Automotive taglines last about as long as celebrity marriages. Here are a few examples just from the past 15 years or so. Ford: Have you driven a Ford lately; Quality is job one; Built for the road ahead. Chevrolet: The Heartbeat of America; We'll be there; An American revolution. Dodge: The new Dodge; Different; Grab life by the horns. Surely, success and prosperity eludes slogans that make little sense or rely on humorous dishonesty. Then there's Porsche, whose "There is no substitute" tagline has somehow endured for more than three decades, but how? Truth in advertising is the secret, according to Porsche aficionados, and Al Hummel of Las Vegas, Nevada, is one who shares that sentiment. However, after building a '61 Corvette replete with g-Machine paraphernalia, he's starting to reconsider.
Porsche guys generally don't like Corvettes. They're just too crude and too common for their sophisticated tastes, which ironically, is just how Ferrari guys feel about Porsches. Nonetheless, hanging out with his friend Rick Tucker-who restores Corvettes for a living-had a positive effect on Al. As a result, Al began dabbling with Corvettes, his first being an original '66 four-speed with a 427 big-block and the ultra-rare big tank option. The ownership experience isn't as gratifying as you may think, though. "It's pretty to look at, but it's hard to enjoy a car like that," Al says. "I'm scared to take it out because you worry so much about something happening to it." Next came a '70 convertible packed with a 454-inch LS5, and for the moment, Al was content with his collection of Corvettes.
As with most enthusiasts, however, that satisfaction didn't last long. "After I finished it, I didn't really want to get into anything else, but since I already had a C2 and a C3, I started thinking about getting a C1," says Al. He was in luck, as Rick happened to know someone in his local Corvette club who had a '61 for sale. Rick wasn't too sure it was the right car for him. "Since Al's a Porsche guy, I told him that he probably didn't want a C1 because they aren't the best handling or braking cars compared to what he's used to," says Rick.
That wisdom set forth a battle plan to give the '61 the full g-Machine treatment. "I was originally going to do a factory-style restoration, but after driving some stock C1s I realized it wasn't the best idea," says Al. "Plus there are so many Pro Touring-style cars out there that look and handle so nicely." Although the mid-year Corvettes and their independent rear suspensions get all the glory, the C1 chassis provides an excellent platform on which to build a swift-handling machine. Says Rick, "The mid-year cars have stiff perimeter frames, but unlike the C1, they don't have any cross bracing. So the C1 chassis is actually stiffer overall."
To achieve the right stance, Rick adapted a set of '70 Camaro drop spindles to fit the Corvette. QA1 coilovers at each corner in concert with 7/8-inch front and 5/8-inch rear sway bars provide the roll stiffness. A four-bar setup and a Panhard bar position the Ford 9-inch rear end in place, and custom tubular A-arms anchor the front wheels. So all that good hardware doesn't go to waste with the stock recirculating ball steering system, Rick fitted a custom rack-and-pinion box out of a T-bird. Speed-scrubbing chores are handled by '70 Camaro brakes up front, and Wilwood discs out back. With a curb weight of just under 3,000 pounds, monstrous rubber isn't a necessity, so the 245/45 Michelin Pilots wrapping 17x8 Torq-Thrust II wheels yield more than adequate stick.
Since keeping it original was no longer a concern, the tiny 283 was promptly ditched. Although it was an impressive motor for its time (eclipsing the 1 hp per cubic inch barrier in Fuelie trim) the small-block Chevy has come quite a way in the years since. Taking advantage of that progress, Rick built a simple yet stout 383 stroker putting out power Porsche flat-sixes can only dream of-on nitrous. It features a SCAT lightweight crank and forged 6-inch I-beam rods, and SRP 10.7:1 pistons. The Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads were opened up a tad, and managing the valve events is a healthy 243/244-at-0.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam. The biggest compromise came with the intake manifold, as tight hood clearance dictated going with a less-than-ideal Edelbrock Torker II unit. Making the best of the situation, the intake was worked over extensively to line the runners up to the intake ports as closely as possible and the hard work paid off. Fed by a Holley 750-cfm carb and exhaling through a set of Doug Thorley long-tube headers, the motor put out 470 hp at 5,250 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at a very usable 3,000 rpm. Backing it up is a built 700R4 trans paired with a Hughes 3,000-stall torque converter in place of the antiquated Powerglide.
Granted the suspension and drivetrain are thoroughly modern, the body and interior remain fanatically stock. The dash, radio, instruments, and even the wiring are all restored factory hardware. The custom 15-inch steering wheel mimics the design of the stock unit but with more modern proportions. All the trim bits are restored originals as well, the only reproduction piece being the trunk emblem. Rick even went to the extreme of chrome plating everything at the same time to avert minor color variations. By far, the most difficult part of the build-up was getting the fiberglass body to fit evenly with tight panel gaps. As delivered, the car was in worse off condition than either Al or Rick expected. The front end had seen previous collision damage, and most of the internal support brackets were rusted out. Getting the 9-inch to fit proved tedious as well, since the spare tire recess in the trunk gobbled up precious real estate. Instead of going crazy on the offending area with a Sawzall, slightly shortening up the wheelbase took care of the problem.
The end product is a subtle digression from mainstream g-Machine building, but it's a formula that works surprisingly well. Modernized enough to transcend the mechanical limitations of '60s suspension and powertrain technology but traditional enough to retain the character and aura of a most prosperous era, the Corvette exists in a unique medium few g-Machine builders aspire to reach. Other than its low-slung stance and aftermarket wheels, the car is visually indistinguishable from a stock Corvette inside and out. There is no mega-watt aftermarket stereo, A/C, or roll cage. Absent are Auto Meter gauges, five-point harnesses, or kidney-squeezing racing seats. Purposefulness takes precedence over making a fashion statement with parts that will never be used as they're intended anyway. That's not to say that this specimen boasts a superior method of building a g-Machine, but this '61 Corvette is an exercise in moderation you can't call a poser.
Interestingly, in building a C1 to meet the standards of a demanding Porschephile, Rick wound up following the Porsche philosophy of over engineering something that's obviously under designed. Despite having its engine in the wrong end of the car and riding on a primitive MacPherson strut front suspension to this day, the 911 has never relinquished its status as one of the world's best handling cars. Likewise, although working with an archaic platform that was never intended to drive like a Porsche, Rick has elevated the C1 handling to Teutonic standards. At least that's what Al thinks, and that's all that matters.