Corvette Times Two
Proving that the second time around can be even better
Sometimes once just isn't enough. Just ask Roy French. After featuring his modernized '58 C1 in Part 1 of our Restomod Roundup, we tracked down his second one--a '63 Split Window.
Just as some classic movies are even better as a sequel, so too is French's Sting Ray. The story begins in 2007, when he found the dilapidated coupe back east in a barn. The car was barely driveable, and the cosmetics were in need of serious attention. About three years' worth in all, which included tracking down some talented craftsmen who could bring back this classic from the edge of destruction.
French started with Newman Car Creations, as he did with his C1, to install a C4 suspension that mates with the Sting Ray body and new LS drivetrain. Newman provided '85-'87 Corvette underpinnings and disc brakes, plus rack-and-pinion power steering and a Dana 44 differential.
Squeezing in the LS7 and 6L85E transmission dictated installing a dry-sump tank and Newman headers, along with fabricating exhaust pipes that would flow around the C4 suspension contours and exit with bigger tips. Speartech of Anderson, Indiana, supplied the ECM and harness for the LS7, as well as the programming for the trans.
Using a reproduction stock rim as a pattern, Larry Dove of EVOD Wheels expanded the widths to 7 inches for the front, and 9 inches out back. Even though the fins are slightly thicker than on an authentic piece, they look right with the bigger meats from Diamond Back Classic (215/70R15 front, 275/60R15 rear).
Interior upgrades include double-stitched leather upholstery, an ultrasuede headliner, and custom-fitted carpet over the speaker grilles. For easier ingress and egress, French also had a steering wheel made that matches the look of the original 17-incher, but features a 1-inch-smaller diameter.
The authentic '63 gauges had to be converted to read sensor inputs from the LS7 engine, and the plastic lenses were replaced with cut glass to prevent scratching and hazing. Also preserving the period look are the bezels and controls for the aftermarket HVAC and audio system. Turn on the power knob, though, and a touchscreen monitor for the Kenwood electronics emerges from the dash.
Lastly, French added a side mirror on the passenger side with an early-style long base. Of course, when he throttles up that LS7 drivetrain on those fat tires, he rarely has to think about what's behind him.
A hybrid C1--but certainly not in the Prius sense
Retired state trooper Danny Tackett knows a thing or two about an arresting presence--and it shows in his '59 Corvette. Actually it's far more than just that model year, as it incorporates design elements of the entire C1 span of models, and then some. What's remarkable is that he was able to do so in an integrated way, without resulting in a mishmash of disparate pieces.
How did he develop such an intriguing commingling? Mainly because he could, since he already had most of the parts on hand.
"It started as a challenge to see if I could build the '59 body and make the '54 front cap fit and look right," he reveals. Having built a lot of C1s, mostly customs, he had an idea of what might work. Even so, he ran into a few snags.
"The biggest challenge, after I got the '54 front glassed in and lined up, was cutting the fender coves to match the '59 door coves," he says. The tag area took some thought as well.
"I wanted to get rid of the '59 bumpers and use a '54 bumper," he says. Fortunately, the radius of the each trunk is the same, and he had an old '61 rear clip, so he removed the tag area, and the radius worked out nicely on the '59 body.
"I glassed in the exhaust holes, used a fiberglass sleeve to encase the pipe, and made it exit in the location of a '54," he explains. "But the hole was made larger to handle the 4-inch stainless tips."
Another almost unnoticed body mod is the fact that the '54s have a fender flare, and the '59s do not. "I fabbed up flares and molded them into the '59 body," he points out. The bumper holes were filled front and rear, and he lowered on a '56 hood that fit just right on the '54 cap.
Since Tackett only had a bare body to start with, he was free to add an assortment of chassis components as well, such as Fat Man fronts, Mustang II steering, Wilwood brakes, and a Ford 9-inch rear.
An LS1 sits snugly in the engine bay, and is finished with a chrome intake, custom covers (with original '55 V-script), and a Street and Performance accessory setup. One key to the LS1 swap was the McCleod flywheel, which allowed him to use a Centerforce 11-inch clutch in an old cast bellhousing.
In all, Tackett made more than 50 mods, drawing on skills taught by his father, a longtime body man. Obviously, Tackett and his crossbred Corvette didn't fall far from the tree.