Very seldom do you find someone willing to undertake a full on, frame up restoration by themselves. Let’s face it; most of us don’t have the tools or equipment in our garages to even think about a project of this magnitude, let alone the mechanical prowess needed to successfully complete the build. It’s just something the average person wouldn’t even consider, but Richard Keefer is not your average person.
Having lived in Florida for the best part of his life, Keefer always had a keen appreciation for what could be best described as “American Muscle.” The warm weather and the pearl white beaches made for a perfect cruising environment, Top down, radio up, gentle warm breezes blowing in off the Gulf of Mexico, for a young man, what could be better. “I guess you can say my love for the classics goes back as far as I can remember,” Keefer recalled. “I can remember these guys cruising around town in a two-door Model A Ford hot rod, and thinking about how cool that was.”
Even at this young age Keefer knew that one day, somehow, he too would be cruising around town in a really cool, head turner of a ride. What it would be, at this point was unknown, even if it required a bit of work, Keefer was sure he could handle whatever was required to put his vision on the road. “I have always been mechanically inquisitive,” Keefer chuckled. “I loved taking things apart just to see how they worked, sometimes; I even got them back together.”
Shortly after graduating High School, Keefer, like many young men during the early 60s, was called on to defend democracy, and serve our country in the deltas of South Vietnam. After surviving a year in and around Saigon, Keefer received his orders that would return him to the friendly confines of Clearwater, Florida. Once back home, Keefer planned to go to college, but in the interim, took a job at the Sears Town near downtown Clearwater. Keefer was actively searching for a car he could use to get to and from work, but wasn’t having a lot of success finding something that held his interest.
Hearing that the young man was looking for a car, the general manager at Sears Town approached Keefer and let him know he had a car he was going to sell, and asked him if he might be interested. Keefer agreed to give it a once over, and followed his boss out into the parking lot, and there, in the bright Florida sunshine sat a red and white 1960 Chevrolet Corvette. Keefer would look no further, papers were signed, money was exchanged, and the Corvette was now Keefer’s pride and joy.
“In 1969, when I first bought the car, I was aware it needed some work, it ran and drove out okay, but, it needed some TLC,” Keefer remembers. Seems the car had been stolen previous to the store manager owning the car and the seats, engine and transmission were all removed from the car. The insurance company at the time had installed seats from a ’62 Corvette to replace the original seats that had been stolen. The engine was replaced with a 327 ci V8 out of a ’66 Chevelle along with the three-speed automatic Powerglide Transmission. “The car was never a numbers matching car,” Keefer offered. “That really didn’t matter to me at the time; I had a few ideas about what I wanted to do to the car to make it my own.” The first major change Keefer made to the car was to replace the engine and the Powerglide transmission with a fresh 327 ci and four-speed manual transmission.
Keffer drove the car for several years in this configuration. Sometime in the early 70s, he decided that a frame on restoration was in order, and at the time was all the budget could afford. He gave it new seat covers, new paint, and freshened up the motor. Again, Keefer drove the car for several years before parking it in his garage. “I drove the car occasionally, but I didn’t put as many miles on it as I used to,” Keefer grinned. As was common with this era C1 Corvette, the car had a few design flaws. The car was very uncomfortable to drive, the heat from the engine and exhaust seemed to radiate through the fiberglass body, and on a typical day in the ninety plus degree heat in Florida, the car was nearly undrivable.
Another downfall were the brakes. When applied, the driver could never be sure what direction the car might go or exactly how much room was needed to bring it to a complete stop. The steering was hard, even with power assisted steering a casual drive downtown would become a workout. Last but not least, these early C1 Vettes rode somewhat akin to a hay wagon. Even with these flaws, this car was part of the family and was here to stay.
Having retired in 2003, Keefer opted to do a complete frame up restoration on his beloved old car. He began researching the needed parts and pieces to complete the project. He read a number of articles on the dos and don’ts of automotive restoration. One of these articles was a true revelation. Keeping in mind the car was never a numbers matching car, Keefer came across an article outlining a build on a ’62 Vette with an LS1 motor, and late model suspension, “It just clicked,” Keffer said. “After reading that article I knew exactly what I was going to do.”
Keefer started the build within the walls of his two car garage behind his house; he began by removing the body and basically set it aside. Wanting to do a complete restoration he ordered a rolling chassis from Corvette Correction in Sequin, Texas. This new chassis would correct the rough riding characteristics common with the early model C1 by incorporating the newer C4 suspension components on both the front and rear of the car using single transverse fiberglass springs.
A power assisted rack and pinion steering system coupled to a custom tilt steering column from Ididit Steering would solve the hard steering problem, and 12-inch power, duel piston disc brakes with drilled and slotted rotors would be used to bring the Z060 to a stop. The entire package would sit on Boyd Coddington custom Wheels, with specially fabricated center caps sporting the Z060 logo, and N3000 Nexan high performance directional radial tires.
Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed transmission, hydraulic clutch, and a 3.73 rear gear would complete the drivetrain.Keefer opted to use the LS3 engine package to provide the horsepower for his Z060. “There were a number of reasons I decided to use the LS3,” Keefer offered. “It was much lighter, was fuel injected, and offered the kind of horsepower I was looking for.” The LS3 produces 430 hp, more than enough to get the Z060 moving. A
Keefer also installed a Vintage Air front pulley system to include air conditioning on the LS3, and used a high performance all aluminum cross flow radiator from Be Cool Radiators to keep everything within proper operating temperatures. The exhaust system, including the headers was located through StreetPerformance.com. Other miscellaneous, but much needed parts like the wiring harness and engine computer also came with the help of StreetPerformance.com.
Lizard Skin, a spray on insulation and sound deadening material. The cockpit of the car was treated with Dyna Mat extreme on the floors and firewall as another insulator and sound reducer. The interior features custom leather hand stitched bucket seats and custom made door panels from Al Knoch Interiors. The instrument package and steering wheel are products of Corvette Correction.Keefer insulated the entire underside of the body with
The radio, although looking like a standard AM radio of the era is actually a custom designed Wonder Bar, AM/FM Audio system with ports for an MP3 or iPod. This system comes from Antique Automobile Radio in Palm Harbor, Florida. Headlights are upgraded to halogen while all other exterior lighting is LED. Keefer added additional LED lights on the rear of the car located in what were the exhaust ports in the rear bumper. He also added 10 LED lights to the Corvette logo on the trunk as a third brake light. “I wanted to make sure people could see I was stopping,” Keefer assures. “I put way too much time, money, and sweat in this car to have somebody run over me.” The body was topped off with a base coat, a PPG Magnetic Red color coat, and a final clear coat for that added protection and luster Keefer envisioned.
When all was said and done, the build went very smooth. There were a couple of minor problems that required attention, but overall, as Mr. Keefer put it, “the car went together very nicely.” The build took a little over two years to complete, and Keefer readily admits he enjoyed every minute. So much so that after the Z060 was complete, Keefer purchased a sixty-two Corvette and pretty much replicated the Z060 build. The end result was a very pretty tuxedo black Z062 that brought $160K across the Mecum Auction block at the 2012 Kissimmee Auction. “It really gives you a sense of pride knowing someone would pay that kind of money for something I built in my garage ,” Keefer stated.
Today Keffer drives the Z060 around town and displays it at a number of local shows around the Clearwater Saint Petersburg area. Rumor has it that he is currently working on what will be a Z065, when asked to confirm the rumor, Keefer smiled and said, “Yeah, I’m working on it, but I think this will be the last one I do.” Should Keefer adhere to this build as being his last; this would be a real shame, after all, a Z054, or maybe a Z055 would be nice.