My Other Car's a Driver

Also from Issue 76

  • 2013 427 Convertible
  • C5 Buyer's Guide
  • 1957 Convertible Restoration
  • 2004 C1 Conversion
  • Tech: MSRC Shocks
  • 1973 Manta Ray GT
  • Racing: Le Mans
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Though air-conditioning was an available option in 1967, this particular Corvette did not come with it. To remedy that situation Commons installed a Vintage Air system. It might not look like the factory setup, but it is specifically engineered for mid-year Corvettes so it fits nicely and looks good. And best of all, it works well, making all the difference on those sultry summer days.

Mid-year Corvette engines tend to run on the hot side and the addition of air-conditioning usually aggravates this tendency, primarily because the a/c condenser mounts in front of the radiator and effectively pre-heats the air before it passes through. To reduce the chances of overheating, Commons installed a new big-block-rated aluminum radiator and supplemented air flow with dual electric fans.

Though the worm-and-sector shaft steering box system that debuted on the ’63 Corvette was infinitely better than the third-arm-bearing arrangement used previously, it is still fairly awful by today’s standards. Even when every component is in perfect working order and adjusted well the steering is somewhat imprecise and borderline sloppy. To overcome this drawback Commons discarded the original steering setup and installed a Steeroids rack-and-pinion unit with a Flaming River tilt column.

The car’s front and rear suspension were similarly modernized with the installation of a Shark Bite coil-over system purchased from Speed Direct. Compared with the factory setup, this aftermarket arrangement allows for easy adjustment of ride height and noticeably improves all-around handling.

The chassis mods were finished off with a set of American Racing Torque Thrust wheels wearing BF Goodrich P215/65R15 Radial TA tires. These give the car that classic early street fighter look while simultaneously improving ride, handling and braking performance.

The car’s drivetrain also got rehabilitated. The trailing arms and differential went to Bair’s Corvettes for new bearings and installation of a 3.70:1 ring-and-pinion set. Brand-new half-shafts and universal joints tied the rebuilt differential to the rebuilt hubs. For safety’s sake a new braking system, including stainless-steel sleeved calipers at all four corners, was fitted.

Commons loves the look of optional factory side pipes but felt they were too restrictive for the car’s potent new engine. To solve that problem he had Classic Chambered whip up a set of custom-made pipes that look stock but flow better. They are mated to Patriot Block Hugger headers that further aid exhaust gas flow while delivering that much-loved stock side-pipe rumble.

With all the mechanical work completed, Commons turned his attention to the interior. He added factory optional headrests to the original seats and re-skinned them with correct reproduction vinyl covers from Al Knoch Interiors. After smothering the floor with Dynamat acoustic insulation he installed reproduction factory-style carpeting that was also sourced from Al Knoch. For improved safety, Commons bolted in three-point harnesses from Eckler’s. For sanity’s sake, he replaced the anemic original AM/FM radio with a Custom Autosound AM/FM stereo featuring an iPod input and power antenna.

Since completing the car’s build several years ago, Commons has driven it regularly, enjoying all the benefits that his careful planning and precise execution produced. “The car is great fun to drive,” he states with obvious glee. “At highway speeds in fifth gear the engine turns about 2,000 rpm, keeping the cockpit reasonably quiet. The car has all the comforts of power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes and windows, air-conditioning and an iPod stereo, yet it retains the raucous, raw experience of a high-powered, side-exhaust ’67 Corvette. ”

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