Do you remember your first performance car? Your first Corvette? Chances are, if it was a recent edition, you were fairly bowled over by its performance capabilities, even as a stocker. This is frequently the case with new automotive enthusiasts, who are often so stoked with their new toys, they can scarcely imagine any way of improving upon them. As always, though, there are exceptions to this stereotype. Maxwell Larson is one such exception.
Though the Minneapolis resident had never owned an American muscle car before, he'd been exposed to enough modified performance machines to know that stock simply wouldn't do. He had plans for the car he was to buy.
Stoplight-to-stoplight mayhem is fun for a while, but for Larson, the topsy-turvy backroads of western Wisconsin held far more allure. Though he was attracted to the performance and no-compromise conveniences of a C6, he also knew there were no late-model cars that could compare to the drop-jaw styling of an early shark. Also unlike many new Corvette buyers, he also had a clear objective in purchasing his first: It had to be a big-block '72 coupe.
It can be interesting to ask new Corvette owners how they came to own their particular cars. Usually, if they have a reply beyond a guffaw and a shrug, it will center around a certain powertrain package or color option. But if you ask Larson this question, his answer might surprise you with its poignancy. "It was the last year of the chrome-bumper cars, which have always been very appealing to me. Nineteen seventy-two was also the year I was born, so the car has a little bit of extra meaning to me for that reason, too." And a big-block? "Nothing sounds better than a big-block, especially in a Corvette."
So, when Larson decided the time had come to acquire his first Corvette, he was a man on a clear mission. It didn't take long before this simple ad caught his eye:
For sale: 1972 Corvette coupe, 454 LS5, TH-400 transmission, 73k miles
The car had been previously restored, but wasn't completely original. The correct engine and transmission were still in place, but the body had undergone a couple of color changes in its history. It was now a slightly odd, non-stock shade of blue, a hue ostensibly borrowed from a first-generation Camaro. Riding high on too-tall white-letter tires and OEM rally wheels, it was a solid, if not particularly exciting, prospect. Something about it just felt "off." Unimpressed, he decided to pass.
The consummate researcher, Larson's quest for the right car continued, but that peculiar blue '72 was always on the periphery. With many of his modifications planned before he even had a car to bolt them to, his quest for the right car had grown into an obsession. Then something odd happened. Slowly at first, then with gathering momentum, a vision was forming. A vision based on that blue '72. He called the seller back and made the deal.
Once home in his Minneapolis garage, Larson set about the first phase of his three-pronged plan. Phase one was to improve the car's handling while nailing the stance. Though he had never before performed any sort of performance work on a car, he dove right in. "I installed a complete Vette Brakes & Products front monospring conversion, which replaced the coil springs and A-arms. I also added a rear dual-mount composite monospring and Bilstein Sport shocks at all four corners." The resulting ability to adjust the ride height to perfection is a big part of what makes this car oh-so-right. And that's to say nothing of the total transformation made in the Vette's ride and handling. It was a great first step.