If everybody felt that we should leave well enough alone, VETTE magazine probably wouldn’t exist. After all, how many times can you retell the same story over and over again about original- spec cars? While we certainly give due respect to pristine classics, it seems that most Corvette owners can’t resist the urge to tinker. Peruse any given issue, and you’ll notice how many of our feature cars are customized in some significant way. The trick is to avoid a freakish excess of mods. After all, thinking outside the box is one thing, but going over the edge is something else entirely.
That caveat was kept clearly in mind by Dr. Barry Long, owner of this remarkable Sting Ray, and builder Alf Ebberoth. Long, who conceived and orchestrated the project, has a lot of hands-on experience working on cars, earned both before and during his years of medical training. As a car-guy first and a doctor second, his concept was simple, based on a previous project for a ’58: “I’ve always wanted to build a Corvette on an original chassis, but with an upgraded suspension and engine,” he recalls. “But have it still look like a classic. I didn’t want to build a hot rod.”
Long’s black-and-silver ’58 might be familiar to some readers, since it graced the cover of our Feb. ’00 issue. At the time, the quality of this multi-era, all-Corvette concept created a sensation as a trendsetter in the restomod scene. It featured a ’96 suspension under the 3-inch-wider rear fenders, along with a Grand Sport LT4 and six-speed.
The car sold for a handsome sum at Barrett-Jackson a few years ago, despite the down economy. Meanwhile, Long had already set his sights on another project, enlisting the aid of Joe Calcagno, the Bloomington Gold judge and C1 Corvette specialist who had previously tracked down the ’58 donor. Now Long asked him to locate a suitable Sting Ray to fulfill what he envisioned.
As Ebberoth explains, “We wanted to build a 1967 Corvette that was radical, but still looked like something the factory could have produced—if [it were] faced with the challenges we were up against with the body modifications.”
As with the ’58, Long wanted to fit fatter tires in the rear without merely grafting on fenders flares. Yet the hurdles were even greater, because the amount of widening would need to be about double what had been done before, while making sure the body lines would flow together in an integrated way. Also in keeping with the ’58, they planned to use only Corvette parts wherever possible (though not necessarily from the same model year).
Sounds simple in theory, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. Fortunately, Long had already been to Hades and back with his previous custom Vette, a process that taught him plenty about combining old and new components, as well as enlarging quarter-panels.
Even so, his “Air Roadster” as he dubbed it, “was a long ordeal,” Long admits, requiring many years of off-and-on effort. At the outset, Calcagno came across a worn-out ’67 that had been driven hard and put away wet in a shed. Yet this platform was ideal, since using a generic, garden-variety vehicle was important to Long.
The wheels and tires are also ZR-1 issue, right down to the brand and model of the rubber.
Carrillo buckets wear supple leather by famed upholsterer Sid Chavers. Note the C5/C6-styl
Thanks to its custom frame and late-model drivetrain, the Air Roadster is as competent on
“I didn’t want to destroy a restorable classic,” he points out, noting that he’s acquired several originals (including a ’70 ZR1 and a ’90 Guldstrand) over the years and has a respect for the Corvette legacy. All told, the only items worth saving on the ’67 were in the cockpit, and these were sold to help defray the cost of buildup. And as we’ll see, Long had some special custom touches in mind for the interior anyway.
First, though, he sought out Paul Newman of Newman Car Creations to install a fresher driveline and suspension. “The ’95 ZR-1 is my favorite,” Long says. “That 32-valve, overhead-cam engine is really something special.”
Enhancing the LT5 further, Ebberoff fabricated a custom cold-air intake and exhaust, and added a DeWitts radiator with dual fans. (This improved airflow is a theme we’ll return to shortly.) A ZF six-speed from a ’95 ZR-1 funnels power to the 3.45:1 Dana 44 rear. In one of only a few exceptions to the “Corvette parts only” rule, a set of ’96 Grand Sport brake calipers were allied with Baer Eradispeed rotors, front and rear.
But how to get the polished ZR-1 rims and beefy Goodyear rubber to tuck under the wheelwells? After all, the factory track width of a Sting Ray is actually slightly narrower in the back than the front, the reverse of what one might expect. To broaden the beam without tubbing the frame, Ebberoth split the fenders lengthwise and spliced in a 6-inch section of fiberglass, bonding it in a manner similar to the original manufacture of the body. To add those curvaceous lines, he glued sections of surfboard foam to the sides of car the and then shaped them until they flowed with the rest of the body.