Tall Man's Bluff

It may look like a mid-year on the outside, but this '65 coupe is packing C5 suspension, and a C6 engine—and more leg room than any factory Corvette ever built.

Photo: Tall Man's Bluff 1
March 16, 2012

ACCORDING TO THE LATEST NATIONAL CENTER FOR HEALTH Statistics report, the average height for an adult male in the United States is 5 feet, 9.2 inches. That is one inch more than similar statistics compiled in the early ’60s. Men that measure 6 feet, 4 inches or taller account for only 0.5 percent of the male population. Standing 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Corvette enthusiast Jeff Goldstein is one of them. Due to his height, the Rhode Island native has struggled to fully enjoy his vintage Corvettes—but he knew what he was getting into when he bought them. “Being a lifelong Corvette lover, I understood the limits for driving enjoyment of the mid-year Corvettes, especially compared to modern ones,” he says. However, this is not to say Goldstein hasn’t taken steps to make his C2s more comfortable.

In 1986, Goldstein purchased his first mid-year Corvette, a ’66 convertible. When he decided to restore it, maintaining strict originality wasn’t a priority. “My ’66 led a hard life; it was raced and left with hardly any original parts,” says Goldstein. Therefore, he took some liberties to increase his leg room: “I cut the pedals about 1 inch below the hinge point under the dash, then welded a horizontal piece extending rearward. The cut-off pedal was then welded to the horizontal piece, so the hinge point remains the same, but the actual pedal location is further back.” In addition, Goldstein moved the toe board out, closer to the front tire. These mods allow him to operate the pedals without his knees hitting the steering wheel.

In 2007, Goldstein acquired his second C2, a ’67 convertible. Unlike the ’66, this car was unmolested, so maintaining its originality was of the utmost priority during its restoration—no chopping the pedals this time around. Instead, the car was brought up to a National Corvette Restorers Society judging level, i.e., as close to how it rolled off the assembly line as possible. As a result, Goldstein drove this mid-year a lot less than his ’66. But the Corvette he drove the most—indeed, it served as his daily ride—was an ’06 C6 coupe. Goldstein found it to be quite comfortable, as well as a pleasure to drive. This sixth-generation car got him thinking about his next second-generation one. “I wanted a mid-year Corvette that looked completely original, but had the comfort, performance and driving characteristics of a new Corvette,” Goldstein recalls.

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At the 2008 Corvettes at Carlisle show, Goldstein had the opportunity to speak with several restomod Corvette builders and see examples of their work on display. The outlines of his dream Corvette were beginning to take shape. “I’m tall, and being comfortable in the car was a high priority. I also wanted a higher level of workmanship with fit and finish. Basically, I wanted to build the ultimate driver’s mid-year Corvette that could also hold its own at any car show.”

To get the project started, a donor C2 was needed. Goldstein chased down a number of leads before finding what seemed to be a suitable candidate in California—a ’65 coupe. The owner had intended to turn the car into a restomod, but the project was halted before completion. In his haste to get his own project going, Goldstein bought the Corvette sight unseen. “Knowing what I know now,” he admits, “I might have looked for a better car to start with.”

The car was shipped straight to Xtreme Restorations in Slatersville, Rhode Island. The shop had done the work on Goldstein’s ’66 and ’67, so he was comfortable handing over the ’65. But once the shop’s crew started digging into the car, they quickly realized that very little of the existing machine was useable. At that point, the decision was made to take everything apart and start from scratch.

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The chassis was the first component they focused on, since it was going to be the foundation for all of the modifications. The original frame was junked; in its place went a modified Art Morrison chassis. The X-member was moved back a full two inches to allow for Goldstein’s much-desired leg room, and the rear section of the frame was strengthened to minimize lateral movement. Fifth-generation suspension components with adjustable QA1 coil-overs were installed at each corner. An adjustable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering unit was also fitted.

The donor car’s anemic rolling stock was ditched in favor of wider, taller wheels with modern, low-profile rubber. Goldstein chose a set of custom retro-looking alloys from Schott Wheels wrapped with Michelin Sport Pilot 2 tires. In front, 8 × 17-inch wheels mount 275/40ZR17s; the massive 12 × 18-inch rear wheels are wrapped with 335/35ZR18s. Stock C5 Corvette brakes were fitted at all four corners, paired with a Bosch Hydro-booster and master cylinder.

In terms of propulsion, Goldstein didn’t want a ludicrous amount of horsepower; he wanted a modern small-block V8 with good performance. A stock, 400-horsepower LS2 was selected, and paired with a 4L60E automatic transmission, while a C5-spec Dana 44HD was tasked with transfering the twist. To improve the exhuast note, Street & Performance headers were fitted in conjunction with a custom-fabricated exhaust system featuring a transverse-mounted Flowmaster muffler. The factory outlets in the rear valance were retained, proving big enough for the 2.5-inch exhaust tips.

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To keep the engine cool, Xtreme Restorations bolted on a four-core aluminum radiator with dual electric pusher fans from Northern Radiator. Goldstein opted to have the stock gas tank replaced with a Rick’s Hot Rod Shop stainless-steel unit featuring an internal fuel pump.

While the underpinnings of the car were being put together, the crew started working on the body. As a result of the butcher job that had been performed by the previous shop, they ended up having to replace most of the fiberglass panels. Though Goldstein wanted to keep the ’65 body as stock as possible to maintain the distinctive mid-year lines, sliding those massive Michelins into the rear wheel wells meant that some massaging was needed. Tubbing the car wasn’t desirable, so the rear fenders were widened instead. Since the rear panels were being replaced, Goldstein decided to add an additional pair of taillights. This was his way of paying homage to Bill Mitchell’s Corvette concept cars. Once the new panels were installed, the shop spent countless hours massaging them to improve the fit and finish. They sharpened all the body lines and made sure that every door and hood gap was even. After the body prep was completed, a number of layers of PPG black were laid down; these were sealed in PPG urethane clear.

The last upgrade to the exterior was the lighting system: Xtreme Restorations converted everything to LEDs for safety. The parking lights now serve as daytime running lights, while the headlights use ultra-bright H4 Xenon bulbs.

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Retaining the elegance of the mid-year Corvette’s interior was also a priority for Goldstein. The challenge was to seamlessly integrate the classic C2 cockpit with the modern creature comforts available on a C5 or C6. At the center of all of the changes was the increase in leg room. “We did not extend the foot wells on this car,” Goldstein explains. “We did, however, drop the floor under the seats and lengthened it, so the seats are about 2 inches lower and 2 inches further back than the stock configuration. This allowed more comfort, room and visibility than I’d ever experienced in a mid-year Corvette; the ’65 is actually more comfortable than my ’06.”

Part of that comfort can be attributed to the red leather-wrapped C6 seats that were installed. Other obvious additions are the red leather-wrapped C2 steering wheel, the custom roll bar and the leather-wrapped center console that houses an iPod-controlled sound system and Vintage Air air-conditioning system.

However, the car’s subtle details are perhaps the most interesting. The door panels look deceptively stock, but are actually custom-fabricated units using ’63 and ’64 stainless-steel trim, along with ’66 door pulls. Worth noting is the absence of lock knobs and window cranks; these have been replaced with console-mounted switches that actuate the door and vent windows, along with a keyless entry and security system. The instrument bezel and glove-box door were color matched. The instruments were converted to accept data from the various electronically controlled systems in the drivetrain, while the traditional key-start mechanism gave way to a push-button starter.

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As a mix of new and old, a restomod like Goldstein’s inevitably involves some compromises—some of the original equipment on the car is simply not up to snuff. “The wipers are antiquated,” says Goldstein. “They work OK, but they don’t compare to the ’06’s.” Though he appreciates the added safety afforded by the car’s shoulder belts and roll bar, he wished he could have included an air-bag system on the list of safety improvements.

Compromises aside, one thing is clear: Goldstein enjoys the comfort and performance of his ’65 restomod. He is logging lots of miles, while also racking up plenty of Best of Show awards. When asked if he has plans for any other Corvette projects, he says, “I certainly hope so. I’d love to do an all-electric Corvette.” We wonder if it will be a mid-year.

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