Snake Bite Kit

Also from Issue 86

  • C6 Grand Sport Racer
  • Interview: Cindy Molnar
  • Buyer’s Guide: Best Bang for Buck
  • Tonawanda Engine Plant
  • 1990 Retromod
  • Monterey Reunion
  • 1970 Coupe
  • History: Zora Arkus-Duntov
  • acing: Baltimore and Austin
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Snake Bite Kit 1
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The first order of business was to disassemble the Corvette. Since this was a matching-numbers car, the original engine and gearbox were removed and placed in storage, just in case Gomez ever changed his mind about going down the restomod path. The next task, before anything else could realistically be done, was to remove the factory undercoating. That process took him a few weeks on his back using plastic scrapers, wire brushes and lots of expletives. Despite so many miles, the undercoating had done a remarkably good job of preserving the underside of the car. The next task was to strip the frame down to bare metal. Once this was completed, Gomez welded in additional structural elements to key points of the chassis—after all, it was going to be tasked with handling significantly more power than it was originally designed for.

After the frame was repainted, Gomez began installing the new suspension. He went with a Vette Brakes & Products full Performance Plus system, which includes custom-fabricated control arms, front and rear transverse composite springs and offset rear-trailing arms. He chose to bolt on QA1 two-way adjustable shocks, as well as a custom-built rear anti-roll bar. The steering system was also upgraded with a Steeroids power rack-and-pinion kit. As for rolling stock, Gomez settled on a set of Billet Specialties’ Profile Collection Stiletto wheels (7 × 17-inch front, 8 × 17-inch rear) wrapped in Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec radials (235/40ZR17 front, 255/40ZR17 rear).

The original brakes joined the engine and transmission in storage. In their place, Gomez added a complete Wilwood racing system, which consists of 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers clamping down on slotted rotors. From the Wilwood catalog he also sourced fully adjustable dual master cylinders.

With big power output as the number-one goal from the outset, the need for a heavy-duty rear-end assembly was never in doubt. Gomez installed a Tom’s Differentials Stage 7 limited-slip carrier stuffed with Richmond 3.55:1 gears, as well as 1350-series 3.5-inch half-shafts and forged fine-spline steel axles.

As for the transmission, Gomez selected a Kiesler Engineering TKO 600 5-speed gearbox as a starting point. To increase torque capacity, he had the internal gear sets cryogenically treated. The addition of carbon-fiber syncro blockers and the installation of a dual ceramic clutch with a hydraulic-actuation system would help on that score, too.

With the frame, suspension and drivetrain sorted out, propulsion was the next item on Gomez’s plate. He went big, as in 515 cubic inches big, selecting an aluminum block from Donovan Engineering, which earned its reputation building aluminum blocks for top-fuel dragsters in the ’60s. “Kathy Donovan still runs Donovan Engineering,” says Gomez. “She was kind enough to oversee the casting and delivery of this special project.” The block was designed around a 4.530-inch bore and a 4.0-inch stroke. Gomez began the V8 build by installing a Callies Dragonslayer forged crankshaft, Oliver Steel Billet connecting rods and JE ceramic-coated forged 10.4:1 pistons with Total Seal gapless rings.

While the beefy bottom end ensured the engine wouldn’t grenade itself, getting the V8 to generate lots of horsepower meant efficient fuel and air delivery. To that end, Gomez started with a set of Air Flow Research 315 CNC heads, Jesel Sportsman-series shaft-mounted aluminum rockers, nitrated beehive springs and hollow-stem valves. Actuating all of this is a hydraulic roller camshaft custom designed by Jones Engineering. Fuel delivery comes via a fully ported Edelbrock low-rise dual-quad intake crowned with a pair of Edelbrock 800-cfm AVS carbs. Gomez finished the assembly by installing a Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine-belt system.

The last part of the horsepower equation was to efficiently and quietly discharge the spent gases. That task was accomplished with the installation of a set of ceramic-coated Stahl side-pipe headers. These flow into 4-inch Random Technology metal catalytic converters. From there, the decibels would be maintained at a respectable level with two 4-inch Magnaflow stainless-steel mufflers per side tucked behind a set of modified factory side-pipe covers.

With the engine complete, Gomez shifted his focus to the tired fiberglass body. There was some apprehension on his part once he started peeling back the layers of paint. His fear was that something unpleasant would surface. Much to his relief, nothing did. After stripping all the paint off the body, he repaired any minor problems, including the usual stress cracks common in almost any vintage Corvette. Once that was complete, Gomez set out to massage the body to perfection. He applied multiple coats of high-build House of Kolor primer/surfacer that were then block-sanded by hand to eliminate surface imperfections. Once the body lines were aligned and the surfaces smooth and level, the next step was to apply the House of Kolor silver primer. This was the point where the project couldn’t progress any further at home.

For the final application of the top layers, Gomez was forced to rent a paint booth for one day. Continuing the use of House of Kolor products, and racing against the clock, he applied Galaxy Grey base coat, which was then followed by multiple coats of Brandywine Kandy Red Urethane, then Kosmic Urethane Show Klear.

With the freshly painted Corvette back in his garage, Gomez’s last major hurdle was dealing with the worn interior. His goal was to make it the best example of what was offered in ’65. Explains Gomez, “I embarked on a detailed factory restoration including leather seats, a fully restored instrument cluster, new replacement top, new carpet and a factory-correct teak reproduction steering wheel that is an inch smaller in diameter due to the addition of power steering.”

A few weeks after the completion of the project, Gomez wanted to see what kind of numbers he could get from the big V8. The dyno run yielded 559 horsepower at the rear wheels, which works out to 700 hp at the crank. While the dyno is a useful yardstick, there is nothing like a real-world flogging at a racetrack to determine a car’s true performance. This took place at Palm Beach International Raceway’s drag strip a few weeks after the dyno pulls. Gomez’s projection, or desire, was to run a mid-10-second quarter mile on street drag radials. After a few passes, he clocked a 10.864 run at 128.49 mph. “The launch and mid-range acceleration of this Corvette are like nothing I’ve ever felt,” Gomez explains. That run made two long years of work worthwhile and permanently cured him of his Viper problem.

Though Gomez built the car for his own personal fulfillment, he doesn’t mind that others, including show judges, appreciate the quality of his workmanship: The ’65 has received a number of “Best in Show” and “Best in Class” awards. As with any project that requires a huge investment of time, Gomez is most grateful for the understanding, encouragement and patience that his wife, Cheryl, gave to him during the many lost weekends in the garage.