Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Sure, it's obvious this is no ordinary '65 convertible, but an LS9-equipped monster with 748 horsepower?

May 6, 2011
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After several decades of very intense involvement in the Corvette hobby, I have excellent advice for anyone contemplating an extensive restoration or restomod project: Sit down with a blank note pad, a half dozen sharp pencils with good erasers and a bottle of aspirin to ease your impending headache. Next, very carefully calculate the cost for each and every part you’re going to buy, then figure the time required for each and every thing you’re going to have done. After you complete your exhaustive analysis of exactly how much time and money the project will require, take each resulting figure and double it to arrive at a reasonably accurate estimate. Hopefully the aspirin works.

The fact that a complete car build or rebuild normally takes twice as long as most people think, and therefore costs twice as much money, was a primary motivator for longtime car collector Daniel Ferrara when he founded Long Island Collector Car Garage (LICCG) in 2006. He envisioned a facility that would build top-level one-off restomods in less than a year, not several years, as is the industry norm. As a result, labor costs could be better contained. To accomplish these goals, Ferrara brought together a small, intensely focused group of fabricators, paint and body specialists, and engineer/technicians who would work on no more than two cars at a time. By bringing the right people together under one roof and strictly limiting the number of projects going on at any one time, Ferrara gave his staff the tools needed to stay completely focused—and that has meant increased efficiencies and a streamlining of the whole process.

The restomod featured here is a stunning validation of Ferrara’s vision of a highly efficient company that can build custom cars quickly. The car began life as an Ermine White/black vinyl interior 1965 convertible with a base engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic and no options to speak of. By the time Ferrara bought it, the nondescript Corvette had a replacement 327-cid engine and was slightly tired but still roadworthy. Ferrara initially planned to do some light restoration and service work and use the car as a weekend driver, but with encouragement from his staff that idea was ditched.

“We put together a comprehensive plan to completely transform the car into a show stopper that still looks like a stock ’65 Corvette but has the comfort and performance of a new Corvette,” explains Peter Spinella, LICCG’s Vice President.

To get the project going, a custom chassis designed to mount a C2 body with C4 suspension, steering and brakes was sourced from Newman Car Creations. At first, the rolling chassis was fitted with a new 7.0-liter LS7, but that engine was put aside in favor of a less powerful, but more exotic, 5.7-liter four-cam LT5 engine. “We happened to have a brand-new LT5 crate engine and a new ZF transmission on hand, and we thought these would complement the theme of the build very nicely,” explains Spinella.

But everything changed at the halfway point in June 2009, four months after the build began and four months before the car needed to be completed and sent off to the SEMA show in Las Vegas, where it would be prominently displayed in the Mothers Polish booth. Spinella received a call from his friend Mark Campbell, owner of Street & Performance (S&P) in Mena, Arkansas, asking if he had any use for the first GM crate LS9 S&P got in. He didn’t have to ask twice. “Up to that point,” recalls Spinella, “it was impossible to buy an LS9, so when the opportunity fell in our lap we didn’t hesitate. But, of course, since we were the first to install a new ZR1 engine in an older Corvette, we had a lot of additional challenges to overcome.”

The first order of business was getting the engine to mate to the chosen transmission, a Tremec T-56 6-speed manual. (The ZR1 uses a transaxle design, so its Tremec TR6060 is located at the rear, not connected directly to its LS9). LICCG managed to get the assemblies to bolt together and worked with clutch manufacturer McLeod Racing to design and fabricate a prototype dual-disc Kevlar clutch that would work with the LS9/Tremec T-56 combination.

Also from Issue 66

  • Baldwin-Motion Phase III
  • 2008 Coupe
  • Market Report: C4
  • 1992 Coupe
  • 1954 Roadster
  • Tech: New Big Block
  • 1967 Small-Block Coupe
  • How-To: C6 Appearance
  • Racing: Sebring
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