Inside Job

Also from Issue 65

  • ZR1 Control Course
  • Buyer's Guide: Best Corvettes for $15K
  • Callaway Twin-Turbo C4
  • Tech: C5/6 Drag Prep
  • 1970 Small-Block Coupe
  • How To: C2 Carpet Replacement
  • 1966 Big-Block Convertible
  • Racing: 2011 Season Preview
  • History: La Salle II Roadster
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After Cafaro’s personal prototype, came a silver Speedster, which ended up in Bob McDorman’s vast Corvette collection at his Ohio Chevrolet dealership. Skunk Werkes built a third Speedster, finished in dark blue, for basketball player Lindsey Hunter of the Detroit Pistons. The assembly of a fourth car was done in California by a different shop. Though the same ASC top was used, that car featured a slightly different header; it was modified to increase outward vision.

The Skunk Werkes Speedster was not cheap. The price of the convertible conversion alone was $49,500. Creating a Speedster like Cafaro’s would have set a customer back another $25,000. And, of course, there was the cost of the Corvette convertible itself. In 2000, its base price was $45,900.

Everything was looking rather bright for Skunk Werkes. The Speedster received national press, including a story in the May 22, 2000 issue of Autoweek. While this article painted an optimistic picture of the company, it concluded with the following statement: “Between the truck studio and Skunk Werkes, Cafaro has more than enough on his plate to keep him busy.” That was, indeed, the bitter truth. Skunk Werkes didn’t survive much past that story’s publication, with work stopping after the completion of the fourth Speedster. ASC had produced a fifth top, but as far as Cafaro knows it was never used.

When asked why the project didn’t go further, Cafaro explains, “It was such a huge task to do the car, and we all had day jobs. We just couldn’t balance our day jobs [with Skunk Werkes]—we just couldn’t do it. And, you know, it wasn’t like there were people pounding on the door to do Speedsters. It was very pricey, it was very time-consuming, it was not for everybody. So we weren’t going to make a living doing it or be profitable. We had so much fun doing it, but it got to the point where it was either we had to quit working at GM and do this, or keep our day jobs, so we just kinda called it quits there.”

Meluzio acquired his Speedster in 2000; it is the original prototype. Like many other enthusiasts, he first read about the car in Autoweek. Unlike most enthusiasts, he immediately inquired about purchasing one. “I called [noted Corvette collector] Chip Miller and asked if he thought GM was going to put them into production,” says Meluzio. “He said no, so I sort of wrote it off as not being possible. It wasn’t a whole lot later that Chip called me and said, ‘Hey, remember that Speedster you called me about? It’s going to be at my auction at Corvettes at Carlisle this August.’”

Meluzio went to Carlisle to look at the car on the day that it was supposed to cross the auction block. “They hit me with a [starting] price so high that I left,” he says. “I never went back to the auction that day.” Meluzio later found out that the car was a “no sale.”As a result, he decided to contact Iovino directly to see what kind of deal could be made. After some intense negotiations, the Speedster found a new home. [As a side note, the Bob McDorman car recently sold at auction for $51,000—Ed.]

Meluzio couldn’t be happier with his purchase. Though other examples were built, his Skunk Werkes machine is truly one-of-a-kind. It was the only one that had the full Caravaggio interior installed. It was also the only one fitted with smaller side mirrors relocated to the A-pillars.

We wondered if the lowered windshield presents any compromises. “There are no real problems with the car,” answers Meluzio. “The windshield wipers are too long—no big deal. It is practical for someone 5-foot-8. I don’t know what someone 6-foot-2 would do; they could drive the car with the top down, that’s it. It is hard to see a traffic light when you are sitting real close to an intersection. The header panel gets in your way, but all things considered, you will tolerate anything to drive the car!”

And is Meluzio happy with the way his Corvette performs? “I owned a beautiful red Ferrari 348 Serie Speciale at the same time as I owned the Speedster,” he says. “I got to a point where I sold the Ferrari because I preferred to drive the Speedster!”