When a car owner and a well-known customizer team up on a Corvette, the result is usually one unique machine. That is, unless the pair agree to build another Vette of the same vintage, combining much of what went into the first one with ideas (and hardware) that improve on that earlier effort.
Such is the case with John Irvin’s Bob Shetler–built 1962 Chevy Vetterod. If those names sound familiar, it’s likely because a black ’62 Shetler assembled was featured in Corvette Fever magazine a few years before that publication merged with VETTE. Irvin saw it at Mid America Motorworks’ annual Corvette Funfest, and it was love at first sight.
“It was the most beautiful car that I’d ever seen!” he says. “I went by about five or six times that day, and each time I’d talk to Bob and ask, ‘Is there any way you would sell that thing? I’d sure like to have first choice if you do.’”
Less than a year later, Irvin got a phone call from Shetler. “He said, ‘I’d like to build another Corvette, but I want to get rid of this one first,’” Irvin recalls. “I told him, ‘Let’s start dickering.’” Soon after, the black ’62 was in Irvin’s Crawfordsville, Indiana, garage.
His appetite for quality Vetterods now whetted, Irvin asked Shetler what he had in mind for the follow-up project. “I’m going to do another ’62, but I want to really make it an elaborate one,” the customizer responded. Sensing an opportunity, Irvin offered to buy the base car himself, and allow Shetler to build it any way he saw fit.
Another ’62 Corvette was located, and the process of transforming a time-worn C1 into an eye-grabbing custom began anew. As Shetler remembers, “After researching available aftermarket frames, I found Zack and Pat at Thunder Road Rod and Custom in Mansfield, Ohio, who would build a frame with everything I wanted.” That included rack-and-pinion steering, a full-on air suspension, and a 9-inch rearend fitted with 4.56 rear gears.
For power, Shetler chose a stock powertrain that was nevertheless a huge leap forward compared with the 327s and T-10s on the ’62 Corvette options list. “I put in a 2002 Camaro LS1 engine and six-speed transmission,” he says, adding that Thunder Road built a one-off clutch/brake pedal assembly for the car, along with a custom BeCool radiator, condenser, and windshield washer box.
They weren’t the only skilled craftspeople involved with the project. “Brian Stitt of BS Creations in Mansfield built the custom inner fenders, the panels around the side pipes, and the panels behind the rearend,” Shetler says.
Speaking of those side pipes, Shetler had a set of custom headers built by Jim Stewart. These feed the stainless-steel side exhausts, each of which features a 2.5-inch-diameter pipe housed in a larger, 4-inch-diameter tube. Adds Shetler, “The reason was to prevent the stainless outer skin from turning blue with heat.”
At first glance, the body looks mostly stock. Then you start to notice all the subtle, finely crafted details. “I flared the quarter-panels and put a ducktail on the rear,” says Shetler. “I also embedded the side pipes into the rocker panels and closed the firewall.”
Those rocker panels are functional as well. “The dual fuel lines from the gas tank to fuel rails went inside one, while the other carries the battery cables,” Shetler says, further noting that the battery and air-suspension compressor are both located in the trunk.
The paint is another story. “I had it painted red in hopes it would be considered for…VETTE magazine,” says Shetler, who adds that the eye-catching hue came about thanks to his long-time painter, Mike Burger. “He painted a panel using a light-gray primer on half, and white primer on the other half, then applied four of the brightest reds we could find on top of the primers. Then, with the eight different reds, he asked everyone their favorite. The winner was DuPont RS 911 with a white primer base.”
Other craftspeople employed on the build included Dave Workman (body), Huy Doan (upholstery), Lynn Moon (wiring), plus some help from even closer to home. “My wife, Janet, with her little hands, helped in the tight places, as well as ordering all parts necessary for the build,” Shetler says.
Once the car was completed, it was show time—for both Vetterods. “I bought a 53-foot trailer [so we can] we take both cars to shows and put them right up against each other,” says Irvin. “It’s kind of a comparison—the ladies like the red one, while men like the black one. It’s fun showing them both together.” Irvin says that so far, they’ve shown the pair at Corvette Funfest, Chevy/Vettefest in Chicago, and various events around Indiana.
What’s it like to drive this latest Vetterod? “It’s super,” says Irvin. “It’s got an Air Ride Technologies suspension on it, and it really hauls when it goes down the road. It’s a fun car.”
If you’re thinking about turning a well-worn early Corvette into a vibrant Vetterod, Irvin says it’s important that you pick the right shop. “You don’t want to do a lousy job on a Vette, especially an old one.” He recommends one builder, in particular. “If [you] want it done right, Bob Shetler is the man to do it. He’s so particular, and the people he uses are too. And that’s what it takes to have a good Vetterod.”
||John and Chris Irvin; Crawfordsville, IN
||Stock LS1 aluminum
||Stock LS1 aluminum
||Stock hydraulic roller
||Stock hypereutectic aluminum
||Stock nodular iron
||Stock powdered-metal steel
||Stock with mechanical pump
||Stock electronic coil-on-plug
||Custom headers, 4-in (outer)/2.5-in (inner) side pipes
||Tremec/Keisler six-speed manual
||Custom polished aluminum
||Ford 9-in Detroit Locker with 4.56 gears
||Air Ride Technologies four-wheel air springs with onboard compressor
||Wilwood discs with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers.
||Billet Specialties Legacy billet aluminum; 17x7-in front, 17x9.5-in rear
||Goodyear Eagle F1; 225/50ZR17 front, 285/40ZR17 rear
Bet you didn’t notice the rear flares and ducktail at first.
| Shetler called on Huy Doan to stitch up the car’s interior. Dakota Digital gauges and a
A super-sanitary trunk conceals the battery and air-suspension compressor, which are house
Under that Brian Stitt–fabbed engine cover is a stock LS1 with more muscle than anything o
Wilwood discs and 17-inch wheel/tire combo confer modern levels of stop and stick.
The inspiration for Irvin’s latest custom: His black ’62 Vetterod, which appeared in the O