A ‘simple’ Corvette restomod gets out of hand, but is done right

Most of us prefer classic cars because of the undiluted driving feel and unrestricted designs of yesteryear. But as much as I prefer the classics, I understand why some people might prefer something new and fuel injected. No grumpy cold-start carbs to coerce into waking up or an ancient ignition system to fiddle with. Just turn the key and you’re on your way. Better yet, when someone who is paying more attention to their smartphone than the road inevitably cuts you off, you’ll actually be able to avoid calamity, thanks to a modern braking system.

But what if you’re someone, like Drew Efimoff, who wants the benefits of modern reliability and performance in a classic? Well, it’s 2017, and restomods are more popular and easier to build than ever thanks to strong aftermarket support. While definitions vary, in general a restomod is a car or truck that combines classic body with varying degrees of modern mechanicals.

Efimoff’s Corvette restomod (Andrew Golseth)

Efimoff’s plan was to combine a classic Corvette Sting Ray with an LS engine to quench his need for horsepower, but finding the right car took a couple of years. Born as a 1965 Nassau Blue Metallic 327 coupe with matching blue interior, this car originally came with Powerglide automatic transmission, factory air conditioning, power steering, and four-wheel disc brakes. When Efimoff purchased the car it was a two-owner, all-original vehicle with a little over 106,000 miles on the clock.

As for the wrenching, Efimoff went the professional route. After extensive research, he discovered Lucra Cars, a San Diego-based company that specializes in building a retro-styled roadster called the LC470. Lucra offers the LC470 with either a 6.3-liter or 7.0-liter LS powerhouse.

Inside Lucra’s unmarked facility is a spotless, white-floored garage stuffed with the latest high-tech tools and equipment. The shop’s organization, meticulous commitment to detail, and overall cleanliness convinced Efimoff this was the right place to rebuild beloved Sting Ray.

1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray profile (Andrew Golseth)

Any restoration can become a slippery slope of work and expenses, and this one is no exception. What began as a simple repaint and engine swap turned into a year-long rotisserie restoration. After the original fiberglass body panels were massaged back to life, the body was prepped for paint. Efimoff considered respraying it in the original Nassau Blue but ended up picking Tuxedo Black—an understated choice in contrast with the colossal power under the hood. Dare we say it’s a sleeper?

Efimoff chose a new 6.3-liter 480-hp GM Performance LS3 engine mated to a L460E automatic transmission with overdrive. Lucra mocked up custom engine mounts to fit the new powertrain, with clearances as tight as just an eighth of an inch from some suspension components. A Racepak smartwire power module and harness takes care of engine management and eliminated the original fuse and relay system.

Corvette LS engine swap

To keep the running gear within ideal temperatures, Lucra’s team built a custom cooling system, consisting of a massive Griffin Performance radiator with electric fans and custom powder-coated radiator lines. Rounding out the restomod treatment: a new rack-and-pinion steering system, new bearings, bushings, mounts and cushions, upgraded springs and shocks, a custom driveshaft, all new hubs, and a rebuilt Positraction rear end.

To keep the 1965 aesthetic appropriate, the original fin wheels were refinished, wrapped in fresh radial Firestones, and torqued down with new knock-offs. And while the Corvette’s disc brakes were pretty good in 1965, Efimoff chose to play it safe with a custom Wilwood four-wheel disc brake conversion and stainless steel lines for modern bite that won’t fade after heavy flogging.

Every piece of rubber was replaced, including all new seals, gaskets, and weather stripping, ensuring a factory-fresh feel throughout the car. The tired original blue interior was swapped out for all-new red upholstery from the headliner to the carpeting, with new sound-deadening underneath. From the door panels to the dashboard, switchgear, and instruments, the only original piece remaining inside is the three-spoke deep dish wood steering wheel. Even the factory HVAC system was ditched for a more effective modern unit from Vintage Air.

1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Rear 3/4

With 480 reliable ponies on tap and a modern braking system, this 52-year old Chevy performs far better than its classic looks would have unsuspecting bystanders believe. Too often, these types of modern/classic blends mix like oil and water. Having gone for a spin, I can confirm that Efimoff’s Sting Ray restomod is smoother than your favorite margarita blend. Despite Efimoff’s confirmation that the build went over budget, it’s hard to think about dollars with a thunderous crescendo rising from the Vette’s uncorked side pipes.