For John and Cathy Wendel of Albany, Oregon, the Corvette love affair started in high school. John remembers when one of his father's employees bought a new '62 with a 340hp 327 and a four-speed. Instantly, he was hooked. Then, during his senior year, he borrowed a well-used '57 from a friend and used it to drive then-girlfriend Cathy home from school. Like many young Corvette enthusiasts, the pair fell in love with the sound, the performance, and the top-down motoring. Someday, they decided, they would get a Vette of their own.
John and Cathy were married shortly after graduating from high school. Life sped by until July 1999, when the couple realized they still didn't have that Corvette they'd always wanted. Having spent most of her life on a farm, Cathy raised Arabian horses for a hobby. But when the couple got serious about finding a nice C1 driver, she began thinking about trading in her horses for some horsepower of a different kind.
John began searching and soon found a nice-looking '60 in Washington state, with a noncorrect 283, a '65 Muncie four-speed, and some evidence of front-end repair. He bought the car and drove it home to surprise Cathy. He told her the car was hers, and that it was to be all of her birthday, Christmas, anniversary, and Valentine's Day gifts for the rest of her life. The couple drove the Vette for the rest of that summer before deciding to transform it into a stock-appearing '60 with the performance and driveability of a C5.
With encouragement from their friend John Campbell of Campbell Motorsports in Vancouver, Washington, John and Cathy began the transformation, a process they figured would consume around a year. Although the job ended up taking fully three times that, the result is the magazine-quality car you see here. The pair admit they couldn't have done it without the help of Campbell, their "project director" and information-resources guru.
To upgrade the '60, John and Cathy took it to Steve Heino of Modern Classics Auto Service in Lake Oswego, Oregon. A stock LS1/4L60E combo from a '98 Camaro was adapted into the frame, along with the computer and wiring harness from the low-mileage donor. Heino then added a Griffin aluminum radiator and a Flex-a-lite electric fan to keep the car cool, along with a complete Vintage Air HVAC unit to do the same for its occupants. For compatibility with the LS1 engine, he swapped in a new Rock Valley stainless-steel gas tank outfitted for fuel-injection feed and return lines.
Next, John took the car to Len Darnell of Time Machines Northwest in Vancouver. In place of the stock rearend, Darnell bolted in a narrowed 9-inch Ford with a limited-slip differential and Dutchman alloy axles. He also had the '98 Camaro driveshaft shortened to fit the '60 Vette. Up front, he added a Heidt's Superide II suspension with rack-and-pinion steering. Wilwood disc brakes with polished aluminum calipers stand in for the factory binders at all four corners. Darnell also installed a new set of rear leaf springs and moved them inboard of the chassis rails. The '60 sits on chrome American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich 235/45R17 (front) and 255/50R17 (rear) tires.
Next, the Wendels took the '60 to Linc Houfek of Lincoln's Auto Classics in Albany, Oregon. Houfek tubbed the rear wheelwells 3 inches and coated the entire underside of the body with spray-on bedliner as a protective coating against tire-thrown rocks. He then performed all the necessary fiberglass work before spraying House of Kolor Candy Apple Red over a gold base on the body and Pearl White in both side coves.
The Vette's interior features a complete set of Dakota Digital gauges in the stock openings, a leather-wrapped Corvette Central 15-inch steering wheel, and a Pioneer sound system featuring an AM/FM/CD unit in the dash and a 12-disc CD changer and amp in the trunk. The beautiful black-and-light-cream leather interior with black carpeting was sewn by Jon Lind Interiors in Eugene. Lind added a couple of custom treatments to the interior, including three chrome strips near the bottom of each door panel (to mimic the strips in the side coves) and the word "Corvette" sculpted in leather on the dash curve in front of the passenger handrail.
According to John, Cathy caught "show fever" shortly after the car was finished. When the couple entered it in the '04 ISCA Portland Roadster Show, they won awards in the Mild Sports and Outstanding Sports classes, along with Outstanding Paint and Outstanding Interior honors. Since then, Cathy has taken the Vette to shows all over Oregon and Washington, nabbing several Best of Show, Best Paint, and Best Corvette honors. In the summer of 2006, the Wendels traveled to the All Corvette Gathering in Reno, Nevada, and drove in the event's poker run. Who knew horse-trading could be so rewarding?