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1962 Vette Convertible Hardtop - Killer Combination

Sonny Freeman’s '62 blends timeless styling with undeniable performance

Tommy Lee Byrd Sep 6, 2011
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As we all know, there are plenty of Corvette enthusiasts who would cringe at the thought of cutting up a super-clean original car, but Sonny Freeman isn't one of those guys. He built a car that is truly the best of both worlds, and the end result is an extremely slick C1 with enough horsepower to keep those drag radials aboil.

Freeman lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, and his desire for a killer Corvette started burning a few years ago. The decision to create one was finalized when he saw a knockout car built by Roy Harrington, owner and operator of Roy's Rides in Laurel, Mississippi. And though Freeman's and Harrington's visions didn't match up at first, it didn't take long for the two to get on the same page conceptually.

This plan revolved around a '62 Corvette-the last year of the C1 era. Although the car was a good driver, and didn't have any damage to speak of, it didn't do much for Freeman in terms of performance. He wanted the classic styling to stay, but the outdated technology to go, so it was time to dismantle what was then still a very nice classic Vette.

Roy's Rides handled most of the work, and the shop didn't waste any time removing the body from the original chassis. Rather than attempting to strengthen the stock frame and fabricate mounts for a modern suspension setup, Freeman opted for a complete rolling chassis from Art Morrison.

The fully boxed framerails feature heavy-duty crossmembers that are designed to keep the chassis rigid-a key element in the development of a good-handling car. The front suspension consists of C6 Corvette equipment, complete with upper and lower control arms and spindles. Adjustable coilovers soak up the bumps and provide the right amount of travel for Freeman's application, while simultaneously supplying great ride quality. The rack-and- pinion steering system greatly surpasses the original box and linkage, and the 13-inch disc brakes, fitted with massive Wilwood calipers on all four corners, are a giant step above the standard drum brakes from 1962. The folks at Art Morrison worked hard to engineer this chassis to perform well "out of the box," so the suspension was fine-tuned and ready to run.

Out back is a Ford 9-inch rearend, mounted to the chassis with a triangulated four-link system. Unlike the original C1 setup, which used a leaf-spring configuration, Freeman's car features adjustable coilovers, along with a rear sway bar to keep the car level in the corners. The rearend housing features a back brace and a super-slick paintjob to match the rest of the car. Inside the rear are a Strange nodular iron center section, a 4.10 gearset, and a pair of Strange 31-spline rear axles.

Another notable aspect of the Art Morrison chassis is the increased ground clearance that results from routing the exhaust passageways through-rather than underneath-the chassis. With that in mind, Freeman wanted to make sure the car stayed low, and he adjusted the coilovers accordingly. Rolling stock consists of Billet Specialties Classic wheels, which measure 17x7 inches up front and 17x9 inches out back. They're wrapped in 205/50R17 Goodyear Eagle F1s and Mickey Thompson 295/45R17 ET Drags, respectively.

Power comes from a Street & Performance LS7 crate engine, which is mostly stock but still manages to out-power the most potent engine in 1962 by more than 160 hp. (Remember, those were gross ratings back in the day.) The 7.0-liter engine features an aluminum block filled with GM's very best components and a pair of cylinder heads that are extremely efficient, even in stock form. The camshaft is stock, as is the valvetrain, but outgoing air now has a smoother path, thanks to a set of Street & Performance stainless-steel headers.

Roy's Rides removed the original spare-tire well so the stainless exhaust system could exit the car in the center, instead of on each side. Roy's then fabricated a rectangular exhaust tip from stainless steel and cut a matching hole in the car's rear pan, just below the license plate. Even with stock internals, the LS7 emits a menacing exhaust note, but it still retains the efficiency of a factory-fresh engine. With fuel mileage in the mid-20s, and 505 hp on tap, Freeman would be hard-pressed to find a better engine for his Corvette. All that power is applied through a Tremec T-56 six-speed transmission, which features a late-model hydraulic clutch setup and a Hurst shifter.

As for aesthetics, Freeman's Corvette takes advantage of Chevrolet's original styling, with a few simple modifications to clean up the lines. The main area of focus was the engine bay, where Roy's Rides slicked all of the inner panels to create a seamless look that perfectly matches the LS7's modern flavor. In addition to the work under the hood, Roy's widened the original wheeltubs to accept the large rear tires. And even though the work is hidden for the most part, a slick coat of paint now adorns the entire underside of the car. Roy's then performed the final preparation to the body and treated it to a few coats of Dupont Viper Red basecoat, followed by a healthy dose of clear. Then it was time for color sanding, where the fresh materials were sanded, buffed, and polished to the flawless finish you see here.

Beneath the hard top is a bright-red interior, stitched by Paul Atkins Interiors of Hanceville, Alabama. The Australian leather is wrapped tightly around the custom bucket seats, as well as the custom door panels and console. The dash is mostly stock, but it has a few new features, including custom controls and vents for the Vintage Air system. Freeman and his wife, Debbie, enjoy the creature comforts, but they also appreciate the classic styling of the C1 body style. It's a great match, and the car has proved to be an awesome driver with plenty of horsepower in a 2,400-pound package. Thanks to Roy Harrington and his crew at Roy's Rides, the car turned out exactly as Sonny Freeman planned-a super-slick Corvette with modern details throughout.

Spec Sheet

'62 Convertible Hardtop
Owners Sonny and Debbie Freeman; Lafayette, LA
Block GM LS7 aluminum
Displacement 427 ci
Compression Ratio 11.0:1
Heads Stock LS7 aluminum
Valves Stock 2.20/1.60
Camshaft Stock LS7 hydraulic roller
Rocker Arms Stock 1.8-ratio
Pistons Stock LS7 hypereutectic
Crankshaft Stock LS7 forged steel
Rods Stock LS7 forged titanium
Intake Manifold Stock LS7 composite
Ignition Stock coil-on-plug
Exhaust System Street & Performance stainless-steel headers with stainless mufflers
Transmission Tremec T-56 six-speed manual
Clutch LS7 hydraulic
Front Suspension Art Morrison C6 with adjustable coilovers
Rear Suspension Art Morrison triangulated four-link with adjustable coilovers
Rearend Ford 9-in with 4.10 gears and 31-spline axles
Front Brakes Wilwood 13-in
Rear Brakes Wilwood 13-in
Wheels Billet Specialties Classic; 17x7(front), 17x9 (rear)
Front Tires Goodyear Eagle F1, 205/50R17
Rear Tires Mickey Thompson ET Drag, 295/45R17
Fuel Octane 93
Weight 2,400 lbs



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