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1962 Chevrolet Corvette - Change Of Plans

Dennis Ambrose's Little Red '62 Goes From Top Flight To Topless Flier

Isaac Mion Nov 6, 2010
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In the early '80s, Prince released an infectious groove dripping with sexual metaphors. You remember the catchy chorus:

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Little red Corvette, Baby you're much too fast Since the C4s of the '80s weren't so small, we can only assume the song referred to a version from the '60s, not unlike the one you see before you. While the Corvettes from that era were no slouches, with their lighter curb weights, it's doubtful that anyone worth his or her lug nuts would call them "too fast."

Dennis Ambrose's resto-modded '62 Vette might not be too fast, either, but with a Corvette Corrections chassis and a built 383 stroker under its skin, it's safe to say that this little red Corvette could get away from you a lot easier than the one Prince was probably riding in. (Then again, the Purple One may not be the best candidate for manhandling a high-performance car.)

Ambrose, on the other hand, has been building cars since the '60s. While the long-hairs were out marching around, holding peace signs, he was putting an Olds 88 engine into a '32 Ford pickup. His other projects include a '56 Corvette and a '69 Camaro. Later, he completed a body-off restoration of a '61 Vette.

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"That gave me the inspiration to build another one," says Ambrose. "So when I retired, I began searching for another solid-axle."

Ambrose scoured the Internet classifieds for a few months before he came across a decent example in Michigan. A couple of days later, the car was on its way to his house.

When Ambrose took delivery of the car, it had large cracks in the front bumper that had been repaired with Bondo; other than that, the Vette was in fairly good shape. While it came finished in the primer that was applied during the stripping process, it revealed itself to be Roman Red when Ambrose found that term scrawled behind the passenger compartment. He also found the number 461-Chevy's code for red-in four different areas on the body. (Interestingly, it's also the police code for burglary with explosives.)

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"I originally wanted to restore it to NCRS Top Flight standards," says Ambrose. "However, after lifting the body off, I discovered that part of the frame had been damaged. Because I would have had to replace the frame, I reconsidered the original plan and decided to build the car into a Vette Rod that would stand out at car shows while still retaining the original look of a '62 Corvette."

To deal with the aforementioned cracks in the front, Ambrose replaced the entire lower center nose panel. Then he got eight of his buddies to lift the body off, after which he finished the body stripping and dropped in a Super T-10 tranny just days before the engine arrived. The 383 stroker is estimated to make 450 horsepower, thanks to various high-end accoutrements such as Keith Black pistons, stainless-steel roller rockers, and a Professional Products Crosswind intake.

"I chose a new frame from Corvette Connection that would accept a C4 Dana rearend, C4 disc brakes, and a Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering system," Ambrose says. "And the 450hp engine allows the car to drive in the freeway's fast lane, as any Corvette should."

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As you can see from the accompanying images, Ambrose did exactly that for our photo shoot. He almost lost his hat.

After the frame arrived, Ambrose mounted the engine, completed the chassis, and had the car painted (which, by the way, was the only thing not done in his garage). He then called up the same eight fellas who had lifted off the body and had them put it back on, only this time he helped.

Next, they installed the dash, hooked up the wiring harness, and, VROOM, started up the engine. Actually, it was more like RRRRAAAAAAARRRRRR, as the spent gasses traveled through the Sanderson headers and out the tailpipes.

"The first engine start-up was extremely loud," says Ambrose. "So I added two 14-inch MagnaFlow oval mufflers to keep the sound in check and keep the neighbors happy."

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Once the exhaust setup was squared away, Ambrose installed Monroe Sensatrac shocks onto the C4 front and rear. With the legs planted firmly in place, the feet finally found their footing: A set of 18x8-inch Boyd Coddington wheels are wrapped in 225/45-18 and 245/45-18 meats fore and aft.

At some point all this modified madness has to come to a stop, just like the article about it does. While the former is done with C4 Corvette discs and an ABS power booster, the latter is usually accomplished with a summarizing paragraph.

Like a race-car driver hurtling through a corner, Dennis Ambrose went in slow with plans for a classic restoration and came out fast with a speedy little red Corvette. Much too fast? We tend to think not. After all, when dealing with America's premier sports car, is there really ever such a thing?



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