Reincarnation Magazine

Reincarnation Magazine
Continuation, Reproduction and Replica Automobiles
Rein Car Nation Cover Fall 2019
						Karl Kustoms A1
Cloaking Device

Classic Sting Ray styling conceals a modern Corvette

Story and Photos by Joe Greeves

The aggressive and aerodynamic lines of the current Corvette Stingray certainly has its fans, but plenty of enthusiasts prefer the shape and nostalgia of vintage Vettes. When you drive an older Corvette, though, with its lack of refinement and overly direct connection to the asphalt, you might find the aging technology less than thrilling. It was wonderful for its time — and time moves on. So if you’d like to have the handling, safety and comfort of a new-age ride, yet hate the idea of losing those heartthrob classic curves, you have to find a solution that melds the best of both worlds.

Bill Zei, from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, says he’s found it. A lifelong automotive enthusiast, his first car was a 1956 Chevrolet convertible, and over the years he estimates that he’s had probably 50 cool customs in his garage. Smiling with a wry grin, though, he recalls that each of his old cars always had a to-do list taped to the windshield, listing some type of repair, replacement or upgrade. They all had a venerable charm, but mechanical headaches were the norm for his nostalgic collection.

In his quest for a trouble-free ride of a certain flavor, he came across the team from Karl Kustoms while at a Corvette show in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This firm’s unique display immediately caught his attention, and he was hooked by the company’s methods for combining old and new. With C6 underpinnings under a wide-body version of the legendary ’63 split window, Bill had finally found his best of both worlds.

He stayed in touch with Karl Kustoms representative, Jim Hidy, while he was formulating his plan. The dozen or so cars in his current collection were put up for sale and he began looking for a donor Corvette. Some months later, Jim called, saying that they might have just the car he was looking for. He had taken in a low-mileage (9,000 miles) 2013 Corvette Grand Sport with the standard 425 hp V8 and automatic transmission. It had minor body damage, but the exterior body panels would be removed anyway during the transformation. Bill gave him the go-ahead, specifying a list of options to personalize his ride.

Because this was the 33rd coupe built by the Karl Kustoms team, several new options were available. Bill asked for actual flip-up headlights with modern Hella LED projector lenses, rather than the earlier style, which were integrated into the grille. In addition, he specified six taillights with sequential blinking and an LED center backup/third brake light that changes color from red to white. Plus, he wanted shaved door handles with hidden external door release buttons that also operate from the remote and the exhaust pipes to exit through the rear valence.

For rolling stock, he selected EVOD Industries’ Sting billet wheels, which mimic the Corvette hubcaps from the mid ’60s. As a subtle cosmetic touch, the Nitto rubber features vintage red stripes on the outside, with the valve stems and tire information on the inside.

Although lots of performance options were available, Bill opted to keep the 6.2-liter V8 stock, minimizing any maintenance that might be required with high-performance parts. Just for fun, though, he added exhaust cutouts that emit a heavy rumble at the flip of a switch.

About halfway through the build process, Bill and his wife, Faith, drove to Des Moines, Iowa, to get acquainted with the future addition to their garage. The Karl Kustoms team had removed the stock outer fiberglass panels and replaced them with wide-body panels created from molds on site. In the rear, the sought-after ’63 split window hatch now opens, creating access to usable storage space in the rear.

Up front, the black-accented ’67 Sting Ray hood creates an aggressive look, and modified versions of the classic Corvette split bumpers protect front and rear. The removable roof panel and the roof reinforcement bar were the only parts not changed on the exterior.

All the new body panels use the original General Motors attachment points, weather seals, hinges and latches, ensuring a professional makeover. Hours of careful fitting and hand sanding followed in order to get the fiberglass body ready for paint.

The goal for the car was a specific shade of pearl yellow, so Jim sprayed half a dozen samples until he got just the right one. Bill says he’s had lots of yellow cars over the years, but this shade is the best yet. It was then nicknamed “Limoncello” after the bright yellow Italian lemon liqueur.

How is this new/old Corvette to live with? Blending the iconic cues of the ’63 split window and ’67 Sting Ray hood with modern engineering and technology creates a head-turning, yet reliable vehicle. While lots of folks hope a project car will serve as an everyday driver, it instead turns into an “every now and then” driver. On the contrary, “I bought this one to drive and not to sit somewhere in a collection,” Bill notes. “You’ll see this car all over town, as well as at local shows.”

Now at the age of 73, it’s the ideal retirement ride. After a lifetime of fixing up old cars, it’s wonderful to drive one that’s hassle-free, running modern underpinnings cloaked with classic Sting Ray style.

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