When you name a car the A-Bomb Project, it's got to pack more than the punch of its C6 Atomic Orange paintjob--and that's just what Joe Henderson's '67 roadster delivers, with a 50-megaton load of performance, style, and asphalt-eating attitude. And while there's no plutonium at the core of this custom Corvette's powerplant, there is a 700-horsepower Kinsler-injected and Katech-engineered LS engine that helps get it up to speed faster than you can say "duck and cover."
In fact, the engine in Henderson's '67 stunner has already been the focus of a technical story in the Sept. '09 issue of VETTE. It's taken that long for the rest of this Manhattan Project to come together--not in the arid desolation of New Mexico of the original atom bomb, but the gorgeous, mountainous terrain of Asheville, North Carolina. That's the home of The Winning Collection (TWC), the restoration and car-building shop run by former road-racer Tom Coleman (www.winningcollection.com).
It's no exaggeration to say every square inch of fiberglass, steel, aluminum, and leather that comprises this jaw-dropping restomod has been modified, massaged, or enhanced. There's hardly room on the few pages we have here to call out every last detail, but we'll do our best to hit the highlights, starting with the foundation. It's a Jamison tube-frame C4 chassis that TWC upgraded with gussets and plating to increase its rigidity and provide greater strength for the 700-horse engine.
The chassis is glossy black, which contrasts well with the Atomic Orange body color and the aluminum finish of many of the chassis and suspension parts. It also features a custom Fuel Safe stainless-steel fuel tank that was built to the original C3 chassis specifications on the outside, but features a racing-spec fuel bladder on the inside. An Atomic Orange rollbar is tied to the chassis, too.
At the front suspension, Heim joints are used in place of conventional tie-rod ends for strength and adjustability, while a thick, road racing–inspired stabilizer bar helps flatten out cornering performance. The rear suspension is also adjustable, and there are QA1 coilovers all around. Stopping power comes from a set of Wilwood brakes, featuring six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, along with 335mm x 32mm two-piece slotted and cross-drilled rotors and stainless-steel lines for the entire system.
Connecting the racing-inspired chassis and suspension systems to Ground Zero is a set of HRE 840R wheels, measuring 12 inches wide in the rear and a full 10 inches wide up front. They're wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 335/30ZR18 rubber for the rear rims and 275/35ZR18 Pilot Sports for the front. Such bunker-busting tread width required the rear fenders to be flared 6 inches and the fronts pulled out 2 inches. And talk about an atom-splitting level of detail: The wheels have a satin-black powdercoated finish that is accented on the lip with an Atomic Orange stripe.
With its road-race stance and custom, racing- bred chassis, it would be logical to assume this Corvette's bodywork is all-new, too, but TWC started with an original '67 Corvette body shell and spent 3,000 hours redesigning it. We're not sure what The Winning Collection's hourly labor rate is, but the bill for the bodywork alone must have been enough to send car owner Joe Henderson searching for the nearest fallout shelter. Then again, the level of detail and craftsmanship is among the greatest we've encountered, with most of the alterations representing subtle-yet-effective enhancements of the classic body shape.
Features such as the late-model Corvette door handles and deep front spoiler are among the most prominent changes, but the manner in which the body lines flow with the flared fenders is sublime. Even the Atomic Orange paint was tweaked a bit to reveal a greenish sheen in certain lighting conditions. In fact, the paintjob was good enough to garner the PPG Dream Car Award for best use of color at last fall's Goodguys Southeast Nationals, in Charlotte, North Carolina--just one of several awards the car received there, including a builder's choice recognition as one of the show's 10 best cars.
Among the less-obvious details are super-bright Hella H4 lights and PIAA driving lights installed in the housings for the original turn signals. LED turn-signal lamps were carefully woven into the front grille, and the rear back-up lamp housing was converted to an LED-lit center brake light.
The other thing worth noting about the exterior is the black finish seen on the fuel-cell lid, windshield frame, taillight housings, and more. It's not paint, and it's not powdercoating. It's Teflon. Seriously. Every piece of brightwork and trim--except the painted bumpers--as well as the door latches and strikers and other hardware, is coated in Teflon. It wasn't an inexpensive upgrade, but it's more durable than powdercoating and impervious to fading.
The Corvette's cabin is just as dramatically redesigned as the exterior, with most of the work handled by interior artisan Paul Atkins. The Atomic Orange color carries over and is offset by orange-and-black-trimmed leather seats--scratch-built by Atkins--and Alcantara suede-like material used on the seats, dashboard, door panels, and more. It looks, feels and exudes an atmosphere of luxury unlike anything we've encountered lately in a modified early Corvette.
As with the exterior, details abound inside. Ambient lighting is provided by LED-lit light pipes that are part of the door trim, while C6 handles and speaker grilles also fill out the door panels. Orange-faced gauges reinforce the color scheme of the car, while one of our favorite details in the entire car was borrowed from a late-model Mini. It's the military-style, dashboard-mounted switch panel, complete with protective rings separating each switch. The setup looks like it could have been taken from any bomb-toting B-52 from the early days of the Cold War.
The interior is also home to power door windows and vent windows, as well as the components to a carefully hidden audio system, including a remote, modern head unit that doesn't otherwise distract from the classic lines of the cabin. And yes, more Teflon coats the interior trim. It's also worth noting that shop owner Tom Coleman's experience with racing produced a level of wiring detail we're not used to seeing in a street car. It includes aviation-grade shock- and waterproof sockets and connectors, along with marine-grade wiring throughout. Every connection is silver-soldered, too. As Coleman puts it, the car is “wired for life.”
Now, let's zero in on that explosively potent powertrain. The engine is based on one of Katech's 500ci billet-aluminum, LS-type cylinder blocks. In place of traditional iron cylinder liners, the aluminum bores are coated with super-tough nickel-silicon carbide, which is just a scratch below a diamond when it comes to hardness. Of course, there's a totally forged rotating assembly churning away in the block, its momentum kept alive by the combustion generated within a set of LS7 cylinder heads and the exotic Kinsler fuel-injection system.
The electronically controlled port injection system from the longtime FI manufacturer is no stranger to racing circles, but at about $7,000 for a basic setup, it's rarely seen on the street in place of a fine-breathing factory intake. But aesthetics and presence are what this car is all about, and a dull, black-plastic factory manifold simply wouldn't have fit the project's megaton objective. The manifold itself is painted to match the body, while the air-ram tubes look delicious in carbon fiber. Carbon valve covers complement the package nicely, with the coil packs tucked away under the fenders. There's also a dry-sump oiling system.
With 11:1 compression and running on pump gas, the engine dyno'd to the tune of 701 hp and 677 lb-ft of torque. That's some serious blast power for a naturally aspirated engine, one that's operated with the assistance of a GM MEFI-4 controller (which required a 24-tooth crankshaft reluctor wheel). TWC built custom stainless headers, which lead to a racing-style 3-inch exhaust system that exits under the center of the rear fascia, as on a C6.
The cooling system consists of a custom, polished radiator from Dewitt's and a chrome-plated, dual-fan setup from Spal. Backing the engine is an RPM Transmissions–built Tremec T56 six-speed manual, which channels all 677 lb-ft to a tough Dana 44 rear axle that's been converted to a 3.73 gear ratio. Believe us, there are many more details to this car, and we've simply run out of room to print them.
A hundred years ago, few would have believed the power that was capable of being unleashed from carefully split atoms, and 45 years ago, the thought of a 700hp street Corvette would have been just as unthinkable. Heck, even only 10 years ago, the performance capability of Joe Henderson's '67 Corvette would have been a significant rarity, but technology knows no bounds.
The Winning Collection did a stunning job in transforming this classic into a modern hot rod that retains the essence of the Corvette. It's a one-of-a-kind creation that will blow you away, much like you see in those atomic-test films from the 1950s. You may want to put on your shades to check out this restomod masterpiece, but there's no way you'll avert your gaze.