I pretty much drive the hell out of it," Bill Pierceall told us about his '60 Corvette. "That's the reason I built it." We can't argue with that. The car's current '60/C4 hybrid form absolutely lends itself to hard and frequent driving, and it gets plenty of it--everything from coast-to-coast treks to banzai runs in the Silver State Classic Challenge. But, even before the Vette's modernization, Pierceall drove the '60 a lot. In fact, the Newark, California, resident has racked up over a half-million miles during the 31 years he's owned his favorite ride, and with the car's recent modifications, he may rack up a half-million more.
The long-term relationship started in 1970, when a "friend of a friend" was looking to sell his '60 Vette. Bill bought the 10-year-old, 120,000-mile Corvette a few days later, and used it as his daily driver for the next three years. In 1973, with over 200,000 miles on the clock the solid-axle was treated to its first major rebuild, with "everything" mechanical being redone, along with brakes, front suspension, upholstery, and paint. The two biggest changes were sliding in a '70 LT-1, and changing the exterior hues from black and silver to blue.
By 1986, Bill's Vette was again totally worn out, showing just over 500,000 miles on the clock and in need of a total rebuild. He parked the car and started disassembling it, wanting to keep it as a driver. "After all the years and miles," he told us, "I couldn't handle the idea of it being any other way." With that settled, Bill faced another dilemma. He'd been "spoiled" by the good ride, brakes, and handling of his '92 ZR-1. With the rebuild of his '60, he had an important goal: "No more driving like a drunken shopping cart."
The perfect solution came when Bill read about Paul Newman Car Creations and their C4 suspension, brake, and steering grafts on solid-axle Vettes. Bill immediately delivered the '60 to Alf Eberoth at Performance Automotive in Seaside, California, as a rolling shell. Eberoth and crew removed the body and sent the frame to Newman's facility.
Newman went to work, modifying the old solid-axle frame to accept late C4 suspension systems fore and aft including a complete '96 Grand Sport front instead of "normal" C4 pieces. "How could I resist the 13-inch front rotors and stronger black calipers?" Bill thought. He went with the whole GS package: 17x9.5-inch wheels up front, and 11s out back. Of course, that meant that the rear tires would be much too wide for the stock rear fenders. So...
...Eberoth's shop got to work on the body, removing the rear quarter-panels and widening them by 3 inches per side before they were reinstalled. The bumpers were recontured to fit the broader tail, making it hard to distinguish from stock (if you don't notice the 315/40ZR17 Goodyears under them, that is). Pierceall also had Eberoth widen the exhaust tube passageways, preparing them to accept 2-1/2-inch pipes, as well as 'glass in the cowl vent, fill in the front and rear emblem holes, remove the stainless cove trim pieces, and eliminate the chrome strips from the top of the front fenders. The headlight trim rings had a "peak" cut into them to keep the contours looking right.
When it came time to motor-vate his re-created '60, Pierceall found the perfect power source--a complete, brand new LT4 from GM. The engine was fitted with ceramic-coated shorty headers (which connect through a similarly coated exhaust to Flowmaster mufflers), Lingenfelter throttle body, and a K&N air filter. A reprogrammed '95 a new T56 six-speed. A custom mechanical drive was created to mate the T56 to the 1960-vintage speedometer. A 15-gallon fuel tank was fabricated with the proper pressure and return lines to feed the new powerplant, and a custom aluminum driveshaft carries the ponies back to the 3.92:1-geared rearend.
The interior received an update as well. The original speedo was re-used, but the other instruments are VDOs, recessed into the dash to look a bit more stock. The Recaro power seats, however, are easily the most noticeable interior mod. "A car that's meant to be driven requires comfortable seats," according to Pierceall, so with some minor trimming of the rear doorjambs, the high-backs were slipped in. Conveniently, they clear both the soft and hard tops.
When it came time for paint, a price-check on premium paint jobs convinced Pierceall that he should learn to do it himself. Pierceall prepped the body and laid down the eye-catching Pearl Blue in his garage, then rewired the '60 and completely reassembled it. Finishing touches include Ford electric mirrors and remote decklid release, along with a Rockford-Fosgate AM/FM/CD stereo.
However, all was not perfect immediately. The 2,900-pound '60 weighs roughly 400 pounds less than a '96 Grand Sport, making the stock GS springs much too stiff. A "soft ride" rear spring provided the ride quality that Pierceall was looking for, but the front end needed more work, which led to Dick Guldstrand's Culver City (California) shop for a handling evaluation. The solution was to yank out the GS transverse spring and replace it with a pair of custom-valved Bilstein coilovers with 350-pound springs. The result, Pierceall tell us, is a "nice, compliant ride, with great handling capabilities, minus teeth-jarring road manners."
Which is perfect for the duty this car sees. The first trip for Pierceall and his refurbished Vette was to Hot August Nights in Reno. The '60 has since logged 45,000 miles logged in its current incarnation. There've been a half-dozen or so trips to Southern California, a cross-country trip, and a "sprint" through Montana before speed limits became more strictly enforced. Speaking of speed...we're told that the '60 has topped out at 162 mph, but couldn't get any details about that particular run.
There's no problem getting Pierceall to talk about his several trips to the aforementioned Silver State Classic, where he runs in the 110-mph class. Bill relishes the chance to give his Vette a good workout, and especially enjoys the rock-walled "Narrows," the five twisty and infamous miles near the end of the 90-mile course. "My '60 can take The Narrows at 115 with no sweat," he tells us. "Maybe more, but my pucker factor needs some work."
The '60 draws a lot of attention. "You can't be self-conscious when you drive this car," he tells us. "And the attention feeds my ego. But I can live without the attention, for the simple reason that it's an absolute joy to drive. It's more than transportation, more than an old Corvette...it's the 'thing' about that old car." Sounds to us like it's a helluva fun thing, too.
Bill Pierceall invites everyone to visit his website at http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/iddudidduf/index.html