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
Buy Corvette_magazine-66-cover
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 1
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 2
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 3
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 4
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 5
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 6
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 7

On the inside, LICCG melded old and new. For example, all of the instruments look just like the originals, but behind those ’65 faces lurk thoroughly modern gauges. Both the speedometer and tachometer were converted from cable-driven mechanical units to electronic ones, the amp meter was changed to a volt meter, and the temperature and oil-pressure gauges were recalibrated to better match the LS9. Onboard diagnostic ports are hidden under the dash, allowing for the same external computer hookup-procedures that can be done with a new Corvette.

Other areas of the interior presented some unique challenges, including the pedals, shifter and radio. The Corvette’s stock mechanical throttle linkage was scrapped in favor of a custom-made throttle-by-wire system, and the clutch-pedal setup was suitably modified to work with the McLeod hydraulic clutch. A stock shifter was customized to work correctly with the Tremec six-speed, while the center console and shifter boot were tweaked to accommodate the shifter’s altered position. The steering wheel may be stock, but it controls a rack-and-pinion mechanism, not the original worm gear and sector shaft box.

To overcome the factory radio’s inherent weaknesses and bring the 45-year-old car completely up to date, a coordinated Alpine sound system was designed and installed. As with everything else, the goal was to maintain the car’s original appearance in spite of the enhancements. The newly crafted system includes an AM/FM/Sirius satellite stereo receiver, iPod connecter, CD changer and comprehensive speaker package.

Once the interior’s custom fabrication and other modifications were completed, the artisans from LICCG turned their attention to the cosmetics. The seats were stripped down to their bare frames and rebuilt with new foam, springs, hardware and custom-stitched covers that mimic the original pattern but use the highest-quality leather available. The interior work was completed with new door panels, dash pads and carpet, as well as beautifully refinished trim pieces.

After eight months of hard work by the LICCG crew, the end product is a remarkably stock-looking Corvette. At first glance, the only exterior cue that this is no ordinary mid-year is a set of chrome-plated C5 Z06 wheels wearing fat Bridgestone radials (245/45ZR17 front, 275/40ZR18 rear). A very sharp eye might pick up the lengthened hood scoop or discreetly widened wheel arches, but even these modifications only vaguely hint at the beast that resides beneath the pretty skin. The interior doesn’t scream radical restomod, either. Obsessive-compulsive types with keen eyesight might spot the shifter’s repositioning, and a bit of rudimentary detective work will lead to the discovery of the custom sound system, but these tweaks hardly convey a real sense of what makes this thoroughly modified Corvette tick.

The only way to understand the true nature of this remarkable car is to drive it—soak up its feel, its sound and even its smell. To that end, I nestled myself in the sumptuous leather cockpit, cranked up the tunes, turned the a/c to icy and got down to business.

First off, this is an incredibly fast car—no question about it. Thankfully, the C4-based rear suspension does an admirable job of putting all that prodigious LS9 power down. But make no mistake, the engine’s 560 lb-ft of torque is more than enough to break those big Bridgestones free in the first four gears.

However, brutal power is not the most-impressive part of this car. How well the entire package works as a whole is what’s truly astonishing about this Corvette. After decades of conditioning, I usually know what to expect when I’m at the helm of a C2. They all launch with reasonable authority, even the small blocks. With the right gearing and tires, the high-horse small blocks and big blocks accelerate like rockets. That’s mostly where the fun ends, though. Even with modern tires fitted, mid-years all handle like dog poop. And while the disc-brake cars stop adequately for their age, the drum-equipped cars generally stink.

In terms of its braking, handling and steering, this ’65 restomod is a revelation. Its upgraded brakes erase speed with ease, and their performance isn’t diminished by repeated stops. Its handling is near neutral and delightfully predictable, while the ride quality is acceptably compliant. The best part of the driving experience, however, is the steering. The rack-and-pinion setup offers a level of precision that’s quite simply impossible with the car’s original hardware. Compared to a stock C2, which steers like a Great Lakes coal barge in a full gale, this Corvette has the precision of a sharpshooter’s rifle.

The delight of driving this beautifully executed restomod was not lost on Daniel Ferrara, but his ownership was cut short by a very persistent LICCG client who simply had to have it. Of course, the pain of parting was eased by the fact that Ferrara’s dedicated staff can always build him another one.

Connect with Corvette Magazine:   Facebook