Ron Cherry: Ground-up Resto-Modded ’61 Corvette
When Kerry Anderson set to work on the ’61 Vette he bought a couple of years ago, he knew it was going to be a major project.
“I was looking for a ’61 and wanted a fixer-upper,” he said. “This one was a real fixer-upper.”
He found it on the L.A. Craigslist and had negotiated a price on the phone before he took a trailer down to pick it up. When he got there, negotiations began anew.
“Unfortunately, it was not what the seller had said,” he said. “He’d said things were there that were not. A lot of things were missing, a lot of things were incorrect and there were DMV fees due on the car. We renegotiated the price.”
But once that was successfully done, he hauled it home.
The car had been a race car and the fender wells had been cut out to give more tire clearance and cut down on weight.
“The body had been smacked around a bit, like you’d expect for a car like that,” Kerry said. “It was not what Corvette guys would call a ‘no-hit’ car.”
A complete overhaul
The incorrect 350 cubic inch engine did not run. Many small parts, like door hardware, various knobs and such were missing, as well as some of the chrome. What chrome and stainless trim that was there was in very bad shape, much of it unusable, as was all the glass.
A hole had been cut in the hood and a hood scoop attached over it. Even the seats had been changed.
“I knew what I was getting when I bought it,” he said. “The car was pretty rough, to put it mildly, but it worked out fine.”
The reason it worked out fine is that Kerry did all the work himself and had the skill to do so. He planned to make it look almost stock, but a Resto-Mod, having modern running gear and suspension. He pulled the body off the frame before cleaning and painting the frame.
Then he bought a complete front coil-over-shocks suspension made for the Corvette from Jim Meyer Racing Products in Lincoln City, Ore., that included tubular A-arms, disc brakes and power rack and pinion steering.
“I drove all the way up to Jim Meyer’s to check the place out and picked up the parts. Overall, they were pretty good, but it took a couple of phone calls,” he said. “I had some troubles along the way. They gave me some wrong parts that they exchanged and one backing plate was defective so that there were no brakes, but they sent me a new one.”
Then he changed the rearend to a 9 inch Ford with a four-bar, coil-over-shocks suspension and disc brakes.
“I could have bought a whole new, custom frame as well, but this one works pretty good and rides nice,” he said.
While the body was off the frame, Kerry stripped off what was left of the original Fawn Beige paint, did all the fiberglass repairs and primered it. Then he set it back on the frame to put in the running gear.
He went for a LS3 crate engine that pumped out 430 horsepower mounted to a Tremac 5-speed manual trans. That took a little modification. Both were bigger than the stock ones.
“I had to move the engine forward about a 1/2 inch to fit,” he said. “And I got the trans just barely to fit by moving the body a little. I had to put on a side shifter so it would fit through the original hole in the floor.”
Then he fashioned a custom 2 1/2 inch stainless steel exhaust system.
Most of the trim and all the glass had to be replaced. The stainless trim was damaged so badly that he replaced it as well as the grill and grill surround chrome.
When Kerry had restored a ’59 Vette 30 years ago, some parts had been impossible to find. Fortunately, things have changed and he found everything that was damaged or missing either through Corvette specialty suppliers or on eBay. They weren’t cheap or, often, even reasonable, but at least reproduction Corvette parts were available.
“You pay twice as much than if they were for a regular Chevy,” he said ruefully. He also replaced the hood-scoop hood with a reproduction one, then painted the car BMW Space Grey Metallic.
Inside, Kerry found a set of correct seats on eBay and recovered them as well as the door panels in red leather. The rest of the interior, including the dash pad, he did in vinyl and put in new carpets.
Doing a completed rewire, he installed Dakota analog gauges with multi digital functions for things like the odometer, the clock and timing runs down the quarter mile. For sounds, he opted for an Audiosound Labs MP3 and Bluetooth system with speakers in the kickpanels and a stereo one in the dash. For comfort, he chose a Vintage Air heater and air conditioner.
It took about 18 months of working on the Vette almost everyday, all day, for him to complete it, just recently finishing the removable hardtop.
“It’s fun to drive. Not the greatest driver, but it gets a lot of attention,” he said. “I always liked the ’61 and ’62, with the duck tail rear and dual headlights, but I like the ’61 best because of the stainless trim around the coving.”
It definitely gets a lot of looks when he takes it to Cars and Coffee, an informal gathering of car lovers which happens from 8-10 a.m. every Saturday at the K-mart parking lot off McKnight.
What’s next for Kerry?
“I’m resting right now, looking for my next project,” then he added, “I don’t think I’ll do another Corvette, though.”
Ron Cherry’s books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, “The St. Nicholas Murders,” is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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