“Since I was a kid, I wanted three things: a Harley, a boat, and a 1962 Vette. Now I have all three,” Chevalier announced. “My dear friend Benjamin Franklin and his pals helped me build it.” But Chevy didn’t rush into it. He had the car for a few years before cracking a single nut. He took his time, devised more than one scenario and made several crucial assessments before he committed to the epic.
One of the things not in his favor was having the work done on the mainland, 2,500 miles from his house, and communicating via semaphore and Morse code. He was unable to stop in every day to ascertain progress … or even add his two cents. Indeed, Chevy Place seems a very tolerant soul. His ideal celebrates form as well as function. It has the detail, the nuance, and the care required to win a First Place trophy at the Grand National Roadster Show last January.
Hard to believe this car was built more than 50 years ago, and is even more difficult to believe we had one back in the day. We got our 1962 fuelie in 1963 for the grand sum of $2,900, one of 14,531 roadsters produced that year at the St. Louis facility. Chevy bought his sight-unseen off the Internet. After a lengthy phone meeting with Mickey Larson of Twins Custom Coaches, Chevy pushed the fiberglass bomb into a container, along with a Tri Star 427 small-block and a Turbo-Hydro transmission, and sent it to a Pomona, California, address.
The Corvette needed a lot of fiberglass repair and it needed a final destination. Pro Touring wasn’t it. Street Machine wasn’t it. Pro Street and its recent resurgence was it. Chevy likes those BIG back tires for their intimidation, so a tidy, corner-balanced chassis and anything else but full-steam-ahead could go to hell. If there’s a story here at all, it’s how Twins literally rebuilt the back of the car to welcome the gargantuan rubber. They eliminated the trunk space, as it were, and built panels to accept the Pro Street chassis, the Real Rodders 10-inch wheels that Eric Vaughn stretched an additional 4 inches to accommodate the project and the 16-inch-wide Mickey Thompson rollers.
Since the Corvette’s front suspension was completely pedestrian, having morphed slightly from its early-’50s Chevrolet passenger car origin, Chev cleared the field with Art Morrison 2×4 rails and the traditional control arms included in its Pro Street chassis package. On the smoky end, a four-link system and a Panhard rod locate the chopped down 9-inch axle. Wheel diameter dictated modest Wilwood 11.0-inch discs attended by four-piston calipers. Dropped spindles and the adjustability of the coilover shocks made it easy to set the stance on Chevy’s deep orange dream.
That business about the Grand National Roadster Show indicates the level of sophistication and preparation infused in the fiberglass. Great concern for details; great concern for a car versed in several realms. The small-block combo is based on a new Dart SHP siamese-bore cylinder case offering 427 cubic inches. Tri Star Engines in Baldwin, Wisconsin, built the big little-block and on a conservative tune-up squeezed 540 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of twist from it all day long.
Regardless of the mechanical level, a Grand National winner will likely be known for its silhouette and near-perfect execution. Twins’ Diego Juarez embraced the bodywork, lavishing more than 1,000 hours there, rendering the lines crisp and sharp. Isauro Lopez stepped up and applied the custom PPG Hawaiian Sunshine cocktail that had been shaken and stirred by Mitch and Nadine Linuma in Honolulu. Meanwhile, the hardtop had been restored in Hesperia, California, at Ron Lefler’s Glassworks. After the overspray had settled and the paint had time to harden, the car went to detailers Serafine and Miguel at Serafine Detailing down south behind the Orange Curtain.
In the pocket, Chevy drops into original seats that were contoured and upholstered by Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors out in Upland. The richness envelops—leather-swathed dashboard, black-and-sand colored leather, black wool rugs, and custom door panels. The dudes at Art of Sound, Tommy Mikel and Carlos Rodriguez, rewired the chassis and Carlos installed the audio components and modified the Twins-built console to accept the B&M shifter and the Line-Loc.
A long-distance relationship is always a gnarly proposition. By far, the most distressing part for Chevy was waiting out the car’s 18-month sentence at Twins. But the plans and the research played out well. “There were very few changes from the original,” said Chevy. “Mickey and his crew delivered the ride I’d been envisioning for years. In January 2016, I was able to meet [them] in person while debuting the car at the Grand National Roadster Show. Then walking across the awards stage with a First Place trophy and having my family with me to celebrate the moment is one of my most memorable experiences.”
What would he do differently? Chevy looked up, squinted into the big, yellow ball overhead and said, “I think the next car will get stack injection.”
Also published on Medium.