What color do you dream in? Is it Marlboro Maroon, Tuxedo Black, Cortez Silver, or even Daytona Sunset Orange? Sure, the first Corvettes were only offered in Polo White, but from its second model year forward, the Vette and its ever-expanding roster of color choices have been the envy of automotive aesthetes the world over.
According to a quick tally by the abacus-trained VETTE editorial team, a total of 434 unique, regular-production paint colors have been offered on the Corvette during the marque's 57-year history. You'd think that would be more than enough hues to satisfy even the choosiest Corvette color connoisseurs.
So what would you say if we told you we found one persnickety Vette owner who dreams in a color-Tartan Turquoise-that was never offered on the car, and who was so obsessed with that color that he stripped down an award-winning C3 just to reinvent it in his favorite shade?
"I fell in love with the body style of the '77 Corvette the first time I saw it," Attila "Til" Balogh, a painting and decorating teacher in Albion Park Rail, New South Wales, Australia, says. "When I was 49 years old, I finally got mine."
Chevrolet produced 49,213 Corvettes in 1977, all of them coupes. The base model came with an L48 180hp engine, a four-speed manual trans, T-tops, and a leather or cloth-and-leather interior. It retailed for $8,647. An optional L82 engine boosted output to a more respectable 210 horses and set buyers back an additional $495.
Balogh found his C3 on the island continent in 2002 and instantly fell in love with it. After all, it was everything he remembered about that first '77 Corvette he had seen 25 years earlier. Although he didn't know any details of the car's history in America, he was able to decipher that it was originally equipped with an L82 engine, a Turbo-400 automatic, a 3.08 rear-gear ratio, and a black-on-black color scheme. He also learned the car was something of a rarity, being one of just 7,269 Vettes ordered with the FE7 Gymkhana suspension that year.
Balogh realized he was getting a bargain and purchased the C3 without a moment's hesitation. According to him, his decision to buy was made easier by the knowledge that the car's previous owner had already inves-ted a large amount of capital in it, as evidenced by its perfect paint, recently rebuilt engine, and professionally completed, government-mandated conversion to righthand drive.
Further acquainting himself with the Corvette, Balogh confirmed the original L82 engine was still nestled between the framerails. Although he was unable to find the exact specifications of its rebuild, he was told that the factory heads had been ported and polished, and a hydraulic cam and valvetrain had been installed.
Balogh's first step after purchase, then, was to treat the engine to some power mods. He swapped the factory cast-iron intake for a Professional Products Cyclone, ditched the stock four-barrel carb for a Holley Avenger 650, and outfitted the ignition system with an Accel HEI distributor, Champion 8mm wires, and NGK BP5S plugs. Finally, he eliminated the stock exhaust manifolds in favor of CRS Conversions chrome headers routed to a 21/4-inch dual exhaust system.
Pleased with the car's better-than-stock performance, Balogh moved on to his next task: making the engine shine as if lighted with a 10 million candlepower bulb. He started by installing chrome replacements for the alternator, master cylinder cover, air-filter cover, fuel lines, radiator, and cap/recovery bottle. As if that wasn't enough to make curious onlookers scramble for their shades, he dressed out the engine bay with even more brightwork, including hand-fabricated aluminum around the firewall, distributor, and radiator; stainless A-arm boots; steel-braided hoses; and a Gilmer serpentine-belt system to drive the water pump, alternator, and harmonic balancer.
Along the way, Balogh also added vacuum and tachometer gauges to the engine compartment. "I put them there because it makes it easier when I'm doing tuning adjustments," he says.
Balogh tells us he's left his Corvette's brakes and suspension alone, at least for the time being. The FE7 Gymkhana system still features all its original-spec hardware, from the stiffer, seven-leaf rear spring and matching shocks to the beefier front and rear stabilizer bars with heavy-duty rubber mounting hardware. The brakes, meanwhile, employ four-piston calipers clamping 11.75-inch steel rotors, just like when they left the factory.
One thing Balogh did opt to accessorize was the Vette's wheel-and-tire combo. The original YJ8 aluminum rims and QRZ "White Lettered Steel Belted Tires" were replaced with Hurricane 15x8-inch alloys wrapped in Bridgestone 235/60-15 front and Sumitomo 255/60-15 rear rubber.
Balogh then focused his talents on the interior, replacing the factory buckets with Autotechnic high-back leather thrones, swapping the stock Chevy steering wheel for a Formula One unit, installing new carpet and dash upholstery, and augmenting the factory instrumentation with an amperage gauge.
In the first four years of Vette ownership, Balogh earned a reputation for having a top-notch trophy-puller at Australia's most prestigious car shows, winning Second Place at the Norwest Homemaker Collection Show (2003), First Place at Corvettes at Fox (2004), and Runner-Up in the C3 Class at Bella Vista (2005).
By 2007, Balogh was beginning to dream in color. Although his Corvette's black paint was still presentable, it was beginning to show stress cracks around the rear window and front fenders. He already knew what he wanted to use as a replacement. "I could just imagine how the Vette would look in Tartan Turquoise," he says. "The color comes from a '64 EH Holden [in the U.S., Chevrolet Truck/GMC offered Tartan Turquoise for one year only, in 1958], and over the many years of customizing and rebuilding many of the vehicles I've owned, I've managed no fewer than five resprays using it."
Working on the project by himself, Balogh needed months of prep work to get the Vette ready for its vivid new complexion. Stripping, blocking, sanding, filling, and priming slowly gave way to a straight, wave-free, ready-to-paint body. He already knew the brand, too: Spartan SuperCryl Acrylic Lacquer, which he carefully applied to the Corvette's body in multiple coats. After allowing the paint to dry, he then hand-rubbed it to a brilliant, awe-inspiring shine.
After its completion, Balogh's retro-colored C3 won two Second Place awards at the Albion Park Show in 2008-one in the Best Muscle Car class, and the other in Best Coupe. He hopes his successes on the car show circuit will continue.
"I absolutely love my Vette . . . it's my passion and hobby," he says. "I drive it as much as possible, mainly on weekends and holidays, and I'm always thinking up new ideas as to what I can do to make it even better. The one thing I won't change, however, is its Tartan Turquoise color. I love it that much. Indeed, it really is a dream come true."