1965 Coupe - Ray Cool

From field find to four-phase fantastic

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Builders of steel-bodied restomods find that it's often best to use a convertible frame, even if their car has a fixed roof. The extra bracing that's often found in a droptop's underpinnings can keep it from pretzelizing once a new, high-torque engine is fired up.

In the case of Randy Hofer's restomodded '65 Sting Ray, the project started with a convertible frame for another reason: It was the only part of the donor car that could be salvaged.

Back in 1987, John Puccella spotted a '65 Corvette convertible in a field in West Chester, Pennsylvania, surrounded by weeds. It took him two years to track down the owner (who was in jail), then buy and title the car. However, once he got it to his Trappe Automotive shop just north of Philadelphia, Puccella found that the body, interior, and powertrain were too far gone. In fact, the "Midnight Auto Supply" had removed a lot of parts over time. But the frame was undamaged and rust free, so the front and rear suspensions were rebuilt, leaving the resulting rolling chassis to await an appropriate body.

That arrived in 1990. At a show and swap meet in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Contemporary Corvette offered for sale a '65 Sting Ray coupe body, plus a new rear clip and three big boxes of related parts. At that time, Puccella's buddy, Drew Young, became involved in the project as a part-owner, and the body and related parts they bought were hauled back to Trappe Automotive. There, they were combined with the '65 rolling chassis to create a driveable Corvette, with an '88-vintage 350, a four-speed, and a 4.11-geared Positraction.

Puccella sold his interest in the '65 to Young in 2006. Unfortunately, Young couldn't follow through on his plans to restomod it, so it went up for sale again.

That's when Randy Hofer came in. He was President of the Keystone State Corvette Club then, and Puccella was its past president. Hofer had owned several midyears, and this one looked like the ideal restomod candidate. He says that the customizing required by a restomod project was always the most difficult part of the process, and so it would be on this car. "Everything needed to be fabricated every which way we went," he says, "because it went in four stages."

For the project's first phase, the Sting Ray went back to Trappe Automotive, where it was fitted with a Steeroids power rack-and-pinion system. Next came an ididit chrome tilt steering column, lowering springs front and rear (plus offset trailing arms), and Chip Foose Design "Nitrous II" chrome billet wheels wearing Toyo Proxes rubber. The body went to Collegeville Auto Body, where it was stripped to its gelcoat, then repainted in its original Nassau Blue in PPG basecoat form. In the 24-hour window between when the basecoat went on and when the clearcoat would have to be applied, artist Kris Ziegler airbrushed on the hood and rear graphics.

Inside, a pair of '75 Corvette seats went in (wearing custom blue leather covers by Al Knoch), as well as a chrome console, a blue leather-wrapped '79 Corvette steering wheel, a four-point rollbar, and five-point driver/passenger seat harnesses.

Debuting in 2008 after a one-and-a-half-year build, the first-phase '65 restomod scored its first trophy win at that spring's Liberty Region Corvette Club meet. It then went on to garner more than a dozen Best of Show, People's Choice, and Sponsor's Choice awards that year.

Phase II began that fall, with a custom 1,500-watt sound system (including Alpine amps and a JL Audio subwoofer) and a 100-shot nitrous-oxide injection system. A year and 28 more show awards later, it was time for Phase III-involving a Mark IV Chevy V-8.

Hofer contacted noted Chevy big-block builder "Big Al" Page, who teamed with him on designing the engine. Using a hand-selected 427 block (bored 0.060-inch to 440 ci), Big Al added larger valves, a Sig Erson camshaft and lifters, SpeedPro pistons, an Edelbrock Torker II intake and SS 830 carburetor, and custom McJack's headers with side exhausts.

Trappe Automotive dropped the 440 into the '65, with Jim Puccella fabricating the mounts and other hardware needed to complete the swap. At that time, the '75 Vette seats were replaced by a pair of '99 C5 buckets. "Al Knoch came through again with custom covers in bright blue with a 1965-style insignia on them," says Hofer.

He also called on Kris Ziegler for more graphic work, this time under the hood. "He spent 50 hours to give a mirror image of the engine," says Hofer. "If you look under the hood, there's a reflection-from his artistic mind-of what it would look like."

Again, the '65 was a show favorite, with another big trophy haul (31 awards in 23 events) for 2010.

For the project's fourth phase, Hofer added a set of "Shark Bite" coilovers from SpeedDirect in back. Since then he's shown it at a number of events, including this year's Corvettes at Carlisle (where it was in the "Chip's Choice" display).

Is a fifth phase of this project in the works? "The only thing that I might do is put in a five-speed or a six-speed," says Hofer. "I drive the car to every show, and I take it to shows within two or three hours of where I live."

Considering a restomod project of your own? A "phased" approach like the one employed on this '65 would probably fit most budgets-and budgeting is a key element, per Hofer.

"Work with your budget, with what you've got, and your vision," he says. "All of that has to come together. Then, have a team of people who will help you out with everything. I have a great network of people-the body shop, the mechanical side, the artistic side, and the good Corvette club members [who gave] advice as to the themes and how things work together."

He adds, "Understand what you're getting into. It's a long process, so don't be impatient either."

Spec Sheet

'65 Coupe
Owner Randy Hofer; Collegeville, PA
Block Mark IV cast iron, bored 0.060-inch over
Displacement 440 ci
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Heads Mark IV cast-iron oval port, casting # 386781
Valves Manley 2.19/1.88
Camshaft Sig Erson; 284/284-deg duration, 0.519/0.519-in lift
Rocker Arms Sig Erson
Pistons SpeedPro forged aluminum
Crankshaft Eagle forged steel
Rods SpeedPro forged steel
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Torker II cast aluminum
Carburetor Holley SS830 four barrel with larger (86-92) jets installed
Fuel Pump Carter electric
Power adder NOS plate nitrous system
Ignition MSD
Exhaust System McJack's custom with side pipes
Transmission Rebuilt Muncie M21 four-speed manual
Clutch RAM 600HP heavy-duty
Driveshaft Stock
Suspension Modified stock with shortened coil springs (front), SpeedDirect SharkBite coilovers (rear)
Rearend Stock with RPO G81 Positraction and 3.55:1 gears
Brakes Stock four-wheel discs with slotted/cross-drilled ProSlot rotors and Hawk pads
Wheels Foose "Nitrous II" billet-aluminum; 17x7-in front, 18x8-in rear
Tires Toyo Proxes 235/45ZR17 (front), 245/40ZR18 (rear)
Weight Approx. 3,250 lbs
Current Mileage Approximately 138,000

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