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.