Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Also from Issue 66

  • Baldwin-Motion Phase III
  • 2008 Coupe
  • Market Report: C4
  • 1992 Coupe
  • 1954 Roadster
  • Tech: New Big Block
  • 1967 Small-Block Coupe
  • How-To: C6 Appearance
  • Racing: Sebring
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The next big hurdle was getting the engine to fit into the body while maintaining the latter’s stock look. That Herculean task fell to Ruben Rodriguez, LICCG’s resident engineer and fabricator. Rodriguez studied the parts, made critical measurements and then planned and executed the necessary modifications. The transmission tunnel portion of the floor was widened and raised two inches to provide clearance for the gearbox. The rear portion of the floor was cut out and reconstructed to make room for a rear torque arm. Extensive but subtle modifications were also made to the engine bay and hood. For example, the “stinger” hood scoop needed to be lengthened by six inches to clear the engine, and its hinges were redesigned for improved geometry.

On the engine side, the biggest change was the replacement of the factory top-mounted intercooler; it was simply too tall. A custom Griffen intercooler was installed in front of the radiator. The factory engine cover was still used, but fitted lower and modified to clear the car’s brake booster. New brackets were machined to relocate the air-conditioning compressor so it would fit in the stock engine bay, and a Vintage Auto Air system was installed. Working with engine supplier S&P, Spinella designed and installed a custom engine wiring harness to integrate the car with an S&P-supplied ECU.

While they were at it, the LICCG crew decided to turn up the engine’s wick a bit with more aggressive ECU tuning. This, combined with S&P ceramic-coated headers—these stainless-steel tubes feed into stock, mid-year side pipes—yielded 748 horsepower on S&P’s dyno. A high-pressure Aeromotive fuel pump mounted inside a custom stainless-steel gas tank meets the engine’s demands.

While all that mechanical work was being done, Edgar Leon, LICCG’s paint and body specialist, was doing his thing. After completely disassembling the body down to a bare shell, he media-blasted off the old finish. Leon then turned to fixing the body’s old damage and the usual stress cracks found in almost any vintage Corvette.

Once all of the fiberglass work was finished, Leon still had to massage the body to perfection and paint it. He did the former the old-fashioned way, with multiple applications of high-build polyester primer that were block sanded by hand to eliminate surface imperfections. Once the body’s lines were sharp and aligned and its surfaces were completely leveled, Glasurit finishing products were applied.

Two coats of primer/sealer were topped with four coats of Rally Red basecoat and four coats of clear. That’s a lot of clear, but in his quest for perfection, Leon sanded it in four stages using 800-grit, 1,000-grit, 2,000-grit and 3,000-grit sandpaper. This removed every hint of orange peel and yielded a final finish that is flawless. The perfect bodywork and paint are complemented by rechromed bumpers and vent window frames, new door handles, emblems, grille and weatherstripping, as well as restored windshield trim.

The Corvette’s chassis also received LICCG’s full attention. Baer four-piston brake calipers and cross-drilled and slotted rotors were fitted up front. In the rear, stock C4 calipers were paired with cross-drilled and slotted rotors. Pulleys and brackets were fabricated to allow a stock ’65 parking-brake handle to work with the C4 rear calipers.

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