Blue Angel

Resurrected from the grave as a convertible and saved from neglect as a coupe, this ’65 show-stopper has finally found the promised land.

December 15, 2009

Also from Issue 55

  • Hennessey ZR700
  • Market Report: C1/C2
  • 1982 Collector Edition
  • Tech: Cross-Fire Injection
  • Dutch collection
  • 1,000-bhp C5 convertible
  • Genes Vettes twin-turbo C6
  • 1964 Fuelie convertible
  • NCM 15th anniversary gathering
  • History: 1968 Owens/Corning L88 race car
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For Pennsylvania native Randy Hofer, this ’65 restomod is the culmination of a dream—not just his, but that of all the previous owners who had a hand in putting this car together. Unlike some projects that just seem to fall into place, this one was a bumpy, obstacle-ridden ordeal that spanned 21 years.

It all started in 1987, when John Puccella was driving through West Chester, Pennsylvania. He spotted what appeared to be the familiar shape of a mid-’60s Corvette in the weeds behind a body shop. Never one to pass up an opportunity, he decided to stop and satisfy his curiosity. To his surprise, what he saw was indeed the remains of a ’65 convertible.

At first glance, the car appeared to be unsalvageable. It had been sitting there for many years, ravaged by scavengers and battered by the elements. Parts like the headlight buckets were missing, along with the wheels and most of the interior. Optimistic that some parts were still useable, Puccella made the shop owner an offer, but the car was owned by someone else. The shop owner said that he would try to find the owner of the car and see what he wanted for it. That turned into a big problem: The owner of the car was difficult to reach because he was in jail.

After two years of repeated visits to the shop and numerous phone calls, Puccella managed to purchase the blue ’65. The two-year span had given him plenty of time to make plans for the pile of parts he had purchased, especially the frame and drivetrain. Puccella’s enthusiasm for the project also sparked the interest of his lifelong friend, Drew Young, and the two agreed to assume joint ownership of the car.

In May 1990, the next piece of the puzzle fell into place. Puccella and Young went to a Corvette show in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. As soon as they entered the event, they spotted a ’65 Corvette coupe body on a trailer. It looked to be in as rough a condition as their convertible; the entire rear clip was missing. Luckily, a brand-new rear clip, along with three boxes of parts, was also for sale. Realizing that this was a golden opportunity, Puccella and Young bought the whole shebang, including the trailer the body was sitting on. Young wrote the check, which for him required incredible commitment: He had just been laid off from his job the previous week.

With the acquisition of another mangled car and limited space to store it, Puccella had a concrete pad poured at the end of his driveway; it was christened the “Corvette Assembly Pad.” This would become the staging area where the morphing of these two cars into one would take place.

One of the key issues that needed to be resolved in the early planning stages was what engine would be used. The one that came with the convertible was beyond repair. Since the goal was to create a car that didn’t have to conform to any set of rules, the pair decided to use a spare engine from an ’88 Corvette that Puccella had modified. The plan was for it to be mated to a stock 4-speed manual gearbox.

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