1969 Chevrolet Corvette - Radically Red

Jimmy Grasso's Wild '69 Isn't Built To Satisfy Purists

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There are two ways to build a Corvette. One is to restore it to factory original, and the other is to build it the way you want it without (much) regard for originality.

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A look at Jimmy Grasso's '69 Stingray coupe tells you he didn't go the restoration route. "Corvette people said, 'Oh God, he's not going to do that to this car,'" says Grasso from his Baltimore, Maryland, home.

"That" started when he found the shark several years ago, in what's best described as "ragged" condition. "It was in a field, with grass growing all up along the sides," Grasso recalls. "I swapped a Harley-Davidson 1200 SuperGlide even up for it."

When he got it home, he decided that the original 427 under the hood wasn't going to power it any longer. Nor would any other Mark IV big-block. "I never liked big-blocks-I like my engine turning around a lot more times," Grasso says. "So, I put a small-block in it and I drove it." That was his first makeover on this car, with a second one following a few years later.

That second makeover happened after the urge for more power set in. As Grasso puts it, "I wanted something a little radical, something to stand out beyond everything, and that's what I made."

Instead of reverting to a 427-inch fat-block, or going with modern-tech LS-engine power, he went in another direction-to a 432-cube aluminum V-8 using a Brodix block and heads. Why the Brodix setup? "Because I wanted an all-aluminum block and heads," Grasso explains. "A buddy of mine, Bob Mach, builds Pro Mods, I told him that I was either going to go with a turbo or with nitrous."

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Grasso and Mach, along with friends Jim Hurley and John Ashmore, built the Brodix-based engine to where it puts out 780 horsepower on the dyno, thanks to an aluminum high-rise intake topped by a huge Holley Dominator, a Stef's dry-sump oiling system, Hooker headers and "Show Tubes" side pipes, and a 500-squirt Nitrous Oxide Systems (N.O.S.) nitrous-injection system. Backing it is a built Turbo-350 filled with an 8-inch Treemaster converter, linked to a modified C3 rearend with a Strange center section, Mark Williams axles, and 4.11 gears.

Big power deserves a chassis that can handle it while preserving the shark's road manners, so Grasso added custom chassis hardware to the stock '69 frame. In front is a Scott's Hot Rods setup with rack-and-pinion steering replacing the ancient Saginaw recirculating-ball gear; a custom-fabbed four-link suspension with Koni coilovers stands in for the stock bits in the rear. Wilwood discs at all four corners deliver the stopping power this Vette needs, while the fenderwells are filled with custom Budnik billet rims shod with "big and little" Mickey Thompsons.

Inside, the C3's cabin combines style and function, with a full rollcage and GSport five-point safety harnesses augmented by a Flaming River steering column, Dakota Digital gauges, an Alpine sound system, and leather upholstery by Ted's Trim Shop.

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But it's the exterior where Grasso's '69 really shines. The original body was shaved of all nameplates and door handles, front and rear spoilers were molded on, and the headlights were moved behind the grille and their former openings filled. Then, a C3 L88 hood was modified with a Pro Stock scoop, and the body was treated to an eye-grabbing Candy Apple Red finish by Genco's in Joppa, Maryland. "Once the sun hits that, it's just awesome," says Grasso of his C3's exterior color. Accenting that glowing-like-a-lit-taillight color is a set of LED "69" taillights, while a set of Lamborghini-style "scissor" door hinges also add to the Vette's radical-ness.

All well and good you say-but how does it perform? "It's awesome! It turns people's heads, and they go, 'Wow! What is that?'" says Grasso of his '69's performance. That includes more than a few sub-10-second runs on the quarter-mile, with a best of 9.309 seconds at 137 mph. Yet the car is fully streetable. "Anything that I want to do with it, I can do with it," Grasso adds. "The only problem is, I burn CAM2 [racing gasoline], so I've got to pay attention to the fuel." To a point, that is-a custom-made 22-gallon fuel tank is another of the Shark's upgrades.

Maybe you've got a vintage Corvette hidden somewhere, or you know of one, but you don't quite know how you're going to build it. What's Grasso's advice? "Build it the way you want it. That's the whole thing. Do it your way, and it'll come out nice."

Spec Sheet: '69 Coupe

Owner: Jimmy Grasso; Baltimore, Maryland
Block: Brodix aluminum SBC
Displacement: 432 ci
Compression ratio: "Secret"
Heads: Brodix aluminum
Valves: "Secret"
Camshaft: "Secret"
Rocker arms: "Secret"
Pistons: "Secret"
Crankshaft: "Secret"
Rods: "Secret"
Intake manifold: Aluminum high-rise
Carburetor: Holley 1480 Dominator four-barrel
Fuel pump: "Secret"
Ignition: MSD
Power adder: Nitrous Oxide Systems (N.O.S.) 500-squirt fogger system
Exhaust system: Hooker headers and "Show Tubes" side pipes
Transmission: HD Turbo-350 with Cheetah SCS shifter
Torque converter: 8-inch Treemaster
Driveshaft: Steel
Front suspension: Scott's Hot Rods custom
Rear suspension: Custom four-link with Koni coilover shocks
Rearend: Modified '69 Stingray with Mark Williams axles; Strange Engineering center section with 4.11:1 gears
Brakes: Wilwood discs, front and rear
Wheels: Budnik custom billet aluminum (18x7-in front, 20x15-in rear)
Front tires: Mickey Thompson 800R18
Rear tires: Mickey Thompson 31x18
Fuel octane: 110
Weight: 2,980 lbs. with driver
Best ET/MPH: 9.809 seconds at 137 mph
Miles driven annually: 5,000

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