Custom 1980 Corvette - Center Of Attention

Steve Mack's '80 Custom May Be The Best-Looking C3 We've Never Seen

Christopher R. Phillip Sep 14, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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Most people like their car to be the center of attention. But on the continent of Australia, there dwells a chameleonic Corvette that likes to stand out loudly during the day while making itself virtually invisible at night.

"RAD80" is the personal car of Steve Mack, the president of the Australian Corvette Association (ACA). Says Mack, "I started the ACA so that we could have a group of like-minded people without the politics or hierarchy of a typical club. We have bona fide Gold Class memberships [but] also welcome people to join our free public forum. [We] have over a thousand members, both in Australia and worldwide."

Given his near-constant exposure to Australia's finest Corvettes, it's not surprising that Mack was familiar with our feature car long before he owned it. Still, it's not as if the '80 T-top coupe made an immediate impression. "When I first 'saw' this car, I actually didn't see it," Mack tells us. "We met at night, about three years ago on a club run. Due to the stealth nature of its paint job, it was as if the car was invisible."

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Mack refers to the C3's unique tint formulation that was conceived and sprayed by Andy Binney of Prestige Marine. The formula incorporates a black-and-silver base that is sprayed with a translucent violet hue before being staged with light-dependent ghost flames and, finally, treated to 15 coats of clear. Mack says the paint scheme renders the Vette all but imperceptible in low-light conditions, a trait that would flummox him once again in a subsequent encounter.

"One night, we were waiting for the owners of the car to meet us at a predetermined spot," says Mack. "After half an hour of waiting, they rang us and told us that they'd been sitting across the road, watching us for all that time. It was only then, with carefully trained eyes, that we saw the Vette sitting directly across the street, blending in perfectly with the darkness."

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Mack was intrigued by the C3, but he had to wait two-and-a-half years before the Vette became available. Even then, he felt ambivalent about taking ownership. "I already had an '85 C4 that was my pride and joy, so I couldn't justify buying a second Corvette to look after," he says. "So I watched with envy when the owners placed a For Sale sign on the car.

"After a few weeks, I received a call from the owners telling me they were going to put the C3 in the newspaper for considerably less money than I expected. Now the price simply was too good for me not to buy it, as I knew I'd kick my own ass for the rest of my life if I didn't."

With the Vette came a very interesting history. "It is a true blood, sweat, and tears car," says Mack. "It's an ex-California driver which found itself at Corvette Queensland as a wreck. It was bought by Nigel and Shandi Williams, who restored it with extensive modifications, including a one-piece, custom-built rear body shell from the doors backwards. [It] also incorporates a rear spoiler with C4 side marker lights and a one-off hood blending L88 features with custom design cues of unknown inspiration."

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This Vette also features a conversion to right-hand drive, using a Lexus steering column (!) and a highly modified Ford rack-and-pinion setup that gives three turns lock-to-lock. Mack feels the owner-performed conversion rivals that of Australia's most prestigious RHD specialty shops. "The car's owner decided that he could do at least as good a job as any effort he'd seen. It is truly a unique and fabulous conversion."

Underneath the hood is an L82 350, enlarged to 383 ci with a 4.00 bore and a 3.80 stroke.

A Holley 750 cfm with vacuum secondaries dumps fuel through an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap intake manifold, while a stock GM HEI distributor sends spark through 9mm wires made by Queensland Ignition. A Shotgun dual intake scoop pushes air into the Holley pumper.

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Other engine-bay mods include aircraft-grade stainless steel hoses (supplied by Scott Stirling of Auto Power Parts), an aluminum radiator, twin 14-inch Davis Craig electric fans, and aluminum engine-compartment shrouds made by KV's Resto and Race.

Engine power is converted to usable torque via a G.M.F. Automatics 700-R4 with beefed-up race internals, a shift kit, and a high-stall, electronic lock-up converter. The trans is attached to a B&M Hammer shifter and braced with a custom crossmember. A custom, shortened driveshaft was built to accommodate the longer 700-R4 in the space where a TH350 previously resided.

This Vette's independent suspension boasts Koni shocks at each corner, while the rearend is a stock Dana 44 housing 3.54 gears and a Posi unit. The car rides on classic, American Racing Torq-Thrust II polished alloys wrapped in 15-inch BFG Radial T/A rubber. Corvette rotors with four-piston calipers provide braking front and rear.

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Mack tells VETTE that the C3's interior itself is a work of grand artistic merit. A closer look bears this out, revealing modified door trims with flamed inlays, reupholstered seats in color-matched BMW suede, and an Italian-leather-wrapped steering wheel with a U.S. silver-dollar horn button. The interior was designed and installed by Nigel Williams, with help from Stuart Witson of All Car Interiors. The custom, one-off dash took Williams six tries before he achieved IP perfection.

The gauges include Ford analog meters with a 300-kph VDO speedometer and are backed by a custom wiring harness. The sound system comprises a Kenwood 8-speaker surround system with a 500-watt amp. Subwoofers are housed in a custom fiberglass enclosure that incorporates a one-piece storage-bin cover.

Although the lion's share of the modifications was overseen by the Vette's previous owner, Nigel Williams, Mack did add a few final touches to the car to make it his own. For example, he proudly showed us how he graced the classic C3 with '07 C6 emblems and rear lettering sourced from Don MacLeod of Maxx Wrench.

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According to Mack, the car has significance beyond its considerable aesthetic and mechanical attributes: "When I was handed the keys, the only thing that was asked of me was that I not remove the small plaque behind the B&M shifter. It was a dedication to Rob McAllister, better known as 'Mr. Corvette,' who was fundamental in growing the Corvette fraternity in Southeast Queensland and beyond." The plaque reads: "In loving memory-Rob McAllister." It is a fitting tribute to a man Mack says he never met.

According to its previous owner, this C3 was built "to drive, and not as a show pony." Nevertheless, the car won Best Heavily Modified C3 when shown at a Corvette concours event in Queensland, and it was even displayed briefly at the Brisbane International Auto Show. "It's quite hard to improve upon near perfection," its current steward says.

Undoubtedly, this Vette loves to be admired most when in rapid forward motion. But even at idle, it has had no problem remaining the center of attention-except at night, of course.

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