Second Chance

Jim Hornaday puts a modern—and creatively finished—twist on one of Corvette’s most iconic offerings

Photo: Second Chance 1
February 2, 2023

Long-time car enthusiast Jim Hornaday had performed many stock Corvette restorations over a period of several decades, but as the availability of worthwhile cars dwindled, he began to think about going in a different direction. “The restoration of a very original car, with some or all of its documentation, is one thing,” he reflects, “but what of those cars that are in really rough condition and have lost all of their provenance? I supposed they could be left to provide parts for other cars, but why should they not have a second chance at life?”

After mulling over the idea for a little while, Hornaday turned his thoughts into actions, and over the past few years he has transformed the sad and neglected remains of several old Corvettes into beautiful, roadworthy gems. In the process, he has discovered a level of satisfaction that wasn’t possible with the highly precise, factory-correct restos he did in the past.

“When rebuilding a car that many others thought was not worth the time or effort, I can bring it into a new era of…utility because I don’t have to adhere to the way the cars were originally built, and am not restrained by any judging considerations,” he tells us. “With this car, for example, I built it exactly the way I wanted it, not the way Chevrolet made it.”

Photo: Second Chance 2

The project began with a 1967 convertible body that, like so many other Corvettes, had been in a front-end collision early in its life. The “birdcage” structure was undamaged by the crash and showed no signs of rust, which is a somewhat common problem with C2s. The fiberglass from the firewall back was actually in very good condition despite profoundly weatherworn blue paint that made it look pretty sad.

Hornaday turned the body over to Lucky’s Restoration, in Athens, Alabama. Seth Wood and the technicians there installed a brand-new, jig-assembled front end, complete with press-molded panels glued together with bonding strips just as the factory originally built it. They also went over the rest of the body and fixed the stress cracks and other damage accumulated over the decades; perfected the door, hood, headlight-bucket, and convertible deck-lid gaps; and block-sanded every surface to get them all as close to perfect as possible.

When it came time to paint the restored body, Hornaday had an unusual request. A long time ago, while he was serving in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany, he bought a ’66 Corvette coupe through the Canadian Post Exchange. The car had been traded in as partial payment for a new Mercedes-Benz by another service member, and to this day Hornaday cherishes the memories of driving it on the Autobahn during his tour of duty.

Photo: Second Chance 3

“That ’66 coupe was my first Corvette, and my recollections of the reactions it generated on the Autobahn are what induced me to paint the ’67 Mosport Green,” he says.

The unexpected color choice even has historical precedence. Though it was only available on 1966 regular-production Corvettes, Hornaday tells us he’s aware of two specially ordered COPO [Central Office Production Order] ’67s that were painted way by the factory.

One thing those two original Mosport Green ’67s didn’t have, however, was bright-red interior trim. Hornaday selected this contrasting shade in an effort to make his car unique, while also tying it in with the goal of completing the entire build by Christmas of 2017.

Photo: Second Chance 4

In keeping with Hornaday’s vision of dramatically improving the Corvette’s performance and utility, he bought a Street Shop C2 chassis fabricated from 4×2×0.120-inch steel tubes. The frame weighs slightly less than a stock second-generation unit but offers vastly increased torsional stiffness to better resist twisting and flexing. And because it was designed to accept a stock C2 body, no modifications to the floor pan or wheel wells were required.

C4 Corvette brake and suspension hardware at both ends supplies far better stopping and turning characteristics than the stock C2 gear, while fully adjustable coil-overs at each wheel allow Hornaday to fine-tune the setup. Handling is further enhanced by virtue of lower-than-stock engine mount points. A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering setup completes the basic chassis configuration.

Since the Street Shop chassis can be made to accommodate a variety of different drivetrain combinations, Hornaday decided to go with an C6 Z06-spec LS7 mated to a Legend Gear & Transmission LGT700 five-speed manual gearbox and stock GM LS7 clutch. The transmission’s twist is turned 90 degrees toward the wheels by a stock C4 Dana 44 differential fitted with a 3.07:1 ring-and-pinion set. As with all of the other C4 chassis components, the diff came from a ’96 model.

Photo: Second Chance 5

The LS7 is stock and was bought new as a complete assembly. All of these potent, 427-cube small-blocks were hand-assembled by highly trained technicians, with this particular one put together by Donald Henley at Chevrolet’s Wixom, Michigan, Performance Build Center. (The PBC has since been relocated to Chevy’s Bowling Green facility.)

After the body was painted, but before it was mated to its new chassis, Hornaday turned his attention to the cabin. He wanted to keep the layout very close to that of an original ’67 Corvette, so all of the major components—including the seats, instrument housing, steering column, and center console—were kept stock, while everything else was fully restored. New seat covers, dash pads, carpeting, and other soft-trim items came from Al Knoch Interiors, whose techs installed the seat upholstery with new underlying foam.

The car did not initially come equipped with air conditioning, so Hornaday opted to install a Vintage Air system. But in keeping with his desire to main a stock-looking interior, all of the original ducts and vents, as well as the fiberglass dash itself, were preserved. He also installed an original telescopic steering column, which was optional in 1967.

Photo: Second Chance 6

Chevrolet offered a real wood steering wheel for Corvettes in 1965 and ’66, but not in 1967. The wheel, crafted from teak and rosewood, was likely discontinued because it cost too much to produce, though safety concerns over how it could potentially break apart into sharp sections during a collision may also have been the culprit. That notwithstanding, Hornaday took a liberty with the wheel in his ’67, just as he’d done with the paint, and bought a hand-fabricated teakwood “Grand Sport” wheel from specialty fabricator Eric Freeman.

While at first glance the instruments look stock, closer inspection reveals some cosmetic differences, such as the digital readout for the car’s mileage. The gauges all came from Dakota Digital, which went to great lengths to make them original-appearing while still offering modern features such as electronic precision and LED backlighting.

Following a similar approach, Hornaday installed an aftermarket radio from Antique Auto Radio that looks nearly identical to the AM/FM his ’67 originally came with, while offering much-improved stereo sound. It also features Bluetooth, widening his listening choices and making hands-free cell-phone use possible.

Photo: Second Chance 7

After the restored body was mated to the new rolling chassis, countless additional hours were expended to complete the build. Hornaday assembled new wiring harnesses for the car and installed them after Lucky’s Restorations integrated the LS7 engine’s control harness into the chassis harness. The Vintage Air HVAC was connected to the dash and wired, while the seats, steering column, seat belts, and various trim items were installed.

Moving to the exterior, stock chrome bumpers were put in place; body emblems, rocker moldings, and polished window trim were installed; and a beautifully restored, vinyl-covered hardtop was bolted down. The finishing touch came from Circle Racing in the form of aluminum wheels designed to closely simulate original ’67 Rallye rims. These measure 17×7 inches and wear Firestone Firehawk tires sized at 245/45R17 in the front and 275/40R17 at the rear. To complete the factory look, the wheels are configured to accept stock ’67 Rallye wheel center caps.

As planned, the build was completed by December of 2017, in time to celebrate Christmas with the one-of-a-kind Mosport Green-and-red color combination. Hornaday’s commitment to keeping the car largely stock-looking inside and out was successful, despite tremendous improvements to performance and overall usability. The 505-horsepower LS7 coupled with a five-speed overdrive transmission and tall rear gearing deliver both breathtaking acceleration and leisurely highway cruising, while the C4 suspension, steering, and brakes round out the car’s overall performance envelope.

Photo: Second Chance 8

Hornaday and his wife, Shirley, enjoy driving the car to local shows and get a lot of satisfaction from the positive reactions they get to its unique color scheme. Many people also appreciate the skillful way in which Hornaday blended the best characteristics of both vintage and modern Corvettes. We can all be grateful that he went to such extremes to give this once-forlorn C2 a second chance.

Also from Issue 160

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