Centurion Corvette Kit Car - Hail, Centurion!

Saluting a little-known, yet significant, Corvette conversion

Steve Temple Jul 1, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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Initially, Abendroth didn't intend to keep his carbed C3 for three decades in absolutely impeccable showroom condition. But after taking it home on a trailer and parking it in his garage, "It sat there for a while, then a little longer, and that became even longer."

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During the ensuing decades, he didn't register the car, so it was never titled, never driven on the street, and still had the original MSO. He recently sold it, yellowed window sticker and all, at a Mecum auction.

Not all of Abendroth's vehicles are on static display, however. His Centurion is a regular sight on the vintage-racing circuit, and he restores all types of classic cars in his spare time—hence his aversion to circuit boards and laptops. (He doesn't use email, either, and lives near a remote mountaintop in the High Sierras of northern Nevada.) This fondness for the old-school approach explains his attraction to the Centurion, which he found through a fellow Corvette enthusiast in central California. The friend called Abendroth and convinced him to come check out this strange and mysterious car.

"When I first saw it, I thought it had come from Mars or something," he laughs. "But it looked really, really good, so I had to have it." Deciphering the Centurion's authenticity was a challenge, but the current owner of Fiberfab, Daniel Richer, told him to look under the back deck, behind the seats. Lying on his back, Abendroth was able to spot a piece of masking tape glassed into the body, bearing the number 12612. Based partly on that serial number, he has good evidence that it's Goodwin's factory-built prototype.

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The car was in running condition but in need of a complete restoration. Abendroth decided to bring it up to race condition as a tribute to its background. What vintage racer worth his salt wouldn't yearn for a car that basically duplicates the original '59 Sting Ray Racer—and even goes it one better? After all, this one-of-a-kind car is outfitted with the much improved '65 C2 F-41 suspension and J-56 brakes, along with a '65 Chevy 327 mill, a Muncie M22 close-ratio trans, and a 3.70 rearend. The small-block has a forged 3.25-inch NASCAR crank, while a 750-cfm Holley sucks fuel from a 24-gallon ATL cell.

When Abendroth first came across the car, it wore American Racing magnesium rims, which looked cool but weren't all that good for racing. These days, he throws on a set of aluminum Torq-Thrust Ds at track time. He also discovered a bit of bumpsteer (well, actually a lot, as the car once spun out on a corkscrew turn), so he spent considerable time and moolah fine-tuning the chassis, shimming tie rods and adding Guldstrand sport suspension, among other mods. "You can spend as much money on that as cosmetics," Abendroth admits.

Even so, he had to repaint the car to the original silver, as it was a dingy brown when he first obtained it. Fortunately, the fiberglass quality was very good (something you can't say about all Fiberfabs from that era). Other mods included raising the nose slightly to increase the hood clearance, a tweak necessitated by the custom-fabricated aluminum air cleaner Abendroth installed.

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In the cockpit, he placed Fiberfab lettering on the passenger side and fitted '65 Corvette blue-leather upholstery to racing seats he made out of aluminum. Behind the driver's bucket, he added a headrest pod, a factory option he came across in England. The shift lever is a Hurst unit, cut and drilled to match the style of the side mirror. The door handles got the same treatment, as did the mount for the vintage Tachrad radio (an AM/FM unit shaped like a tach and installed on the transmission tunnel).

To meet racing spec for vintage events, he also installed a cutoff switch between the seat backs, along with a rollbar, a fire extinguisher, a fuel cell, and twin overflow tanks (one each for oil and water).

This project isn't the only Fiberfab car in Abendroth's large garage. He came across a second Centurion, one whose bodywork had been installed to replace the original Sting Ray fiberglass, which burned off the chassis. So he's the only guy in the world with two C2-based Centurions. (He notes that the C1 version doesn't fit as well, as the driver sits too high, head above the windshield). Abendroth has big plans for this next one: "I plan to take it to a world-class level."

As Clough noted in his article, the '59 Sting Ray racer served its purpose in creating desire. And the Centurion capitalized on this yearning as well, if only for a brief moment in time. Thanks to Abendroth, though, there are now at least two Centurions worth saluting.

Sources

Factory Fiberfab US
(541) 536-0550
http://www.fiberfab.us

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