would Have Collapsed

Patrick Hill Jan 24, 2007
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Let's face it: Australia is just awash in coolness. From the Outback to Tasmania, the Land Down Under is filled with wondrous things that make eyes pop out of skulls and give anything we've got in America a run for its money. Consider, for example, this month's cover car.

Rick Werner is no stranger to Corvettes. While he had previously owned a pair of '78 Vettes as well as an '85, he had always been an admirer of the midyear models. After seeing a picture of a Nassau Blue '65 coupe on the Internet in March of 2000, Rick made arrangements to purchase the neglected Vette for the sum of $13,000 (US). Two months later, the Vette arrived from California with the help of Aussie specialty shop Corvette Queensland. The car was rumored to have been sitting under a tree for about 18 years, and when Rick saw it for the first time, he realized the rumors had been true.

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No Mad Max blowers here. Nothing says high-horsepower coolness like a set of injector stacks poking up through a hood. Rick Werner's '65 sports a 388ci stroked small-block that shreds rubber and vandalizes asphalt.

From a distance the car looked great, its original paint still intact and looking fairly nice. But up close, the years of neglect were glaringly obvious. Anything made of metal on the car was virtually rusted away, from the window sills down to the fuel tank and lines. The chassis was still in one piece, however, showing only the normal surface rust associated with a 35-year-old car.

Once home with his new project, Rick's first order of business was removing the body from the chassis. Once the chassis was free, it was treated to a full sandblasting and repainted in semi-gloss black. Both the front and rear suspensions were treated to rebuilds, with Koni shocks and springs from Australian vendor King Springs installed in both positions. The front and rear were also lowered 2 inches to give the car a more aggressive ground-hugging stance. To ensure leak-free reliability and adequate stopping power, the brake calipers were overhauled with stainless-steel sleeves.

Rick then moved on to revitalizing and modifying the '65's body. The door frames and openings were filled and smoothed for a seamless appearance, new smooth aluminum rocker panels were fabricated, and Rick even fitted a raised '67 big-block scoop to the hood . . . er, "bonnet." The rear fenders were widened by 1 inch to accommodate wider rubber, and a custom Cobra fuel-filler cap was installed.

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Next on the list was the powertrain. The engine hadn't been turned over since the last time the car was parked under that tree in California, and the water pump and alternator were hopelessly seized. Rick took everything apart for rebuilding. The non-original '72 small-block was given an overbore and a Scat stroker crank, yielding 388 ci of motivational muscle. Inside, Rick's engine features hypereutectic pistons, a complete Comp Cams valvetrain, and ported stock heads machined to accept bigger stainless valves. The car's Muncie four-speed was also treated to a full rebuild, while the stock rearend was stuffed with 3.36 gears.

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The interior sports dark-gray tweed upholstery, with custom control knobs and door handles Rick made himself. The buckets are out of a Honda CRX-probably the best use of a Honda part we've ever seen.

New 17-inch Boyd's T3 wheels were fitted, along with 9.5-inch Falken tires out back and 8-inch Falken rubber on the front. From there, Rick went to work on replumbing the fuel and brake systems. Since the original gas tank was a goner, he fabricated a new stainless steel tank to store the car's go juice. Once this was done, new Energy Suspension body bushings and mounts were installed to keep the body-to-chassis fit snug and minimize rattles and flex.

Once the body was recoupled to the chassis, it was off to Kit's Crash Repairs, where Rick used one of the shop's booths to shoot the Vette in Lime Gold Metallic. The car then came back home for what Rick calls "the fun part"-reassembly of all its various parts and pieces.

The rear bumpers were bent and twisted, with some rust-through. The cost to replace these items in Australia would have been budget-breaking, so Rick took them and the rest of the car's trim pieces to Steve Robbins at Custom Chrome. Steve worked his magic and brought everything back to better-than-new condition.

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While this was going on, the interior was receiving a makeover that included CRX bucket seats and new gray-tweed upholstery for everything, including the dash. From there, Rick fitted the carpet, then fabricated and covered the custom rear panels that hide the retractable seat belts and speaker housings. The instrument faces were stripped and repainted white for a more contemporary look. Audio duties are handled by a concealed Kenwood CD player that is remotely operated by controls mounted under the bottom spoke of the steering wheel. Rounding out the sound system are a 600-watt MTX amplifier, a 10-inch MTX Subwoofer, and a pair of 6-inch MTX front speakers.

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For some added custom detail, Rick fashioned dash knobs, window handles, a horn button, doorsill plates, and a full complement of underhood caps from billet aluminum, then had Chevy bow-ties engraved into most of them. Along with these pieces, Rick fabricated the radiator overflow tank, window-washer reservoir, alternator bracket, oil catch can, battery cover, and radiator cover from stainless steel.

Three years ago, Rick installed a Weiand 6-71 blower for some extra oomph, but after two years of heavily boosted driving, the local transport authority politely "advised" him to remove it. Earlier this year, he purchased a Garlits air-cleaner assembly for another project he was working on, and that's what now resides atop the Vette's Quadrajet-fed small-block. Rick reused the lift-off hood he'd made when the blower was installed, so everything except the Garlits system's faux injector stacks is covered up nicely.

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Rick put many hours and gallons of sweat into making his '65 a Vette to be noticed. In 10 months he resurrected a dilapidated coupe and turned it into a head-turning fiberglass wonder.

Total time spent on the project was 10 months, a spectacular feat considering the amount of custom fabrication involved and the fact that Rick did much of the work himself.

Built for show and go, the '65 is driven as much as possible, and it has garnered many local and national accolades along the way. Most recently, Rick piloted the car from his home in Queensland to the Australian Corvette Nationals in Sydney, a round trip of more than 1,200 miles. He gives special thanks to Kit, from Kit's Crash Repairs; Bill Payne Motor Trimming; Daniel, at Performance Polishing; Barry Burton, at Wizart; Mark King, at King Springs; Steve, at Custom Chrome; and his wife, Julia, and daughter, Danielle, for all their help in building this sensational C2.



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