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1963 Split Window Coupe - Rescue Mission

Saving a split-window from oblivion--and adding a few custom touches along the way.

Steve Temple Dec 12, 2012
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When Bill Boussum first came across his '63 coupe, "It was a mess," he admits frankly. Owned by a longtime customer of his transmission company, the car had been in storage for 20 years, and its rusted-out frame was literally broken in two. Fortunately the body was still intact, so Boussum set to fabbing a whole new frame out of 2x5-inch chrome-moly tubing.

Easier said than done, of course. Going the scratch-built route took several months, about the same as the wait list for an aftermarket frame. "I didn't think it would take that long," he admits. "It was a monster."

Fortunately he had already done some fabrication work on his '57 Corvette (see sidebar), along with several dragsters, so he wasn't intimidated by the idea. The problem was the tighter tolerances, which made the job much harder than it had been on the '57, he says. "You can't get your pinky under there."

He made templates of the body as guides for the hard mounting points, and then started by welding up the center section on a jig table. He also used an electric crane to simplify taking the body off and on.

The toughest part was the "kickup" in the framerails, right behind the rear seat, as that part takes the most stress and has to be really strong. He had to measure and re-measure multiple times to get everything just right.

Boussum took on this daunting project because he wanted to be sure he wouldn't have to cut and modify the body to accommodate a C4 suspension. Even so, he did flare the rear fenders to fit huge 315mm tires, and also added a '67 427 Stinger hood.

While he was at it, Boussum decided to take on some other custom fitments as well, such as making adapter plates for bolting on an Eaton supercharger from a Ford Mustang. While adding a Blue Oval piece on a Bow Tie LS6 might sound a bit sacrilegious to some Vette readers, it's really just a beltdriven air pump, and doesn't care what kind of car it's on. (And even the new ZR1 uses an Eaton, so what's the problem here?) Overall, we're inclined to give Boussum a thumbs-up for sheer ingenuity.

To handle the 7 pounds of boost from the supercharger, the '03 ported-and-polished mill boasts Keith Black rods, a forged crank, and a blower-spec Crane cam. Backing that up are some additional upgrades. Russ Moore's Transmission Specialist, the company Boussum owns, modified the 4L60E with a 2,800-rpm stall converter and a B&M shifter. A heavy-duty 0.090-inch chrome-moly driveshaft, which fits in the narrow tunnel more easily than would a larger aluminum piece, spins the power into a Dana 44 C4 Posi.

In the cockpit, he went for a racy treatment with an X-Force 11-inch steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, and '04 Corvette seats modified by Marquart's Custom Creations. The final touches were the flames on the '98 Corvette basecoat, with hot licks applied by Morgan Lettering. This fiery theme is fitting, since Boussum raised his split-window from near devastation like a Phoenix from the ashes--only this coupe is no myth.

Yet he dismisses all the hurdles in an offhand way. "What's tough for some people is easy for me," he smiles with a note of pride. "It was just a fun thing. I did it for me."

The "Other" Corvette Project

Like most men on a mission, Boussum isn't content to perform just one rescue. Maybe he has a hero complex, but he also has a '57 that he brought back from the brink with modern mechanicals. He initially spotted this project when he was driving by a friend's business and saw it sitting in the lot. Like the coupe, it was in really bad shape. After passing by the car on four separate occasions, he finally felt compelled to take a closer look--and then purchase it. His explanation: "I've wanted a '57 that I could drive anytime and anywhere."

The fiberglass body was fairly intact, but only half of the frame was any good. More than a year of chassis and engine work later, he had a '57 shell concealing dramatically different innards.

Replacing the original 283 with a '96 LT4 (fitted with custom headers hand-built by Boussum himself) raised the output to 372 horses. This substantial increase over the factory engine required beefing up the drivetrain with a 4L60E slushbox, plus a heavy-duty Dana 44 rearend from a manual-trans C4.

The front suspension was also fitted with a close-ratio steering box and other bits sourced from a C4, tightening up the wandering road manners. The '57 is known for its woefully inadequate brakes as well, so 13-inch discs with drilled rotors are now at all four corners.

Besides now being able to drive it with abandon on the street, Boussum can also take his '57 into a Chevy dealership and have it serviced like a factory '96 Corvette. Not only that, he's taken home two first-place trophies at the Mackinaw City (Michigan) Corvette Crossroads show, among many others. Now all he needs is another damsel in distress to rescue...



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