After bringing their '60 Corvette to show-quality completion ("Trading Horses for Horsepower," Dec. '08), John and Cathy Wendel were understandably reluctant to drive the car on the perpetually rain-soaked roads around their home in Oregon. But rather than buying a typical four-door commuter capsule, they decided to build another vintage Vette.
In March of 2004, John saw an ad for a '62 in Corvette Trader. The car was in Tacoma, Washington, and had been in storage for 20 years. It came complete with a First Place Trophy for the Mild Sports category at the '79 Seattle Auto-Rama. Based on the show photos in the trunk, the car appeared to be unchanged since then. It still had the pearl-white paint with lightly faded orange pinstriping and the ever-popular red tuck-and-roll interior. The '69 327ci engine had fuelie heads, a hotter cam, higher-compression pistons, and headers, and it was mated to a later Turbo-350 trans with a B&M shifter. It wasn't a cherry, but it was exactly what the Wendels were looking for-a driver with some character. They bought the car and set out to make it their own.
John soon found a private owner with a new 300hp GM crate motor that would work perfectly for the '62. After purchasing the engine, he headed over to Modern Classics Auto Service in Lake Oswego, Oregon, to get the help of Steve Heino, who did a lot of work on the Wendels' '60 show car. John's plan was to upgrade the '62 chassis and make the car into a dependable driver. Along with the fresh crate engine, Heino installed a GM 700-R4 trans with a Lokar shifter, a Griffin aluminum radiator, and a March serpentine-belt system.
John then took the Vette over to the suspension experts at Jim Meyer Racing Products, where it received a full IFS with coilover shocks, 11-inch GM disc brakes, and power rack-and-pinion steering. To make better use of the car's newfound handling capabilities, 17x7-inch American Torq-Thrust II wheels and BFG rubber were added at all four corners. The rearend remains stock, right down to the original drum brakes.
Back at Heino's shop, a full set of Auto Meter gauges were installed in the stock dash holes. The steering wheel that came with the car-a wood-rimmed early Nardi-was adjudged sufficiently stylish and left in place. The upholstery was similarly untouched, but John did install a Custom Auto Sound radio-remote stereo system with a 10-CD changer and amp in the trunk. A Classic Auto Air A/C unit with heat rounds out the interior mods, making for a cabin that is as comfy as it is comely.
After 15 months of work, the '62 was back on the street, looking and driving better than ever. The Wendels now have a dependable driver to stand in for their show-ready '60 when necessary, making for a pristine pair of C1s that any Vette enthusiast would envy.