There is no denying that eBay has had a profound impact on the way individuals buy or sell collector cars and replacement parts. The ease with which you can find most items on the online auction site has simplified the entire hunting, purchasing and selling process for many enthusiasts. There are, however, instances when you have something very specific in mind that a simple eBay search will not immediately locate. This was certainly the case with Floridian Tony Gomez. When his quest for a mid-year started, he turned to eBay with a short and well-defined checklist. “For me, C2 Corvettes are the most classic-looking body style,” he explains. “I focused specifically on getting a ’65 as it’s the year I was born, and also the first year of the big-block engine.” Beyond wanting a ’65, he was also interested in a car that was “worn out.” He wasn’t looking to embark on a nut-and-bolt restoration; he wanted a complete car to rebuild to his own tastes. “I searched daily for about six months everywhere I could,” he says. “EBay had the best selection of cars in the worn-out condition I was looking for.”
Eventually, a very tired ’65 showed up on the auction site. It was a numbers-matching 327/350-horse, four-speed convertible with over 300,000 miles on the odometer. It was just the Corvette Gomez was looking for, and, as an added bonus, it was located in his backyard, so to speak—Key Largo, Florida. “It had a no-hit body, and the original engine and transmission,” Gomez happily recalls. “I was able to drive it home. It rattled, smoked and didn’t stop so well. Plus, the transmission couldn’t be downshifted, but the attraction of the car was that it was all there. Exactly the starting point I was looking for.”
For Gomez, this wasn’t his first experience with a Corvette. The bow-tie passion had ignited at an early age. “I purchased my first Corvette as a teenager,” he recounts. “It was a ’68 coupe I found in someone’s front yard. It was weathered and sitting on two flat tires. Working on a teenager’s budget, I got it running and driving in no time. In that car, I won the Florida Autocross Championship in 1988. I sold it when my son was born in order to fund a more family-oriented vehicle—in other words, a minivan.”
Eventually, the family hauler gave way to something with a few more ponies under the hood. While the Stingray was his first love, Gomez ended up being charmed by a snake. “I was an avid Dodge Viper enthusiast,” he admits. “I owned a 1995 Roadster, a 2000 ACR and a 2003 SRT10. They were my daily drivers spanning 15 years. With the ACR, I ran in the inaugural year of the Viper Challenge road-racing series and finished third in the nation.”
Although Gomez enjoyed the visceral experience of driving Vipers, the appeal of Corvettes still lingered. The Vipers were also off-the-showroom-floor purchases, and did not have his own personal stamp. “I started the project with a clean sheet of paper,” he outlines. “The end goal was having something even better-looking, more powerful and faster than the best car I’ve ever owned.” Having been spoiled with the fat power curve of the Viper’s V10, the C2’s engine would have to match or surpass it.
For Gomez, the most defining feature in a car is the engine, and the idea of a massive aluminum V8 with gobs of horsepower was appealing. “I remember being a young boy looking at a car magazine that featured a ’69 Corvette with the all-aluminum ZL1 V8,” he recalls. “To this day, I remember going, ‘Whoa, that’s a huge engine that weighs about as much as a small one.’ The concept was simple, but impressive, even to a kid.” He also wanted the engine to be “old school,” which for him meant that it would be naturally aspirated, fit under the stock hood, be relatively quiet, be built with parts manufactured in the U.S. and run on pump gas.
Another significant aspect of the project was that it wasn’t going to be a “cut a check” deal; Gomez wanted to do as much of the work as possible with his own two hands. Having worked at a garage during his high school and college years, turning a wrench was something that Gomez was intimately familiar with, and something he looked forward to. The Corvette was wheeled into his two-car garage, and there it would stay for most of the next two-plus years undergoing its transformation.