1964 Chevrolet Corvette - Magnum Opus

Robby Hooper's Midyear Masterpiece Does More Than Just Put Up Big Numbers

Eric Orban Jun 30, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Although the blown-EFI combo is estimated to be good for more than 1,000 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, Hooper built the car primarily for cruising and shows, so he has not yet taken it down the dragstrip.

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Such bestial force necessitates a significantly beefed-up drivetrain, and this Vette's gear is up to the task. A Turbo-400 transmission with a reverse manual valve body transfers the power rearward. It's outfitted with a Turbo Action 3,000-rpm-stall torque converter with balloon plates and shifted with a TCI cheater shifter. A 3-inch steel driveshaft connects it to a Ford 9-inch rearend with a 4.56 spool center section to put the power to the ground.

The staff at Corvette Masters was tasked with not just setting up this Corvette to go fast in a straight line, but also making it usable for street driving. To achieve this goal, the chassis features Strange struts up front as well as a custom four-link rear suspension. Billet Specialties wheels are wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires at all four corners, with notably massive 33-inch meats out back. Wilwood front and rear disc brakes help rein in the fun on the street, and steering is controlled with a rack-and-pinion system, implausibly sourced from a Ford Pinto.

With a background in custom vans and hot rods, Hooper has made strides to complement the attention-grabbing exterior with an equally distinctive cockpit. A pair of sport buckets from a C5 Corvette position the occupants behind a custom billet dashboard outfitted with Auto Meter Cobalt gauges. Other handmade components include the center console, the waterfall between the seats, and the Corvette-flag door panels. The audio system includes a Dual combination CD/DVD/Navigation head unit with JL Audio amplifiers and a subwoofer for added presence. A Billet Specialties steering wheel, silver carpeting, and a rollcage are among other touches that add flair to the interior. According to Hooper, this unique interior was hurriedly assembled in-house at Corvette Masters before the Woodward Dream Cruise for a mere $200, excluding the accessories.

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The definition of what constitutes a "streetable" car is often stretched to include all manner of vehicles. However, this C2 is exceptional for its state of modification in that its street time is not limited to the occasional trip to and from the trailer. "This is a street car, not a piece of automotive jewelry," explains Hooper.

Apart from the need to shift manually, Hooper assures us that the Vette is easy to drive on public roads, and that he does so regularly. "I drive it to cruises to be with other Corvette and musclecar people, and to see the young kids' looks and to let them know to never stop dreaming. They, too, can build and drive their dreams."

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Hooper claims that, if he can keep his foot out of the throttle, his midyear can achieve fuel economy as high as 8 mpg. He even has plans to convert his current setup to run on pump gas to be even more street-friendly.

Hooper and a group of self-proclaimed "hoodlums" with similarly extravagant machines cruise the car shows and streets of Orlando on Saturday nights. Without going into the details, he will concede that someone among this group may have been cited for "lifting his tires" in view of a law-enforcement officer. As he is not out to win trophies, he credits friends in this group like Charlie Wambold, Frank, Rob, Bob, and TJ with helping to keep the car viable and the hobby enjoyable. He also thanks his wife, Michelle, for her love and support, and his father, for supporting his dreams.

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Robby Hooper's '64 Corvette surpasses others not just because of its performance and appearance, but also because of the spirit in which it was built. Above all, the car is the product of a passionate Corvette devotee who drives and enjoys it, making it a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

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