Fusion Reaction

Gary Meyers and Noel Grace serve up an astonishing amalgam of C1 and C2 elements

Photo: Fusion Reaction 1
September 14, 2023

Do mine eyes deceive me? It would seem so, at least in the case of Gary Meyers’s melded Corvette. It’s a clever combination a 1958 front with a ’65 rear body section, yielding a result he fittingly dubbed “Deception.” But blending these design details was no mean feat, and the project eventually came to include elements from other Corvette eras as well.

Meyers describes the car thus: “Approach the car from the rear, and you think you’re looking at a ’67, with the distinctive backup lights over the license plate,” he begins. “Walk around to a side view where you see the C1 coves, and you might think it’s a ’61 or ’62. Then, move more to the front, and the 1958 louvered…hood adds to the confusion. Peek inside the cabin, and the comfort of an upgraded C2 interior is on display.”

Lastly, instead of instead of an old-school small-block under the hood, there’s a fresh LS3 crate engine with a gleaming Holley Sniper EFI intake and pulley drives by Billet Specialties. Compared with a late-1950s 283’s output (ranging from 250 to 283 horsepower), the LS delivers a much more lively 430 horses. A Tremec Magnum six-speed manual transmission backed by a Hurst shifter funnels the power to the pavement through an aftermarket rear end.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 2

Blending the midsection of the door panels was one of the more challenging aspects of this multi-generational Corvette mash-up.

What inspired this project was the fact that Meyers has owned seven different Corvettes over the years, and his two most recent ones were restomods. So he wondered: Why not merge his enthusiasm for all these different models into one car? 

When we came across this conjoined Corvette last June at Bloomington Gold’s impressive display of purist collectibles, neither the participants nor the judges on hand seemed to know quite what to make of it. As noted at the outset, a typical reaction was, “What am I looking at here?” But while the car didn’t take top honors (it instead garnered a Silver trophy in the Restomod class, which thus far has never awarded a Gold to any entrant), many spectators were nonetheless impressed by its innovation and meticulous level of workmanship.

The build was handled by Noel Grace and his crew at Factory Hot Rods in West Chester, Ohio. The company name is actually somewhat of a misnomer, as Grace specializes in customizing Corvettes that, like Meyers’s, tend to look anything but factory. Misleading appellation notwithstanding, the shop clearly does quality work, as evidenced by one its Corvette builds selling at auction recently for $650,000.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 3

Nacelles behind the seat headrests were borrowed from a sixth-gen.

Getting back to Meyers’s motivation for this project, he notes that, “Noel built a ’67 restomod for me about 15 years ago, which I later sold. I started to miss the car, so I began thinking about having him build another.” This one, however, would be from a previous era that Meyers finds visually appealing.

“I have always liked the front end of the late-model C1s with the four headlights,” he explains. “So I thought about having Noel build a C1 resto.”

But when he mentioned his concept to a car buddy, the response was less than enthusiastic. He didn’t think Meyers would be happy with a C1 because of the constricted cockpit. The friend happened to have a ’59 in storage and invited Meyers to sit in it, to get the feel of the interior.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 4

“I did, and he was correct,” Meyers admits. “I didn’t like how tight the cabin was, especially since my neck is fused and I can’t bend easily to enter or exit the car.”

Meyers felt frustrated and a bit down because had been pretty excited about doing a C1 build. After mulling his quandary for a few weeks, he seized upon an alternative.

“What about a C1 did I like?” he asked himself. “The front end and the side coves.” On the other hand, from his three previous C2s, he knew he was comfortable in a C2 cabin. And then the solution hit him: Why not put the front of a C1 on a C2?

Photo: Fusion Reaction 5

Flush with enthusiasm for this coalescing of designs, he drove all the way from his home in Indiana to the Factory Hot Rods shop in Ohio to present his idea to Grace. After pointing out that he could only stretch or shrink a car a certain amount, the customizer measured both a C1 and a C2 he already had at his shop to determine if it was even possible.

After some head scratching and eyeballing, he figured that it could be done—but neither quickly nor easily. It took about 18 months for Grace and crew to complete the car, requiring some skilled craftsmanship from master fabricator Greg Dotson, who has 34 years of experience at the company. What were some of the challenges, and how did they overcome them?

Looking at the overall body shape first, the transition area between the C1 nose and C2 back end is in the middle area of the door panel, which required grafting ’58 coves onto ’65 doors. Dotson had a tough task merging the panels together to make them all flow together into one smooth shape, as if it came from the factory that way. That front end of the ’58 is not only longer, but also a total of four inches wider, didn’t help.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 6

To combine panels from two different generations of Corvettes, Dotson cut down each side of the C1 fenders by two inches. For strength and the right look, they were sectioned at the “spear” line, and an additional bracket was incorporated underneath, plus custom weather stripping. This grafted body shape was then laid over with fiberglass resin and mat, bonding it all together from top to bottom. Third-generation Camaro IROC-Z rocker panels on the door sills help to tie this pair of Corvette eras together.

Next, Grace removed the wiper grilles along with the wipers, and a new firewall was fabbed with fiberboard to “lock down” all the modifications into an integrated form. That was just the beginning of the body mods, however, as the two-tone interior has a 2012 C6 center “waterfall” form, cut and sectioned in several pieces to provide more room between the custom seats. A pair of C6 headrest nacelles add swept shapes behind the seats, and an electric-hyrdraulic ram was installed to raise and lower the deck lid as well as the hood.

Aftermarket LED headlights and turn signals give the car’s frontal area a more contemporary appearance, as do the modern side mirrors from Corvette Sport Parts. Yellow-face Auto Cross gauges from Classic Instruments brighten up the cockpit, which is further enhanced by a tilt-wheel steering column. Even the fuel door was changed to a later model year, since the ’66 piece is a better color match.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 7

As for the underpinnings, Grace found a rust-free ’67 rolling chassis to modify for the upgraded suspension, which employs a Speed Direct fully independent rear end with inboard-mounted coil-over shocks. At the front is more Speed Direct hardware, along with a Flaming River power, rack-and-pinion steering setup. Four-piston SSBC brakes are mounted front and rear, actuated by an electric master cylinder with ABS. The Schott Wheels rims are painted in custom taupe to match the cove color and measure 18×9 and 19×10 inches front and rear, respectively.

As for the main body paint, Meyers looked at literally hundreds of cars and winnowed his color choice down to about three. But even then he wasn’t fully satisfied with his options, until inspiration arose from an unlikely source.

“I was in Colorado attending a big car show with a good friend of mine who was taking two cars to the event, and he requested I drive one for him,” Meyers recalls. “It was being held at a large auto dealer for McLaren, Maserati, and several other upscale brands. Once the car I drove was positioned in the show, I looked around the dealership to see if I could find a color for my restomod.” 

Photo: Fusion Reaction 8

The hue of one car in particular caught his attention, a Maserati in charcoal Grigio Maratea, with just the right amount of metallic and subtle hues. For the trim on the coves, the factory pieces wouldn’t fit on the custom doors, so they were painted on instead and given white highlights. This automotive trompe l’oeil, providing the illusion of a three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface, is a fitting treatment for a car named Deception. 

During the buildup, Meyers did express some concern about the fraction of an inch of clearance between the fender lips and the meaty tires (255/40ZR19 Nitto Invo Redlines), but Grace assured him that the Speed Direct setup would “tuck in” the top of the tires in hard cornering.

The presence of all these modifications to the drivetrain and chassis raises an obvious question, specifically, How well does the combination perform? Exceedingly well, according to Meyers, who informs us that the car tracks straight down the road, carves a sure path through tight corners, and stops short with no wandering. Consider that impressive level of stability a testament to Grace and his team, who fused two different eras of Corvettes into a remarkably seamless whole.

Photo: Fusion Reaction 9

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