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Non-Identical Twins

Vettes of a Feather Flock Together!

Rob Wallace III Nov 11, 2003

At first glance, the two Corvettes owned by Dennis and Margo Heyden of Mendocino, California, don't appear all that similar. Sure they're both Corvettes, they both wear Millennium Yellow paint look fantastic, but that's about all they have in common, right? After all, one is a fixed-roof '02 Z06, while the other is a '60 roadster with a lift-off hardtop, and there are 42 model years separating them. The Z06 is powered by a computerized Gen-III small-block with a six-speed, and it handles like a street-legal race car. The '60 on the other hand, well, exactly the same can be said for it, too!

At 63-years-young, Dennis firmly believes in the old adage that you must work hard to play hard. He earns his living as a general contractor, has served over 20 years with the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department (where he currently holds the post of fire marshall), and likes nothing better than to cut loose at the race track.

Dennis has been passionate about Corvettes and deeply involved in motorsports for many years. He bought his first 'glass car brand new in 1959, the year after he graduated from high school. "I loved that car," Dennis tells us, "and only the economics of a wife and college forced me to sell it." It turned out to be a long time before he would find himself again behind the wheel of a Corvette. About 10 years ago, when Dennis decided he was too old to race motorcycles any longer, he bought another Corvette. Dennis is a devoted member of the SCCA and NASA (the National Auto Sports Association, not the other guys), and his second Vette was a competition-prepped '85 race car for autocrosses and open-track events. Sadly, as Dennis puts it, "Its life ended in turn 10 at Sears Point." Dennis walked away, though, and he replaced the '85 with a '78 pace car replica, which he later traded in on a ZR-1.

When Dennis bought a derelict '60 roadster and gave it a second chance at life in 1994, it was destined to become something extra cool. He had no pretensions about making the solid-axle into a street car; Dennis just wanted it to be a phenomenal ride on the track. The best way to do that was to replace all the archaic engineering with modern technology. So master fabricator Paul Newman at Car Creations in Templeton, California, was called upon to perform one of his C4 suspension conversions on the '60. With Paul's help, Dennis built the hybrid '60 Vette himself.

Paul actually prefers the suspension geometry of the early C4s over the later ones--so nearly all the new chassis components on Dennis' former solid-axle are from an '85 Corvette. The original live axle was evacuated in favor of an '85 Dana 3.07:1 independent rear suspension grafted into the original '60 frame. It uses OEM '85 C4 rear springs and antiroll bars, as well as an '85 IFS, a C4 steering rack, and Bilstein gas shocks at all four corners. ZR-1 binders with stainless-steel lines are utilized to provide substantial OEM braking power, and custom 17x9.5-inch wheels that wear meaty 275/40-Z Kuhmo tires really plant the '60 through the corners. In the many, many laps that the classic Vette has made at the Laguna Seca and Sears Point raceways, the '60 has clocked off lap times equal to his previous ZR-1!

In its first configuration, Dennis' hybrid Vette, which he built himself with Paul's help, was powered by a tweaked '85 L98 with Lingenfelter fuel injection and a Richmond six-speed. Due to its competition purposes, the '60 was also equipped, at that point, with a six-point rollcage, five-point safety harnesses, and a fuel cell. In 1999, however, Paul updated the roadster even further, by replacing the driveline with a '98 Camaro LS1 and T-56 six-speed transmission. Because the '60 was still primarily a track car, Dennis had Fuel Injection Specialties reprogram the LS1's computer and delete the O2 sensors so he could run leaded racing fuel without harming the motor. That LS1, inhaling through a pair of K&N air filters and exhaling through 2 1/4-inch Hooker mufflers, puts out 380 horsepower and 380 ft-lb torque. Thanks to a total dry weight of about 2,800 pounds, well-incorporated C4 suspension components, and the Gen-III LS1 sitting an inch further back from the front crossmember than the earlier small-block, the roadster can vastly out-handle a C4.

After participating in many track events with NASA, Dennis eventually decided that the potent performer ought to be converted for street use. The process included taming it down in a number of ways, including the replacement of the racing fuel cell with an almost artistically crafted stainless-steel fuel tank from Rock Valley, and replacing the six-point cage with a mere four-pointer. Don Oliver in Fort Bragg, California, applied the Millennium Yellow so it would shine everywhere it goes.

About the same time that conversion was completed, the bug bit Dennis to get another Corvette. In September 2002, he and Margo bought an early-production '02 Z06, which has quickly endeared itself in their hearts. Though, overall quite content with the new Vette's 405hp LS6, Dennis still wasted no time adding five-point harnesses, a Vararam air induction, a B&B cat-back exhaust, a fan control override, and a 170-degree thermostat to eek the most out of the Z06. "The Z06 is an awesome car, and [it saw it's first] track time with NASA this [past] summer in their high-performance driving school," Dennis says.

The Z06 has quickly become the primary toy in the Heyden household, since it does most things a little bit better, quicker, and more comfortably than the hybrid roadster. But it can't do everything. After all, there's only so much of the wind-in-your-hair exhilaration available in a fixed-roof hardtop, and it certainly can't compete with the charm of its classic stablemate. Like with all siblings, these "twins" have their own unique characters, but they truly are two of a kind!



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