1963 Chevrolet Corvette - Lickety Split

This LS7 Split-Window Blends Timeless Looks With Peerless Performance

Christopher R. Phillip Feb 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0902_01_z 1963_chevrolet_corvette Passenger_side_view 1/13

Ask a sampling of Corvette cognoscenti what modern-day mod they'd find most rewarding on a midyear coupe, and they're likely to answer you with three alphanumeric characters: L-S-7. And why not? After all, mating the world-class performance of the big-cube LS to, say, the timeless lines of a '63 split-window would be a veritable dream come true.

That's what Long Island Collector Car Garage (LICCG) in Hauppauge, New York, aimed to do for a customer with his own unique vision of the ultimate Cor-vette supercar. LICCG is a private "country club" for car enthusiasts, and its facility offers 20,000 square feet of museum storage, a club room, mechanics' lifts, and exclusive high-end restorations. "We recently have become known for our midyear Corvette restomods, being one of the few restoration shops on the East Coast with this unique specialty," company team leader Peter Spinella says.

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LICCG's restorations are unique in that the company performs only one resto at a time, with three team members devoting all their efforts to a single customer vehicle. "I'm the custom carbuilder, Ruben Rodriguez is our master fabricator, and Edgar Leon is our paint-and-body specialist," Spinella says. "Combined, we have 65 years of car-building experience. We prepare for each project thoroughly, so lead times [for parts and supplies] are minimized. Almost all of our projects are completed in six months or less, and that includes full body-off restorations."

So how did this sensual split-window supercar come about? In December 2007, LICCG was approached by a Kuwaiti businessman who had bought an Ermine White '63 coupe for only $25,000. It was in good condition, but its originality had been irrevocably compromised with a nonoriginal motor. Spinella suggested the car be converted into a custom classic with the guts of a modern Z06.

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The customer already had an idea for the chassis: a C4 frame-manufactured by Street Shop Inc. in Athens, Alabama-that bolts up to any midyear Corvette. According to Street Shop's owner Tray Walden, "We built a completely new bolt-on custom chassis using mandrel-formed 4x2x0.120-inch wall tubing. We then installed C4 control arms, Aldan billet-aluminum coilovers, Wilwood calipers, drilled-and-slotted Street Shop rotors, and a hydromechanical parking brake. The brake lines are custom CNC stainless steel from the master cylinder to the rear wheels.

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"For steering, we installed a power rack-and-pinion unit and custom Addco sway bars that allow up to a 9 1/2-inch rear tire on a stock body. The fuel system consists of a Rock Valley Street Rods stainless-steel custom tank, a 255-lph in-tank electric pump, and custom-made stainless lines with GM-style push-lock connectors. When we were done, we had a complete rolling chassis with suspension, drivetrain, and fuel system, and the body was ready to be dropped back on."

Street Shop also provided a GM Performance Parts LS7 crate engine for the car. While the 427-cube motor remains internally stock, Walden did add a custom aluminum intake tube, a 90mm FAST drive-by-wire throttle body, a Street Shop custom pulley setup, and a Classic Motorsports Group LS bellhousing. A mechanically activated GM LS7 clutch, a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed trans, and a Dana 44 diff with 3.45 gears push the power to the pavement.

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The project took the three men four months of full-time work to complete, for a combined total of 2,000 hours of labor. Spinella and Rodriguez began by disassembling the Sting Ray and preparing it for mediablasting. Then, Rodriguez and Leon stripped the body with a baking-soda material, allowing the Ray's factory fiberglass to show through. The men discovered the body was in great shape, with the exception of a hole in the driver-side front fender. The metal door frames, however, were rotted. Body repair and fabrication ensued, and new frames were fabricated by hand. The original body seams were ground and filled with a marine epoxy to prevent bleed through, and the body itself was modified to accept a '67 Sting Ray hood and stand.

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