Under the hood, the LS2 looks like it belonged there all along, though it wasn't Semel's first choice for an engine. "I had the LS1 from the donor '00 Vette, and I was looking at the LS2 crate engine at the time," he recalls. "So I sold off the LS1 and used the LS2." For the exhaust, he went with BBK ceramic-coated headers, while Smith built a mandrel-bent, MIG-welded stainless-steel exhaust system that also includes MagnaFlow mufflers.
Inside, a pair of Wise Guys custom buckets is surrounded by Al Knoch door panels, and a small-diameter Al Knoch leather-wrapped steering wheel fronts a restored OEM gauge cluster. There's also a Vintage Air HVAC system and a '58 "Wonderbar" radio that's had a Pioneer 12-disc CD changer added to it. Al Knoch did the custom dashpad as well, while Phil Martin in Ft. Pierce did the custom trunk panels, the embossed leather C1 emblem and embroidered "58REDUX" trunk logo, and the C1 emblem in the hardtop's leather headliner. Southern Street Rods and Corvettes fabricated the pieces needed to give the power windows, locks, and other non-stock cabin items an OEM look.
By the way, the "58REDUX" name and logo design came from Semel's friend, Natalie Cake, after she heard what he was doing with his '58.
From discovery in that Alabama field to completion took about two years, and Semel's '58 has turned eyes every time he's driven and shown it since. "I wanted to have someone look at it and say, 'All that guy did was to put on the Z06 rims, and paint it a color that wasn't available,'" says Semel. And, by all accounts, he's succeeded. "When I go to shows and I don't have the hood up, people think this is an original car that we did just the wheels and paint on," he says.
What's it like to drive? "It's just amazing," says Semel. "You have all the handling ability of a brand-new Corvette, and you have the looks of the '58. I describe it as having the best of both worlds."
If you're inspired to add new-tech power and handling to a vintage Vette, Semel says that your project should start with a car that isn't too far gone—but isn't too nice an original. "You don't want to take an all-original car and have to do things we did, like the fiberglass cuts," he says. "You don't want to start with a really good car and then rip it apart, if you're a purist.
"Also, you have to think about what you really want out of it. Are you looking for a show car, a driver, or something in-between?"