Jim Black

If you asked 100 different car enthusiasts what their “dream car” would be, chances are good that you might get a hundred different answers.

Sure, there may be a few repeats and undoubtedly Chevy’s Corvette would probably make the list on several counts.

Randy Ratcliff, a recently retired schoolteacher from Ankeny, Iowa, has always dreamed of owning a classic Corvette. Not new to the hobby, he bought his first Corvette, a 1976 model L48 with a four-speed, in 1982. Although it was a beautiful car, it was far from the car of his dreams. Randy later sold it with no regrets as work, family, and other commitments forced life changes. Deep down, this initial purchase spurred a desire to get into the “Corvette Scene” at some point. As the years progressed, his desire to own another Corvette just burned deeper.

In 1986, Randy purchased a 1966 big-block coupe, a matching-numbers car in silver, for $16,000. “I didn’t take the time to examine the car’s history and it wasn’t as nice as advertised,” Randy admitted. “It looked great, but I later realized it had a re-stamped engine and some major accident history.” He sold the car a short time later once he decided that he really wanted a red roadster instead.

Randy still hadn’t learned his lesson. He continued “dabbling” in various cars, not all of them Corvettes, and making the same mistakes. Soon, the quest was put on hold as his kids reached college age and the financial responsibilities that went with it brought a halt to the process. The learning wasn’t done, however. He would soon learn another valuable lesson dealing with car auctions.

In early 2000, Randy had his first bad experience. It happened at a Mecum Car Auction in Des Moines, Iowa. “Two guys were bidding on a beautiful 1966 GTO convertible. In a moment of weakness I threw in a ‘harmless’ bid, and the other bidders promptly stopped, and I ended up buying the car,” Randy recalled. “I believe I fell victim and have no one to blame but myself.” He later sold the car and vowed never to get caught on the short end again.

In 2007, he decided he was going to buy the “car of his dreams”, but this time he would take adequate precautions, do his homework, and take his time. “I decided to take a constructive yet systematic approach, outline my priorities, and hoped to get the best results possible,” he commented. “I knew if I didn’t rush the process, that I would be successful, and this time I wouldn’t just settle, I’d get what I wanted.”

First, priorities were established and the car of choice was a 1967 Corvette roadster in red with a small-block V-8, four-speed transmission, and already professionally restored to stock “as-built” condition. “I considered several different options, but the SB 327 (L79) would be more affordable, easier to maintain, and more driver friendly,” Randy explained. “I had no intention on buying a NCRS high point car or trailer queen. I wanted to drive this car.”

By many accounts, the 1967 Corvette was considered the best looking of the early Sting Rays, which was basically unchanged from the previous 1966 model. The ’67s had several minor changes that only “true” Corvette enthusiasts can identify. “It didn’t take me long to figure out that my favorite Corvette was the 1967 model,” Randy explained. “It has a refinement that no other Corvette year has from my perspective.”

Second, Randy had learned from previous mistakes that knowledge was the key to success. “I purchased books on Corvettes, studied codes, options, production figures, and learned all I could,” he said. “This information is vital when looking over a potential car to purchase.”

Third, the “knowledge” continued as Randy attended car shows and auctions to get a buyer’s feel for the market, market values, why some cars were more popular and why. “Talking with owners of ’67 Corvettes was most helpful, especially NCRS judges,” Randy noted. “Who better than those in the business?” He also took the opportunity to attend Bloomington Gold in Illinois, Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, and other larger auctions so he could compare large groups of Corvettes in the same setting.

Finally, after doing his homework, Randy set out to find his “dream car”, searching through hundreds of ads, visiting several classic car dealerships, etc. “In the fall of 2010, I located a 1967 Corvette roadster in eastern Pennsylvania and it was in excellent condition,” Randy said. “The seller had owned it for several years, so I knew he wasn’t just flipping the car to turn a buck.” The seller wanted a firm price, and after negotiating the transportation fees, Randy made the purchase.

This car is equipped with a numbers-matching L79, 327ci V-8 backed with a Muncie M-20 four-speed transmission. The L79 was a cast-iron block with overhead valves and had a bore and stroke of 4.00 x 3.25 inches and a compression ratio of 11.0:1. The engine delivered 350hp at 5,800 rpm and torque at 360 lbs-ft at 3,600 rpm and included five main bearings, a high performance camshaft, hydraulic valve lifters, and was topped with a Holley carburetor. The L79 engine was restored to factory specifications by the previous owner.

Additional options include tinted glass (A01), headrests (A82), auxiliary hardtop (C07), factory air-conditioning (C60), Posi-traction 3.36 rear axle (G81), side-mounted exhaust (N14), redline tires (QB1), speed warning (U15), and AM/FM radio (U69), with Rally wheels as standard equipment. Production totals in 1967 included 22,940 cars, with 2,341 produced in paint code 974 Rally Red. This example is one of just 34 red 1967 Corvette convertibles with the L79 (350hp) with factory air.

These days, Randy enjoys driving his Corvette whenever he can and displaying it at local area shows. “The big problem now is that I spend six months a year living in Arizona, and it’s not long before I’m looking to the spring when I can cruise in the ’Vette again,” Randy admitted. “It’s just too much of a hassle to try and move it back and forth between both residences.”

After a teaching career spanning some 35 years, Randy has taught himself to enjoy the good life, complete with the ownership of his “Dream Machine”.

“I can honestly say that I’d do it all again in a heartbeat,” he said.

We should all be so lucky!

Story richard Truesdell / Images Richard Truesdell and Edward Peghin

Corvettes and television go together like tea and honey, going all the way back to the Corvette’s inception in 1953, when both were in their infancy.

To many, the connection reached its height with Route 66, which ran from 1960 to 1964 on the CBS network. Tod (Martin Milner) and Buz (George Maharis, whose character was later replaced by Linc, played by Glenn Corbett) took to the highway and the Corvette was forever linked to the Mother Road.

In the years since, Corvettes have starred in prominent roles in dozens of other TV programs, movies, and popular culture.

At the same time that Tod and Linc drove off into the sunset, there was a Corvette that was to become an icon of the marque, the Grand Sport. Developed by Zora Arkus-Dontov, it was a lightweight racing version of the Corvette whose styling mirrored the then-new C2 Sting Ray. Over the years, countless Grand Sport replicas and tributes have been built, some based on C2 Corvettes, others on custom frames.

But what if you could combine the styling cues of the original Grand Sport, but underpin it with the state-of-the-art chassis of a C6 Corvette? That question wasn’t lost on Dan Woods, host of the popular wrenching show Chop Cut Rebuild (CCR) that airs on the SPEED Channel along with Laurent and Mike Bensaid of Corvette Specialty of California (CSOC), located in Riverside, California.

Chop Cut Rebuild works on concurrent builds over the course of 13 episodes. In its seventh season in 2010, the CCR team worked on two start-to-finish build-ups. One was a 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger; the other was a Corvette Grand Sport tribute built on a contemporary C6 chassis.

The build was planned in late 2009 and early 2010 with the design and renderings – by CSOC’s in-house artist Gaston Gardeazabal – completed in mid-February, 2010. This would give the CSOC and CCR teams less than nine months to complete the car in time for its planned debut at the 2010 SEMA Show. Dan Woods is a very hands-on host, so he had the opportunity to do something that most of us can only dream of, cutting up and modifying the bodywork on a current-generation Corvette.

While the car would be fitted with an E-Force Edelbrock supercharger, many of the segments would be centered on the extensive modifications to the body. This presented a dilemma to Woods and series director Ed Peghin, who noted, “We quickly realized that documenting the Grand Sport, or GS as we called it, would be a challenge. How much entertainment could we extract from the build of a fiberglass vehicle? Designing a vehicle out of fiberglass is a laborious and painstaking process that does not make for exciting television once the viewer understands the process. How much filler, sanding, gluing, and more sanding, sanding, sanding can we show beyond one episode?”

Starting on the morning of March 18, 2010, Laurent attacked the C6 ’Vette like a man on a mission. Front bumper, rear bumper, rear fenders — all removed. The rear window, gone. The interior was stripped down to its barest essentials.

With the first segments in the can, it would be a month before the CCR team would return. When they did, the CSOC team had applied the fiberglass and filler to the rear and the seductive shape, with the split-window treatment, was taking shape. Dan Woods got an education in the art in applying fiberglass, which was chronicled in front of the CCR cameras.

As the bodywork progressed, maintaining a rigid schedule, attention turned to the mechanicals. In addition to the planned modifications under the hood, the GS was treated to a comprehensive suspension upgrade with components supplied by Pfadt Race Engineering in Salt Lake City, Utah. But there was a complication in the build process.

With winter moving into spring, the economy impacted the build. Mike and Laurent had to deal with several small family-owned suppliers going out of business, threatening to derail the build process. The solution was to purchase a second Corvette to install the mechanical upgrades while the body fabrication would proceed on the initial car.

Next, the CCR team visited the Edelbrock facility in Torrance, California, to detail the fabrication of the E-Force supercharger that would add 200 horsepower to GS. For the next episode, they returned the following week to CSOC with the hardware to document the installation of the E-Force supercharger on the second C6. This was followed by the installation of Baer brakes and Rated X wheels, designed by Jason Rushforth of Rushforth Wheels in Huntington Beach, California.

While the mechanical upgrades on car two kept the project on schedule, Laurent and Mike redesigned the Corvette’s stock interior. The interior received a complete facelift, with the stock trim replaced with leather and suede everywhere, in shades of black and gray accented with contrasting blue stitching. When the installation was complete, there was no low-rent vinyl to be seen anywhere in the cockpit.

Over the last two months, molds were produced so the rear-quarter, split-window treatment could be applied to the second C6. This was followed by painting, cutting, and buffing of the now-completed bodywork. Like many similar efforts, the design is polarizing with some loving it, while others have their reservations. One thing is certain: the craftsmanship is flawless, in a way that reflects well on everyone connected with the project.

Combining two generations of Corvettes into a single car is something that many have attempted. Getting the two generations to mesh perfectly is elusive, but not in this case as everyone connected with this ambitious build has something to be proud of.

The fact that every important step of the way was documented by the cameras of CCR (and is available for purchase as a DVD of the seventh season), make this a special treat for ’Vette fans.