Most of us who have owned them understand that, at some point, a vintage Corvette is going to be a project car. What Vince Gabrunas could not have expected when he bought his '74 Stingray was how fast that would happen. A mere three weeks after purchasing the small-block coupe, he was sitting in a Burger King drive-through when an agitated customer ahead of him gunned his Nova in Reverse, driving its trailer hitch completely through the front end of the Corvette. As the line from Tolkien goes, "And so it begins."
This shark, however, wasn't headed for a code-correct restoration. As a member of the Boone Trail Corvette Club (www.boonetrailcc.com), Gabrunas counted among his friends and mentors a gentleman named Bill Rush, who inspired him to start autocrossing the car. Unlike many Corvettes that see weekend track use, though, this one actually looks the part.
Having been inspired by the outrageous Greenwood racers, the styling cues Gabrunas added are obvious from the outside of the car: Daytona-style fender louvers and a low air dam both hint at high speeds, as do the inset Hella headlights that replaced the standard flip-up lights. An architectural designer, Gabrunas modified the headlamp boxes to hold the much-improved lights, and even custom- fabricated their Lexan covers. In fact, he made virtually every modification to the car himself, with the exception of shooting the purple paint in which the Corvette is clad.
Until recently, the general practice of warfare was of pillage, in which the victors appropriated things they found useful from those they had conquered. Perhaps taking this view of things will make it easier to accept the fact that this Corvette's Violet Blue paint came from Porsche. Available for only one year--1991--the striking color is broken above the front wheels, where broad metallic-black hash marks, reminiscent of Grand Sport stripes, cover the louvers and spill over onto the outboard side of the high fenders. Fore and aft C5 crossed flags replace the older chrome emblems on both the car's nose and gas cap, and the "RAC3R" vanity plate makes Gabrunas' intentions clear for those who may have missed the subtleties of Stingray design.
Even looking at the car from the rear, from the '82-style fascia that was installed when Gabrunas bought it, you can see there's little that hasn't been changed. Bright LED taillights sourced from a semitruck added a little extra safety margin, as did the high-mount third brake light he wired in above the rear window. The rear window itself, originally the turbulence-enhancing fixed unit that came standard on the '74 Corvette, was replaced with the more T-top--friendly removable one found in '72 and earlier cars. This change, Gabrunas says, was simpler than expected: It took longer to scrape the sealant off the old back glass than it did to install the new one.
Inside, the complete dash was replaced by one Gabrunas custom-fabricated and overlaid with actual carbon fiber in purple. White-faced Auto Meter Phantom gauges, meanwhile, displaced the dim stock ones. Similarly, the factory seats went away, supplanted by a pair that offered more support and came from a '94 Saturn sedan. (The coupe buckets apparently weren't as comfortable.)