1962 Chevrolet Corvette - The Gold Standard

This Aussie 1962 Chevrolet Corvette sets a new benchmark in the realm of high-end customization

Patrick Hill Jan 11, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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No, you're not imagining things, and no, we didn't reverse the photos. The steering wheel on this month's cover car is on the right, the better for keeping this C1 under control on the roads Down Under.

Owned by Barbara and David Kelly of Queensland, this '62 Vette has had virtually every square inch of its fiberglass body customized in one way or another. In fact, just about the only things left untouched are the upper door hinges.

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The Kellys initially laid eyes on the car at their first club run after joining the Queensland Corvette Club in 2002. Originally imported from America by Australian rock star Jimmy Barnes, the car was being displayed by then-owner Bill Dixon. It was love at first sight, but Bill wasn't entertaining thoughts of selling the C1 at the time. Barbara and David were forced to wait until the next year when they saw Bill and his Corvette at the Brisbane Hotrod and Street Machine show in the Queensland Club area. Bill mentioned he was thinking of selling the car, and a price was agreed on the next day. Barbara and David had their car.

Their first drive with the C1 proved far from positive. They were shocked to find that such a beautiful Corvette drove "like an old truck." Once the two had the car home, they set out to make the Vette an all-around stellar piece.

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At the top of the agenda was improving the car's ride and handling. Keith Fackrell and Geoff Hay at KCF Rallysport in Kippa-Ring got the call to revamp the front and rear suspension by mounting late-C4 parts. They started with a one-off tubular front crossmember, which was used to mount the front suspension from a '96 Grand Sport. The unit bolted to the original crossmember mount points with welded-in upper control-arm and shock mounts. For steering duties, KCF modified an Oldsmobile rack-and-pinion unit, which was revalved by Brisbane-based Corvette Automotive for better feel. The rack is connected to a Flaming River column in polished stainless. Custom adjustable shocks were fitted to the front end for the best handling possible.

Out back, KCF modified the C1 chassis and mounts to accept the 3.70-geared Dana 44 rearend out of a '96 Vette. During the process, KCF built custom coilover shocks and mounting brackets to replace the original '96 transverse-mounted leafspring. The custom mounting system spreads the rear suspension load over three points rather than using the original shock mount, giving the car excellent rear-handling qualities.

From there, it was time to prep the Vette for its drivetrain. KCF converted the early-style front engine mounts to late-model side mounts and fabricated a transmission crossmember to mount a T56 six-speed. While underneath the car, KCF also performed some needed chassis repairs. Little did the crew at KCF Rallysport know they would eventually spend 600 hours getting the running gear up to snuff on the C1. As the accompanying photos attest, the results were well worth the effort.

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To push the new suspension and steering to the max, Sam's Performance in Sydney built a 383 stroker pushing over 400 hp on the dyno. The motor has a Scat stroker crank, as well as forged rods and pistons, ported and polished Trick Flow aluminum heads with Isky valvesprings, and a custom-grind Sam's camshaft. Induction duties are handled by a Katicore EFI manifold with eight individual throttle bodies controlled by an Autronic EFI computer, with a CPI ignition and four coil packs to light the air/fuel mixture.

Power from the motor is routed through a T56 six-speed tranny that is attached to a modified Hurst shifter and connected to the C4 rear by a custom-made driveshaft. Exhaust is piped out through a one-off system built by Exotic Exhaust.

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Once all the new running gear was in place, it was time to work on the body, interior, and paint. While Annvid Upholstery was recovering the stock seats in vanilla Scottish leather, LDI Kustom Koncepts went to work smoothing, frenching, and modifying the body of the '62. Modifications included removing the front sill molds and side-scoops, molding the underdash area and kick panels, reshaping the wheel arches to better fit the wheels, removing the door handles inside and out (they've been replaced with a remote-operated solenoid system), and a litany of other body and interior tweaks. Lindsay Houston handled the task of spraying the Corvette in PPG 24 Karat Gold and Cinnamon Candy as well as blending in the flames and highlights.

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The total rebuild took three years and an astonishing 3,500 man hours of work, but according to Barbara and David, the results make all the time worthwhile. Since the Corvette emerged from the shop, it's been on the Australian National Show Car Circuit, and it was selected as a finalist in the '06 Meguiar's Superstar Series Top Mild Custom class at the Sydney Motorex.

From the eye-popping color to the endless depth of the customization and modifications, this Corvette has definitely achieved one-of-a-kind status.

Car:'62 Corvette
Owners:Barbara and David Kelly
Paint:PPG 24 Karat Gold with Cinnamon Candy highlights, chassis, and underbody
Block:OEM Chevy small-block
Displacement:383 ci
Heads:Ported and polished Trick Flow Specialties aluminum
Valves:Trick Flow Specialties, Isky springs
Camshaft:Sam's Performance (Sydney, Australia) custom grind
Pistons:Forged
Rods:Manley
Crankshaft:Scat stroker
Fuel-delivery system:Katicore EFI with eight individual throttle bodies
Fuel pump:Holden Commodore VY V-8
Engine management:Autronic ECM
Ignition:Autronic direct-fire with four coil packs
Exhaust System:Exotic Exhaust custom stainless steel
Transmission:T56 six-speed
Clutch:GM LS1
Driveshaft:Custom
Steering:Oldsmobile rack and pinion, revalved for right-hand drive
Front Suspension:'96 Corvette with King Springs and KCF Rallysport custom coilovers
Rear Suspension:'96 Corvette with King Springs and KCF Rallysport custom coilovers
Rear End:'96 Corvette Dana 44 with 3.70 gears
Front Brakes:13-inch Brembo cross-drilled and slotted rotors, '96 Grand Sport calipers
Rear Brakes:11-inch Brembo cross-drilled and slotted rotors, '96 Grand Sport calipers
Wheels:Billet Specialties SLC 65, 17x8-inch
Tires:Yokohama AVS V102, 245/45-17

For those of you who are curious, here's a complete list of the body mods on Barbara and David Kelly's '62:

- Frenched headlights
- Changed fuel filler
- Filled air vent
- Removed door handles and locks inside and out, replaced with a remotely operated solenoid system
- Converted windows to electric- Made molds of outer doorskins to create custom inner-door panels
- Reshaped center console to allow for six-speed transmission
- Removed original fan switches, and so on, to make center control panel, includes removal of switches under gauge panel
- Filled in and sculpted passenger dashpanel
- Molded underdash panels and kick panels
- Completely reshaped front and rear wheel arches to better suit wheels
- Molded in rear license-plate surround and grille surround, along with strips on top of mudguards
- Filled front bumpers; removed center bar and license-plate holder for slim-line plate
- Changed grille to Bow Tie mesh and molded it to original outer frame
- Replaced bonnet catches with magnets; hood operates by an electric lift with a stainless strut
- Fabricated new engine bay with SS Commodore sidescoops and LEDs
- Fabricated radiator cover to house fan and accessories
- Made engine covers to house coil packs and induction hardware
- Completely skinned trunk area and molded in Kenwood speakers; access to brake boosters is in rear quarter and battery is on passenger side
- Replaced original springs to hold trunklid open with gas struts; used magnets for trunklid and access-panel catches
- Removed spare-tire compartment and built in a stainless toolbox to replace it
- Smoothed underbody and made covers in stainless steel where needed
- Filled decklid and removed soft-top catches
- Mounted computers with fuse boxes inside of decklid; custom panel conceals computers and wiring and holds MP3 player.

For even more information on the Kellys' Vette, visit www.ldikustoms.com.au.

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