Something just didn't add up. Despite having an all-aluminum suspension, mid 11-second quarter-mile times, gargantuan six-piston brakes, and a rippling 427 kicking out 505 hp, Bill Bouziden's 1963 Chevy Corvette got no respect. After a while, he realized that his muscle car buddies didn't necessarily dislike Corvettes; they just didn't approve of new ones, and his '06 Z06 was way too new. "Late-models are more comfortable to drive, but they just don't have as much street cred as a muscle car. When you roll up to cruise night in a new Corvette, you just don't feel like one of the guys," Bill says. "New Vettes definitely come with a stigma. People just assume you're the rich guy who doesn't know anything about cars, so you can't talk about turning wrenches with the boys. When everyone else is cruising around in Chevelles and GTOs, and you're in a new Corvette, it's just not the same." Something had to change, and that meant going old school.
Unlike some late-model Vette owners-who are essentially glorified ricers but with more money-Bill comes from a long line of blue-collar wrenchers and has owned his fair share of genuine Detroit iron. Having grown up in a household of farmers, Bill and his brothers tinkered with everything from tractors to dune buggies. "We were your typical farming family who used a chain in an oak tree as an engine hoist. Between my brothers and I, we had a different muscle car in our driveway every weekend back in the '60s," he says. Over the years, Bill has owned a '67 GTO, a '67 Chevelle, a '78 Corvette, and a '67 El Camino. After suffering through the ignominy of owning a late-model, he wanted the comfort, driveability, handling, and braking abilities of his Z06 in a midyear Vette wrapper. "I've always wanted to build a Corvette coupe, and what better coupe to build than a '63 split-window."
Bill confided his split-window fantasies to Joe Brown, and in late 2008 the tranny-man-turned-car-builder came through. Right before Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast, the Vette's former owner rushed it inland to escape the storm. The car ended up in Waco, Texas, and since it had been in storage since 1978, the owner decided to sell it rather than drag it back home after Ike passed through. Bill jumped at the opportunity, and was soon the new owner of his dream car. Although the Vette's frame was badly rusted, the rest of the car was in good shape, and it still had its original 327 small-block and four-speed trans. Despite the inherent value of a numbers-matching body and powertrain, Bill didn't hesitate for a second before hatching a plan to tear it apart. "I'm a purist to a certain extent, but so many of these cars were hacked up for drag racing that I didn't care too much about keeping it original," he says. "In stock form, driving one of these cars is like riding in a milk crate with four wheels. They're loud and uncomfortable, and are in dire need of a modern suspension and brakes. I don't like glossy afraid-to-touch cars, so I didn't want loud paint or any chrome on this build."
Removing the bumpers puts...
Removing the bumpers puts extra attention on the grille, so the stocker just wouldn't cut it. Hot Rod Joe's fabricated a custom unit, and swiped the turn signals off of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
After arriving at Hot Rod Joe's, the old rusty frame and suspension got rolled out into the back alley. A brand-new Street Shop frame and C4 aluminum suspension was then bolted up to the stock body. The slick setup uses QA1 coilovers at the corners, and retains the factory independent rear suspension. Stopping duties are handled by 13-inch Wilwood brakes up front, and 11-inch factory C4 discs out back. Custom Intro wheels wrapped in Nitto rubber keep everything planted to the pavement. With the chassis thoroughly modernized, next on the agenda was replacing the stock 327 and Muncie trans. Spending time behind the wheel of a Z06 had made Bill a big fan of the Gen IV small-block, so he opted for a 430hp LS3 crate engine mated to a paddle-shifted 4L70E automatic. "This is a great-driving car," he says. "Granted, 430 hp isn't that much, but at under 3,000 pounds the Vette easily scalds the tires and will scare you in a hurry. Plus, it knocks down 24 mpg."
So with the project complete, the question is whether or not Bill's latest Vette has the street cred necessary to hang with the muscle car boys. The answer depends on who you ask. "I had a guy get mad at me at a car show and tell me I was stupid for turning a matching-numbers split-window coupe into a g-Machine," Bill says. "I told him it's my car so I'll do whatever the hell I want. I built this car to drive and enjoy, and there are enough garage queens out there already!"
|BY THE NUMBERS
|1963 CHEVY CORVETTE
|Bill Bouziden • Lafayette, LA
||GM 6.2L LS3 small-block
||factory 4.065-inch bore aluminum
||stock pump and pan
||factory nodular 3.622-inch crankshaft, rods, and 10.7:1 hypereutectic pistons
||stock rectangle-port castings
||factory 204/211-at-.050 hydraulic roller; .551/.525-inch lift; 116-degree LSA
||stock LS3 intake manifold and throttle-body
||stock coil-on-plug system
||Street and Performance 1.75-inch headers, dual 2.5-inch MagnaFlow mufflers
||430 hp and 424 lb-ft
||GM 4L70E automatic with Compushift paddle shifters
||factory independent rear suspension with 3.73:1 gears and limited-slip differential
||Street Shop C4 Corvette control arms, spindles, and sway bar; QA1 coilovers
||stock IRS with custom tubular control arms, QA1 coilovers, and 3-inch aluminum halfshafts
||Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; stock C4 11-inch discs, rear
|WHEELS & TIRES
||custom Intro ID 319 18x8, front; 20x12, rear
||Nitto NT555 245/45R17, front; 275/40R18, rear
With a stealth look in mind,...
With a stealth look in mind, Bill picked out Cyber Gray paint off of a new ZR1 for his Corvette that's complemented by black one-off Intro wheels. The front and rear bumpers were removed to smooth out the body lines, and the door handles and front parking lights have been shaved as well. Otherwise, the body is completely stock.
As with the exterior of the...
As with the exterior of the car, the idea underhood is to eliminate the bling. To accomplish this, the valve covers, throttle-body, air inlet tubes, alternator, and accessory brackets were satin finished in black. The Street Shop frame came set up for the LS swap, greatly simplifying the LS3 install.
Out back, the beauty of the...
Out back, the beauty of the factory split-widow design does most of the talking. The taillights are custom pieces, and the mufflers have been mounted sideways for additional clearance. Like a C5 or C6, the tailpipes exit from the center of the car.