Customized Corvettes come in all flavors-some sweet, some salty, and others with a whole new taste sensation. We realize that not everyone agrees with changing the recipe of an old favorite, as on the rare '63 split-window shown here with all the extras. But builder Bill Verboon has the street cred to know whether to restore or do a restomod. After all, he and wife Karen have owned and restored about 30 Corvettes over the years. (See our June '09 and July '00 issues for features on some of Verboon's other Vettes.)
Moreover, Verboon has served as an NCRS judge, and he well knows what it takes to do a 100-point project, having won several Top Flight and Duntov Awards. So he can visualize the potential for a Corvette when he sees one, like this '63 coupe he spotted about five years ago at a neighboring farm in central California. The owner had attempted a body-off restoration but was getting nowhere fast, so every time Verboon crossed his path, he'd ask in a friendly way, "When can I have my car?"
The farmer eventually relented for a reasonable price, since a bunch of mice had been building nests inside the car, and the cockpit was a real mess. (Incidentally, the correct term for a bunch of these rodents is "a mischief of mice," a truly apt expression, and in keeping with similar infestations we've seen on other project cars). The pile of wheat kernels stored for the winter in the passenger-side door was so thick, the window wouldn't open. But the body was otherwise in good shape, and the frame free of rust.
After transporting this basket case in two separate truckloads to his personal shop, what made Verboon take the restomod route, instead of a straight restoration? Two main reasons: the sorry condition of the car and its lack of any particular provenance. There were no historical documents with it, and nothing odd or unusual about it either, except for big-block halfshafts in the rearend, suggesting that it had been fitted with a larger engine at some point. Otherwise, the fender tags indicated that it originally had a 300hp engine (no longer with the car) with a four-speed. The color scheme was originally red on red (but painted twice-first orange, then maroon), and the equipment list showed no power brakes or steering-just power windows. Most of the mechanical and interior items were either missing or dilapidated.
"Restoring the car to original would have cost a fortune," Verboon points out. "I basically bought just a frame and body. And I really wanted to build a hot rod."
Given those circumstances and personal desires, it only made sense for Bill and Karen to express their creative impulses in a tasteful and innovative way. He began by taking a thorough inventory of all the parts, and then selling off some of them, such as the steering column and seats, at swap meets to help offset the cost of the buildup. After pressure-washing out all the mouse droppings, he shipped the body off to American Stripping, using plastic media shot at 37 psi to remove all the layers of old paint.
Meanwhile, Verboon sought out Newman Car Creations to give the '63 frame a fresher, '96 C4 suspension. It took several painstaking months to modify the frame, add mirror-silver aluminum powdercoating, and then hang a new cast-aluminum differential torque arm, along with struts, Baer disc brakes, and carbon-fiber halfshafts. Energy Suspension bushings took some of the slop out of the old setup as well.
The new chassis also required adding 21/2 inches of width to the rear of the body, to make room for 18-inch rubber. Newman provided some fender flares, which Verboon enlarged even further by splitting them lengthwise, and then tapering them back into the body for a smoother flow. While he was at it, he installed six sequential taillights for a finishing touch.
The intense, non-traditional hues on the body, applied by Verboon's son, Doug, are Millennium Yellow and Neon Blasberry.
"A lot of folks think the paint scheme is from the Blue Angels or school colors, but I just liked that combination," Bill notes.
For more-modern motive power, he dropped in a Z06 LS6, color-matched with the exterior paint and dressed by Street & Performance. The late-model mill is backed by a six-speed Tremec transmission. A Flaming River unit replaced the old steering column, with a Budnik carbon-fiber wheel to match the carbon trim in the cockpit. The latter includes Autometer gauges with yellow hashes, and a billet dash and glove compartment by Vanguard Tool. The leather-upholstered Wise Guy seats make for a more comfortable ride, since they have better tilt control and are DOT rated for a shoulder harness.
When all was said and done, what sort of reactions did the Verboons get to this dramatically different split-window? Besides taking home "Best of Show" trophies at several different Corvette events, Bill notes that, "Just about everybody who walks up to the car falls in love with it. I've been a perfectionist guy all my life; I do my farm the same way."
What about those few folks who question his radical restomod of a Corvette classic? "I tell them to make me an offer, and they can restore the car to original," he says. "And nobody's ever put their money where their mouth is." 'Nuff said.
Owners: Bill and Karen Verboon
Block: Stock LS6 aluminum from Street & Performance
Displacement: 350 ci
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Heads: Stock aluminum
Valves: Stock 2.00/1.55
Camshaft: Stock hydraulic roller (0.550/0.550-in lift, 204/218-deg duration, 117.5-deg LSA)
Rocker arms: Stock 1.7 ratio
Pistons: Stock hypereutectic
Crankshaft: Stock nodular iron
Rods: Stock powdered metal
Intake manifold: Stock composite
Throttle body: Stock 75mm
Fuel injectors: Stock
Fuel pump: LS6; Rock Valley stainless steel tank
Ignition: Stock LS6 coil-on-plug
Engine management: LS6 PCM with Street & Performance tuning
Cooling: Griffin dual-flow aluminum radiator with Billet City puller fan
Exhaust system: Custom long-tube headers (SLP and Gold Top Restorations) with Caps ceramic coating, stock big-block side pipes
Transmission: Tremec six-speed
Clutch: LS6 with GM clutch-management system (firewall modified)
Driveshaft: Denny's steel with carbon-fiber halfshafts
Front suspension: '96 Corvette with Vette Brakes and Products front adjustable monoleaf
Rear suspension: Newman Car Creations polished stock control arms, Energy Suspension bushings, stock monoleaf
Rearend: Stock Dana 44 with 3.90 ratio
Front brakes: Baer Eradispeed 13-in with two-piston calipers
Rear brakes: Baer 12-in single-piston
Wheels: Stock '04 Z06; 17x8.5-in front/9.5-in rear
Front tires: Michelin 265/50ZR17
Rear tires: 295/50ZR17
Fuel octane: 93
Weight: 3,400 lbs. with driver
Best E.T./MPH: 9.41 seconds at 87 mph (1/8-mile)
Current mileage: 680 since rebuild
Miles driven yearly: Approx. 100