1975 Chevrolet Corvette Can Am - Can Amnesia

Thanks to Jeff Plotkin's Handy Kandy, the Eckler's Can Am C3 lives on

Christopher R. Phillip Apr 5, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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This 1/25-scale model was crafted by a Hollywood set-and-scene painter and features all the custom details of the full-size version.

Jeff describes the resulting look as "mouthwatering." The lacquer paint still wins awards at shows more than 25 years after its initial spray. At the '06 AACA show in Staten Island, Jeff's Can Am beat out all other cars in the Modified class to win Best Paint in Modified. "Handy Kandy," as Jeff had taken to calling the car, saw only light show use during the '80s and '90s. It never retired; it merely rested more often as Jeff's family took priority in his life.

Fast-forward 23 years to December 2003. Jeff was ready to return to the show circuit, but he felt the Vette's stock L82 engine wasn't up to the standard set by the rest of the car. He contacted Scoggin-Dickey Chevrolet in Lubbock, Texas, for a wild small-block assembly to power his Can Am Corvette. Jeff chose Scoggin-Dickey because it was the country's largest seller of Chevrolet performance parts and had a machine shop dedicated to custom work on GM performance engines.

Tim Cooks at Scoggin-Dickey tells VETTE that Jeff ordered one of the shop's ZZ465 crate-motor assemblies. This iron-block engine features a 350ci displacement, a 9.6:1 compression ratio, and an output rating of 465 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. The heads are GM Performance Parts Quick Burn aluminum, while the hydraulic roller camshaft gives 0.575-/0.595-inch lift, 234-/242-degree duration, and a 112-degree lobe centerline. The Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap intake manifold is topped with a modified Barry Grant Demon rated at 750 cfm.

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This photo shows the interior of the Eckler's fiberglass-molding facility where the original Can Am kits took shape.

Apparently not satisfied with a "mere" 465 hp, Jeff turned his engine into what he calls a ZZ465++. He swapped out the GM pistons, crank, and rods for a Lunati assembly that was recommended by a friend. He tells us he also milled the heads slightly but says that to disclose any more information would compromise his motor's secrets. "After all," Jeff says with a laugh, "in Brooklyn, you never say how big your motor is."

Jeff did allow, however, that the compression of his ZZ465++ is 10.1.1, and its Lunati cam yields 0.592/0.613 lift and 237/244 duration. Engine exhaust exits via ceramic-coated Hooker headers mated to side-mounted Spiral Turbo Specialties baffles.

Jeff chose a March serpentine-belt conversion to replace the factory's V-belt pulley system. He loves the way the March setup, with its chromed water pump and alternator, complements the incredible paint and bodywork on his Can Am. "I like the polished pulleys," Jeff says. "They give the engine compartment a clean look from a show-car standpoint."

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A C3-specific Griffin aluminum radiator also lends show-car pizzazz to the engine bay and keeps the Can Am cool as ice on hot, temper-flaring New York summer days. A 7-quart Milodon oil pan with side kickouts (upgraded from the 5-quart stocker) gives Jeff a feeling of safety when he pushes the upper limits of the engine.

Jeff added a Keisler Engineering/Tremec five-speed conversion kit to replace the OEM Borg Warner T10 four-speed. "I kept reaching for a Fifth gear that wasn't there," he says. A Ram Super Duty clutch and a Hurst shifter round out the drivetrain. Inside the cockpit, a five-speed shift plate replaces the stock plate to provide a factory look.

The engine and transmission installations were performed by TJ's Automotive in Brooklyn. Jeff also had Auto Meter gauges installed for an "in-your-face" look, including a 5-inch tachometer on the steering column and 2 5/8-inch oil-pressure, coolant-temperature, and gas gauges on top of the tachometer.

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This silver Can Am Vette is more representative of what one might have seen back in the '70s. It lacks Handy Kandy's custom paint and exposed side pipes, among other details.

Jeff's next step was to have Farks Supercars, also in Brooklyn, install a six-point rollbar with door swingouts and a Simpson five-point harness. These gave the Can Am a track-ready look and provided fresh eye appeal for the '05 show season. Fat BFGoodrich Radial TAs, mounted on 15x8.5-inch front and 15x10-inch rear Western wheels, also contributed to the Can Am's classic race-car appearance.

But "classic" isn't the only look Jeff was after. He wanted something futuristic-or "radical," as his son Matthew put it. So, Jeff opted for a popular 21st century custom feature: Lambo-style doors. It took Matthew's online search skills to find Dream Car Customs, of Augusta, Georgia, which offered a suitable vertical-opening door kit for the C3. The installation was once again handled by Zaino Brothers.

After 30 years of modifications and customizations, Jeff now considers his Corvette the perfect show car. And what do you do when your Can Am is perfect? Why, you build a perfect replica-in 1/25 scale, of course.

In homage to the Can Am's gracious lines, Jeff enlisted the help of Pete Altamore, a Hollywood set-and-scene painter. Pete spent a year building a Can Am scale model, including all of the custom features of Jeff's full-size version. Look closely and you can see details such as the five-point harnesses, wood grain on the console, Auto Meter gauges, and a three-spoke steering wheel. We were not all that surprised, then, when Jeff told us the cost to make the custom model was around $8,000.


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