Paint & Body Special Section
One of the potential problem areas for someone looking to install a hot engine in a mid-'70s Corvette is a definite limit on available hood clearance. The price of that sexy, low hood line is that very few custom intake systems will clear beneath it, and, certainly, none of the really high-rise, race-style intake manifolds, even with a small-block.
We have plans to go with an engine set to kill in our modified C3 project car, and a hood swap fit right into our plans. We were all for the wild looks of a custom hood installation, intending to spice up the looks from the conservative '76 piece. Although the stock hood has a fairly significant kick-up in the center, this factory original, cowl-style hood just wasn't going to be enough, either for clearance or aesthetically.
Tastes vary, but to us, there is nothing quite like the Corvette L-88 hood. Originally designed for the baddest of big-blocks, the L-88 hood is a Corvette signature piece-an item that helped define the unrestrained aura of serious performance. It can be argued that this particular design was the most outrageous factory hood offering by any OEM manufacturer, bar none. On looks alone, there is plenty to recommend this swap, but functionally, we did need clearance, and the L-88 hood delivers, offering over 11/2 inches of additional clearance compared to our stock bonnet.
When the factory produced this style of hood, it was used in conjunction with the separate windshield wiper cover panel, while Corvettes of later vintage had full-length hoods that terminated at the base of the windshield. Hoods produced in this later style are referred to as "long" hoods due to their longer length.
We spoke to Tom Keen, of Keen Parts, looking for a custom hood to meet our need. Keen had exactly what we were looking for-a bolt-on, L-88 long hood for our '76 Corvette.
Since we are preparing to paint our project, it seemed like the correct time to make all the body modifications we've dreamt about come true. The fit of any aftermarket product is an unknown quantity when the part is taken out of the box, so although the hood will be painted separately off the car when it is time to lay down the fresh color, fitting it to the car now, in the preparation stage, was imperative. It is sometimes necessary to make modifications to edges to get perfect panel gaps, and in some instances, the contours of the hood need reworking for a perfect match to the sweeping lines of a C3 Corvette. After the final color is applied, it is too late to make any modifications, and awkward to try and figure out how to make adjustments without damaging the finish. The plan was to complete the installation and fitting, make any modifications as required, and then remove the hood for the final paint application.
We were more than a little surprised to find just how well the Keen Parts hood fit our Corvette. From end to end and all around, the gaps proved more than acceptable, with only basic adjustment performed at the hinges. All the stock hood hardware bolted in place without modification, and the hood sat at a level plane with the body contour without shimming, tweaking, or adding putty. The product was exceptional. Surveying the installed hood on our custom coupe, the looks were just what we were after-an outrageous mix of Chevrolet at its wildest and a Corvette that just screams performance.