The Corvettes Of SEMA 2016

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This little LT powered C2 at the Edelbrock display was the kind of eye candy lurking around most every corner at SEMA.

SEMA 2016 proved to hold many delights for fiberglass fanatics with a veritable kaleidoscope of custom Corvettes glistening under the mega-watt lights of the biggest indoor car event on earth. Although there were many cool examples at the show, the following six ‘Vettes represent the best of the breed when it comes to custom Corvettes.

Most follow the current restomod blueprint of tube chassis, LS/LT motor and modern running gear, yet all cross the finish line with different recipes and unique interpretations of the “perfect” Corvette.

So hold on to your hat and lets kick this thing off with a fantastic, red 1963 Split Window coupe.

Created by Browns Classic Autos, and builder Charlie Sullens, he gave us the lowdown on the project and how he breathed new life into a perfectly fine, already running and driving 1963 ‘Vette.

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Edelbrock supercharger makes itself perfectly at home in C2 engine bay.

The original plan was to build a “spec” C2 Corvette that could be sold at Barrett-Jackson. The build sheet included an LT1 crate motor, tube chassis, C4 front suspension, and a solid axle rear suspension all wrapped up with modern wheels, a killer stance and perfect fiberglass dipped in a coat of Twizzler red paint.

So far, so good. Then a local football player from the Phoenix area saw the car and said he was interested with one caveat: the car needed some alterations to be just right.

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Think of this interior as C2 with Italian seasoning. In a common move to accommodate athletes, the cabin was altered so new owner could get in and out.

“We added an Edelbrock supercharger on top of the LT1, ditched the manual for a automatic transmission and cut down the seat so the big guy football player could fit,” Sullens recounted. The transmission swap was a major alteration but the guys at Browns Classic Autos pulled it off.

Most all of the other good stuff remained including the custom exterior vents, C6 exhaust,19s up front and 20s out back, a black stinger stripe and super sanitary build quality.

Check out all the cool trim and custom touches. The hood, fender and pillar vents sparkle with in-house fabricated stainless mesh pieces.

The car was holding court at the Edelbrock display and was quite the crowd pleaser. Sullens said,” All the work was done in house including the design, fabrication of the mechanicals, and cosmetic tweaks like molded rear valance that surrounds the four trumpet C6 exhaust pipes.”

The interior is an exercise in suede and black leather with Ferrari-esque touches incorporated into the seats and door panels. Although extravagant in materials and execution, the interior is pared down with a tidied up instrument panel and no center console.

Sullens says “This car is one of the fastest, tightest cars I’ve ever driven.”

Makes the rest of us regret not turning out for football.

Black stinger is nice punctuation to red paint.

Next up, let’s hit the rewind button a little longer and check out this ’53 fastback that created quite a stir when we first reported on it. Reaction was polarized, but like it or not, a restomod C1 is almost guaranteed to create controversy because who has the balls to cut one up?

Lord have mercy. Now that’s the way to slam a C1.

In all fairness, this car started life as a kit car. Altering old Corvettes is considered blasphemous by some, so let’s clear this up right away and not have anything spoil the fun of this crazy, fiberglass fantasy.

This little ‘Vette kit car, rescued from oblivion by Corvette guru Mike Walker from Street Rods Only out of Macon, Illinois, has a backstory that almost eclipses the car.

Walker got this little buggy from a former customer who it had sitting around. When Mike asked what was in store for the it, the owner said, “You can have it…” Au gratispro bono, free.

Now, that’s a price we can all agree on.

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In the weeds stance and old C1 work well together.

From there, the sky was the limit. No provenance or persnickety matching numbers malarkey required, so Walker set out to create a custom, one-off C1 that would make Harley Earl blush.

The car was already atop a no-name tube frame that although serviceable, needed much massaging from Street Rods Only to get in shape. They added C4 front suspension components, a nine-inch Ford solid axle rear end, front brakes from a C6 and drum brakes in the rear.

The car is powered by a small block Chevy lifted from a sprint car–off all things–Hilborn fuel injection and a 4L60E automatic transmission. Be sure and check out the old school, ribbed valve cover covers too.

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Check out the stacks and the oversize dress up bits.

With the foundation sorted out, Walker turned his sights on the body and flared the wheel wells, added front fender louvers, shaved all the side trim and for the finishing touch, added a Street Rods Only, exclusive removable top in the image of the fastback Corvette Corvair concept from the early fifties. Neat touches are everywhere on the car like C7 side markers, C2 side exhaust tips and a sliding sunroof re-purposed as the rear window.

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Walker showed off this '59 a few years back and has a knack for the fastback.

Mike bought the molds for these hardtops few years ago and has moved a lot of them. He recently toured around with an orange ’59 Corvette so, this wasn’t unfamiliar territory. He also makes a “split window” version of the this top as well.

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Harley Earl is either rolling over in his grave or cheering wildly…

This ’53 in white with a red interior is impressive in person with great stance, slinky bodywork, and knee high ride height. If all this of this turns you on, it’s for sale too.

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This 1970 Corvette killed in person. Ferocious.

We spotted this monster 1970 C3 in the Stewart Warner booth and it beckoned us to come get a closer look. Looking fantastic in old school ’70s Le Mans livery and packed to the fender gills with a laundry list of modern, go fast artillery.

We chatted with builders Kevin Tully and Chad Hill from Skunkworks Racing, a Division of Hot Rod Chassis and Cycle, who walked us through the finer details of this little white and red, racer ‘Vette.

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Engine pin-up material thanks to Borowski Race Engines.

Running a Borowski Race Engines 626 hp, LS 427 V8, topped with Hilborn EFI-R Individual Runner Injection and although installed in a mostly stock C3 frame, the suspension is where the guys make this C3 build unique.

Tully and Hill installed their own, in-house fabricated, cantilevered rear suspension and nicked the  front suspension from a C7-R. All of this gonzo hardware rolls on American Racing VF482 wheels mounted on Falken 315/30-18 Azenia RT615k tires.

Only the best here.

Add a NASCAR size radiator, a Skunkworks fuel cell, Flaming River steering rack and a myriad of other high-performance gear and this thing is ready to run hard.

Finally, Kevin and Chad admitted having a soft spot for C3 Corvettes and old school racing so they dressed the thing up with flares, bubble headlight covers, side pipes and a big ‘ol tail spoiler.

The icing on the cake is the red and white racer paint job and a interior restored to better than factory fresh, with a mod or two thrown in for good measure.

We don’t know where this ‘Vette will land next, but look for it running free in the wild soon.

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Bubbly goodness.

Next up is a killer C7 that stopped ’em dead in their tracks. Our esteemed colleague Chase Christensen, Editor of sister publication LSXMag, bring us the details…

The seventh generation of the Corvette is one of the most capable—and we think best looking—of its long and illustrious linage. But when you’re considering heading out to SEMA, you can’t just roll up in a stock C7 and think that you are going to get a gaggle of attendees halting in their tracks to take a look at a bone stock vehicle and, in turn, your booth. This is, in fact, the big leagues, and the guys over at Theory Communications & Design are more than aware that they needed to deliver a show stopper for one of the largest aftermarket shows in existence.

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Wide and thick looks good on a C7

Enter this: the wide-bodied C7 they designed for Mobil 1 in partnership with Chevrolet Performance. It’s low-slung exterior and beautiful flowing lines drew us to it like a moth to a flame. And while there was no lack of exorbitant ride from renowned builders such as the Ringbrothers and Skunkworks within a stones throw, we were immediately drawn to this C7 for the simple fact that its exterior has been aggressively revamped in a manner that left us trying to put our finger on exactly what had been changed and how—we like it when a car plays hard to get. (Note From D. Cruikshank – Of course you do.)

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Big artillery here.

For the answers to our burning questions, we turned to Andy Williamson—the CEO of Theory Communications & Design and the overseer of this gorgeous C7 build. Naturally, our first question to Andy was what really inspired Theory to build such a beast. 

“Mobil 1 wanted us to work in conjunction with Chevrolet Performance to build something special,” Andy said. “So we opted for a base Z51, and the idea was to build it as if Chevrolet made an actual GT or club racecar.”

From there, a plan began to percolate. They wanted the car to have an aggressive stance, much like a GT racer would. They started by raiding the GM parts bin for a set of Z06 suspension and brake components. They also used many other “flow down parts” from the Z, including the improved cooling system, aero bits, and sway bars. They then brought the car even closer to terra firma with a set of lowering bolts.

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C7 a natural for wide body treatment.

After they had the car sitting just right, they turned to StanceCraft for a hand with the custom body work. Utilizing the stock molds of the C7, they widened the body by a total of 4 inches up front and 7 inches in the rear with 14 individual pieces that you can now buy directly from StanceCraft. Needless to say, this gives the car a very aggressive look. An APR Performance diffuser and Stage 3 Z06 spoiler sets off the rear of the car while a Z06 grille classes up the front end. 

“What we had in mind was what a Z06 and C7.R would look like if they had a baby,” Andy joked. “So we ended up with something that was much more aggressive than the standard Z06 but was still a street version—basically like a club racecar.”

Andy continued, “Lots of guys have wide-bodied these cars, but they tend to lose the lines of the source material when they do that. We wanted this to look muscular and retain every line the original design had—not just look bloated. With that in mind, we scrutinized everything—even the crease from the fender to the door, everything. All of those lines continue through from the original body work to the new wide body.”

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Hello!

The Corvette’s aggressive posture is accented by a set of flat gold, three piece, 19-inch Fifteen52 wheels wrapped in Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. The rears measure in at a massive 345 mm, utilizing every inch of space offered by the stretched bodywork. 

And while the exterior of the car is about as menacing as they come, Theory wasn’t about to give this car a lot of visual bark without providing some visceral bite. They turned to East Coast Supercharging (ECS) for one of their centrifugal supercharger setups to add nearly 200 horsepower to the ‘Vette’s already potent 460 horsepower LT1. A Late Model Engines billet intake manifold adorns the engine and provides a focal point for the already outrageous build.

Kooks headers feeding a Kooks exhaust evacuate spent exhaust gases while an Alky Control water/methanol injection system keeps everything cool on the intake side of things. All of the engines’ mods add up to roughly 700 horsepower at the rear wheels.

“We were worried at first, because we really wanted to track the car, that we were giving it too much power,” Andy said. “But then we said, ’can you really have too much power?’ and that was the end of it.”

The subtle body improvements continue under the hood as the radiator fan shroud and several other panels have been handmade and festooned with speed holes—giving the car a bespoke look and feel.

The car is far from done, though, according to Andy. The LT1 is set to receive a set of Chevrolet Performance’s newly released CNC-ported cylinder heads as well as the accompanying Hot Cam to boost the car’s performance even further. The car will also receive a developmental catch can setup from ECS. 

Retro Designs Speed and Custom out of Concord, North Carolina handled all of the assembly and engine work.

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Okay all you C2 fans, we didn’t forget about you! Check out this Lingenfelter powered Grand Sport built by Superformance, based out of South Africa. They take an old Grand Sport blueprint, sprinkle some magic, megapower pixie dust on it, and poof! You’ve got the meanest C2 racer on record and a real crowd pleaser.

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You can buy this thing from Superperformance darn near as you see it with custom built frame, running gear and killer bodywork. On this particular build, that’s where Lingenfelter picked up the ball and added his big motor madness.

They packed this C2 Grand Sport with a 6.2L LS3 motor and crowned it with a Borla Semi-Cross Ram fuel injection with eight individual intake stacks coming right off the Chevrolet Performance LS3 heads. Running on 93 octane, the 11.5:1 compression and Lingenfelter GT11 hydraulic roller camshaft resulting in a robust 550hp.

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The exterior is outrageous with black anodized side pipes, huge wheels and and black and blue paint treatment. The radiused wheel wells, trunk lid and multiple taillight treatment are retained from original car but somehow look even more flamboyant.

The interior is a hint that this isn’t a real Grand Sport although Superformance cars are an officially licensed product from General Motors, just so you know. The cockpit is all business but is updated with slightly different dual cowl dash, door panels and trim.

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This is a killer interpretation of the restomod ‘Vette with rarity, provenance and the highest quality. It’s priced at around $200K but you get what you pay for. See Superformance and Lingenfelter for all the details.

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Last but not least, check out the laughing gas on this C7. Again, our LSXMag editor Chase Christensen brings us the story.

Matt Snow of Snow Performance is known throughout the automotive industry as one of the leading water/methanol experts and proprietor of some of the coolest kits on the market. We can also now safely say that his namesake adorns one of the coolest cars on the block.

You may recognize this particular ‘Vette since it has been making the rounds on social media—mostly because it is lugging around a spectacular amount of laughing gas in an area of the car that most Corvette owners reserve for their golf clubs on the way out to the course. However, we were no different than the rest of you, grinding to a halt in our tracks when we saw what this car was packing under the hood. As we passed the booth we couldn’t believe what we were seeing, so we stopped in to ask Matt just what this brute had to offer.

“The car showcases our new supercharger lid, that we will be offering soon, which is plumed for water/meth injection,” Matt said. “The car belongs to Mike Abney at NX, hence the nitrous, and he built this car for us for SEMA.”

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Matt tells us the car was used to develop the lid that they will release in the first quart of 2017 for any C7Z. The system uses eight individual nozzles, mounted directly in the supercharger’s lid, to cool the air charger after it passes through the stock intercooler system. This provides the LT4 with a dense, cool air charge packed with methanol that in turn also adds combustible fuel to the system and consequently horsepower. 

So far the only modifications the car has received is a smaller supercharger pulley, that ups the boost by 2.5 pounds, and the water/meth kit. While that might not seem like a lot, it was enough to bring the car’s overall power output to 648 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, with plenty more to be found once the nitrous system is up and running.

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“It’s more of a subtle, rather than a radical, build,” Matt explained. “It’s just something that a normal guy could do, or would do, to his own car. You put a pulley on, you do a tune, you put this plate on so you don’t have to cut anything, since it’s a made-for-Z06 part, and you get a lot of power.”

This particular car is running Snow Performance’s Platinum system as well. In essence, it is a water/meth controller that can pull in many inputs and allows you to ramp in the water/meth delivery based on a tunable map that you, or the experts at Snow Performance, tune. 

And while the car isn’t making record-breaking amounts of horsepower, one thing is for sure: Matt and the guys at Nitrous Express won’t be running out of giggle juice on this bad boy anytime soon.

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So there you have it. Six monster builds and the cream of the crop from SEMA 2016. Did we miss a killer Corvette from the show?  Let us know your comments and whether there were “runner ups” we overlooked.

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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