Those who've kept a keen eye cast across these pages for C3 articles will by now have seen the series we're doing on Scarlett, our chrome-bumper shark project car. So far, we've taken an almost-stock '72 350 coupe and, through a series of a la carte modifications, turned it into something more formidable, starting by bumping the horsepower from 300 to 400 with a Zex nitrous-oxide system.
We've also dramatically improved the car's handling with Addco sway bars and wider 275-series tires on 17-inch Summit Racing wheels, as well as suspension mods including a Muskegon front rebuild and a Van Steel rear coilover conversion. Additionally, we're now hauling it to a quick stop with Wilwood brakes—six pistons up front, four in the back—and protecting ourselves with Dragvette halfshaft loops and a fire extinguisher.
The road is more visible thanks to ECPB electrical headlight and wiper-door actuators that actually work, supplemented with Cibié driving lights. Finally, a pair of Corbeau seats keep us both comfortable and well planted.
The problem is, in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, we need more, bigger stuff. More faster. So far we've stayed fairly close to factory systems such as the motor, trans, and chassis, with significant gains at reasonable cost. Call it Phase 1. Welcome to Phase 2, whereupon we follow the white rabbit down the performance hole, and all that "reasonable" stuff drifts away like smoke on the wind.
The ultimate goals for this car are threefold: 11s in the quarter-mile, 1g on the skidpad, and 20-plus miles to the gallon, closely tracking the Pro-Touring ideals. Doable in a 40-year-old car, but not easy. One of the first steps is to repower the car with an LS-series engine—namely, the 635hp LS3 stroker we described in our "Building the Beast" series. While we'll tackle the handling side of the equation later, getting the LS (especially one that stout) into a C3 requires modifications to the stock frame, as well as changing other systems such as the transmission, cooling, fuel delivery, wiring, and gauges.
Both the initial teardown and rebuild are being done at Street Shop, Inc., in Athens, Alabama, where owner and personal friend Tray Walden has lent his considerable expertise to the build. While Walden is best known for his custom frames that marry late-model Corvette suspensions to old-school Vettes (for which he holds two patents), he's also well versed in the engine transplants and other modifications required to fully modernize a vintage Corvette. Fortunate thing, that. We'll start with the teardown in this article, with follow-up articles on each of the major systems as we get to them.
After unbolting the hood, the first part of disassembly was to drain as many of the car's fluids as possible, starting with the gas tank. Not only is it safer to reduce the amount of fuel you're dealing with, it also makes the tank lighter, which is much appreciated for anyone who's ever balanced one on their head. Fortunately, Scarlett has an electric fuel pump, so we disconnected the rubber fuel line where it enters the carb, grafted on a longer length of hose, routed it over the fender into a bucket, then simply turned on the pump until the tank was nearly dry.
Transmission fluid and oil were even easier: Once we had the car up on the lift, it was just a matter of unscrewing the drain plugs. Getting the coolant out of the engine, however, required cutting the lower radiator hose, which meant a couple of us got soaked with antifreeze. Note to self: Wear old clothes.
It's possible to do all this work by yourself, but the team approach eases the process considerably. With the fluids out, I dropped the spare tire and its well from the rear of the car, then went to work on removing the gas tank, which is to be replaced with a larger stainless Rock Valley tank with an in-tank Aeromotive pump. Meanwhile, the others—Walden, Ted Whitney (also of Street Shop, Inc.), and the long-suffering Phillip Price—started in on the transmission and engine.