A nicely restored classic Corvette is always a pleasant sight. Sleek, low slung and classically handsome, the ’Vette is an iconic American car, and one that perhaps best represents the ideal of post-war top-down, hair-up Route 66 motoring. Unfortunately, all this doesn’t actually mean the Chev-built machines are a pleasure to drive. After all, this is a tiny sports car born into a world where vehicles twice its size were the norm. A huge bus-like steering wheel competes with the driver for room, the car wallows about as you roll through, and don’t even consider trying to stop in a hurry, it simply won’t happen.
Long-time rodder Bob Unkovich knows this all too well, after spending years completely restoring his first ’Vette to pristine condition. “To be honest, it was a horrible old thing to drive,” he admits. “I’d always liked the idea of hot rodding the car, making it fun and interesting to drive, but in the end, after a lot of protesting from some other Corvette guys, it was decided that probably wasn’t the best thing to do to a restored classic car.”
As fate would have it, Bob was soon offered a very good price for his car and, as he had brought a total of three C1 ’Vettes into the country for the resto job, he still had access to another chassis, another body and a whole lot of spare parts to build his idea of the ultimate Corvette, something a lot of people tend to disagree with. “The whole concept of rodding a Corvette is fairly new,” Bob explains. “Until a few years ago very few people modified the cars, they were all classic restoration jobs. Over the last few years the idea has been gaining popularity in the States. I’m the first to do it here in New Zealand, though, as far as I’m aware.”
The Whole Package
Nearly every aspect of Bob’s ’62 has been greatly improved from the original, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that to look at it. “Although I wanted the car to get up and move, to drive nicely and to stop well, I didn’t necessarily want to ruin the classic look of the car by advertising that fact, so I’ve tried to keep everything hidden,” Bob says. When Bob starts the C1 up a crescendo of eight-cylinder rumble and a subtle forced-induction whine are present, and the first place you will want to look is straight under that long, slender hood. The motor, an original Corvette 283ci V8, was built way back in the mid-1990s with help from Gearing Engines. It was to go in Bob’s first Corvette, but minds were changed and the now larger capacity 302ci motor sat on a shelf for the next few years. Packing JE pistons, four-bolt mains and a Crower cam, the well-built engine is force-fed air by what some might call the best feature of this car: a front-driven, under-bonnet 4/71 Roots supercharger. It’s not often you see a blower sitting at the front of the engine, but with a little custom work from Bob the unit just fits, receiving air from a pair of filters and forcing it into the ported and flowed heads through a Demon carburettor and Edelbrock dual-plane intake manifold.
An MSD 6AL unit and simple Holley Blue fuel pump provide the spark and fuel, while a nicely built 2.5-inch exhaust system runs to the back of the car and removes waste gas.
The original factory three-speed transmission clearly wasn’t the ideal choice for a supercharged machine, and it was duly replaced with a five-speed manual box from a Z-28 Camaro. This has been mated to an alloy flywheel, heavy duty clutch and a pressure plate from McCloud.
Next up, the Chevy’s poor handling needed to be addressed, and this time round custom was the name of the game as this car’s suspension technology jumped a few decades ahead of itself. Up front, Bob completely replaced the heavy steel front end with a custom tubular alloy setup. This has been mated to a pair of TCI adjustable coil-overs. At the rear of the car, the chassis has been modified to allow the archaic leaf springs to be replaced with a custom four-link setup and the same TCI coil-overs that spring the front of the car.
Brakes That Work!
Notorious for their incredibly poor stopping power, the Corvette’s brakes were considered inadequate even in the ’50s and ’60s, let alone now. Bob put them aside, threw a set of Wilwood four-pot callipers and discs onto the front end, and pilfered a pair of rear discs from a Ford Falcon GT to match. These can easily be seen through a pair of 17×8-inch TSW rims, wrapped in Eagle F1 rubber. The wheels sit nicely into the original fibreglass guards of the car, creating a far stauncher aesthetic than the original.
Those guards, along with the rest of the body, were given the full rotisserie restoration treatment prior to being bolted onto the chassis. Now painted in a turquoise colour ” picked by Bob’s wife from a VW Polo ” the body is in perfect condition, and even features an alloy floor pan from an earlier 1958 Corvette, as Chevrolet tried cutting costs in 1960 by going to a heavier steel pan.
Bob has tirelessly restored and improved the cabin, in the process making this particular ’Vette a far more pleasant drive. New leather covers every surface, including a pair of Scat Pro Sport seats, while a host of high-quality Auto Meter Pro Comp Ultra Lite gauges can be seen through a small Grant steering wheel. Bob doesn’t believe in having a stereo in a rod, so you simply won’t find one in this Corvette.
The sharp eyes amongst you may have noticed the steering wheel now resides on the wrong side of the car. Its not something Bob is super happy about, but was required in order to get the car on the road legally.
With the car now built, running and very much street drivable, what now for Bob and his unique, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Corvette? “It is a great car, and there are a few more things I want to do to it, like changing the intake system so it’s not pulling in so much hot air, but at the same time it is for sale,” he admits. “I’ve got a few new projects I’d like to get stuck into, so it’s time to move on.” This sounds almost like a perfect opportunity for one lucky rodder to own something unique, fast and possessing plenty of that mysterious but all-important ‘cool factor’ that only a rumbling, whining and hard-charging classic convertible can possess.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette
Engine: 302ci (4949cc) Corvette block, JE pistons, four-bolt mains, Crower cam, Gearing Engines machine work, Gearing Engines head porting and flow testing, Demon 650cfm blow-through carb, Edelbrock dual-plane intake, custom front-driven 4/71 Roots blower, Holley Blue fuel pump, MSD 6 AL ignition, 2.5-inch custom exhaust system, two Griffin electric fans
Driveline: Z28 Camaro five-speed transmission, McCloud alloy flywheel, McCloud clutch and pressure plate, early Corvette 3.5:1 possie diff
Suspension: TCI coil-over suspension, four-link equal length rear end, panhard rod, custom alloy tubular front end, right-hand-drive rack and pinion steering
Brakes: Wilwood front four-pot callipers and discs, Ford Falcon GT rear callipers and discs
Wheels/tyres: 17×8-inch TSW rims, 235/50R17 Eagle F1 tyres
Exterior: Stock body, ’58 alloy floor, VW Polo turquoise paint, rear chassis custom modified to suit four-link rear end
Interior: Scat Pro Sport seats, Grant steering wheel, Grant shift knob, Auto Meter Pro Comp Ultra Lite gauges
Performance: 400hp (300kW)
Occupation: Fitter and turner
Previously owned cars: ’58 Vette, ’67 Camaro RS, ’67 Camaro SS
Build time: Seven years
Owned: Seven years
Bob thanks: Chuckie, Gearing Engines, Bob Carlyle, DC Trading
Story: Peter Kelly | Photos: Adam Croy