It took Brent Jackson five years to plan, build, and unveil this twin-turbocharged '65 Corvette, a car purposely designed to impress any and all who beheld it. The motivation behind the project reaches beyond Jackson's desire to cruise the streets of California with a one-off midyear. Its true purpose is to show off the capabilities of his custom shop, Brent Jackson's Customs (Green Valley, California). The Corvette is a calling card of sorts, as it embodies both the vision behind such creations and the in-house talents needed to make them happen. Jackson pulled out all the stops with this build, and the result is a Corvette like no other.
Building a custom car as a rolling advertisement for your company can be risky. You have to go above and beyond; otherwise the effort is wasted or, worse, counterproductive. In Jackson's case, he was able to tap into his previous area of expertise-the boating industry, where his company specialized in restoring flat-bottom boats and fiberglass. He spent an entire career working with 'glass, and his abilities came in handy with this '65.
"I started to customize each section the way I thought it should look. I also tried to give it a modern appearance," explains Jackson. The shop spent considerable time modifying the body to get it lower on the C4 Corvette chassis that was grafted under the skin. Ultimately, the front nose and rear pan were dropped 2 inches. Once those modifications were made, Jackson also had to modify the rockers and other little parts and pieces so the body looked proper. A custom front chin spoiler was designed and built to help with the lowered look and to channel air into the intercooler (more on that in a moment). Look closely and you'll notice plenty of subtle features, like the flush-mounted glass windows, shaved door handles, opened side vents, and filled cowl vents.
Under the modified '65 Vette body resides the aforementioned C4 chassis, which was acquired through Newman Car Creations. The company sells two kits that will convert '53 through '82 Corvettes to use C4-style suspension systems. The kit Jackson installed includes a five-link IRS rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and many other features to bring the '65 up to modern handling standards. Along with the C4 suspension components (all of which fit on the Newman chassis), Jackson upgraded to HAL adjustable shocks, adjustable sway bars, and better bushings. The rearend was also narrowed 3 inches in order to fit the massive Michelin PS2 345/30-19 rear meats. These were mounted on Intro GT 19x11.5-inch wheels, while the front Intro GTs check in at 18x9 and are wrapped in 245/40-18 PS2 rubber.
With the body and chassis squared away, it was time to add some grunt under the hood. For that task Jackson showed up at Nelson Racing Engines (Chatsworth, California), a shop whose reputation for big horsepower and custom looks has made it a popular choice for custom-car builders. Proprietor and mastermind behind the NRE brand, Tom Nelson, prescribed the company's popular NRE-355, from its Daily Driver Series. "I've always loved turbo motors for the visual appeal [and their] massive torque and driveability," says Jackson.
The NRE-355 boasts 800 hp and 790 lb-ft of torque while sipping 91-octane pump gas. Its peak power comes at a mild 6,000 rpm, while the torque is in full swing by 3,900 rpm. The shop started with a Dart block and added a GM steel crankshaft, Callies 4340 forged connecting rods, custom JE pistons, and Brodix Track 1 cylinder heads. Nelson designed the hydraulic roller camshaft to idle smoothly at 800 rpm and have mild street manners-until you lay into the throttle with extreme force. Once the 355ci bullet goes into WOT, the two Turbonetics 60mm turbochargers sing to the tune of 14 psi, and the Vette gets going in a hurry. Nelson tuned the combo for max power and street worthiness using an Electromotive EFI system.
Once the engine was removed from the dyno at NRE, it was brought back to Jackson's shop, where he and his sons spent a considerable amount of time fitting it in the engine bay. "We dropped the engine in the car, and then we got to the hardest part of the entire build-building the headers, positioning the turbos, fitting the intercooler, and mounting the wastegates in a way so that we could keep the stock fenderwells," he says.
The goal was to maintain the engine compartment, so the driver and passenger wouldn't hear gravel and debris as the Vette prowled the California roadways. Jackson tells us it took him and his two sons, Andrew and David, several days just to fit the piping and find the proper location for the turbo equipment in the tight engine compartment. Finishing off the wild combination are 4-inch side pipes that fit the Vette theme perfectly. The engine is backed by a Tremec T-56 Viper transmission and a Centerforce clutch, while a custom aluminum driveshaft spins a set of 4.11 gears in the Dana 44 rear.
The final piece to the puzzle was the interior, and, as with the rest of the vehicle, stock just wasn't acceptable. While the cabin treatment isn't over the top, Jackson's sons did force him to install a wild sound system. A Kenwood touchscreen forms the main part of the system, while music is channeled through a custom 3,000-watt Kicker stereo with dual subwoofers. Two Optima batteries and a Powermaster 160-amp alternator are required to keep the sound system pumping and to run the EFI fuel pump and PCM. Jackson built a new dashboard, door panels, and center console to help set off the interior. The driver and passenger get comfortable in Sparco racing seats with black leather and red stitching by Roman Upholstery (Auburn, California).
The world of custom-car building is more competitive than ever, but Brent Jackson has announced his arrival in a big way with this '65 Corvette. And a bonus to its calling-card effect is that Jackson gets to cruise the 800hp Vette around Southern California and claim he's "just working."