At first it looks like almost any other ’70-’72 Corvette Stingray convertible. Then you notice the fender vents are gone, the five-spoke American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs are bigger than the stock Rally wheels were, and the chassis bristles with chrome and stainless-steel hardware.

Then you really start to notice the changes on Jim Campbell’s ’72 shark, starting with how the bumpers were fitted onto the body. “They were cut and sectioned, to pull them in,” says Campbell. “That’s because the ’72s had a bumper ‘nose’ that pinched up where it comes together with the body. So that was cut out, and then the bumpers were repositioned to fit.”

Given the drastic nature of the transformation, Campbell is quick to point out that his Vette isn’t based on a super-rare C3s. “A member of my Corvette club had a ’72 for sale,” he recalls. “It was pretty much a standard car, but it was nice and had been well taken care of.”

Campbell has long nurtured a love for America’s Only True Sports Car. “It started when I was a senior in high school,” he recalls. “I was born and raised in Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. We were fortunate enough to go on a field trip to the St. Louis Assembly Plant, where they built them then.”

He adds, “I like the ’72 because it was the last year for chrome bumpers, front and rear.”

With his own ’72 socked away in the garage, Campbell undertook a four-year project to transform the car into the House of Kolor “Osmosis Red” Vetterod seen here. Finish-care giant Meguiar’s was so impressed with Campbell’s handiwork, it gave the scintillating shark a premier spot in its 2012 SEMA-show booth.

Campbell started by keeping the original body and glass, but little else. The stock frame gave way to a welded-tube SRIII Motorsports setup, in anticipation of the LS-series engine, T56 six-speed gearbox, and high-tech suspension that would follow.

But surprisingly, not even the car’s underpinnings were immune from Campbell’s customizing fever. “When the chassis came in, the tubes on the front were square,” he says. “So Kenny Morrison of K-Tech Automotive cut them out and made them more rounded. That fit the look of the rest of the chassis.

“We also ground the welds down, sanded them, and got them just as smooth as the outside of the car. So the underside of the car looks as fabulous as the top side,” he adds.

It isn’t just the frame that looks great underneath: Check out the high-tech suspension pieces by Heidt’s—especially the company’s Super Ride IRS with inboard disc brakes—and the Ridetech air suspension system. “We have [up to] a 5-inch change in ride height with the air suspension,” notes Campbell.

Performing even better than it looks is the supercharged LS2 under the hood—not to mention the hood itself. “It opens by raising up and coming back toward the windshield,” says Campbell, who adds that this unique feature generated no small amount of interest the first time he showed the car.

“It was an all-Corvette show at Silver Springs State Park, near Ocala [Florida]. All the Corvettes were lined up with their hoods up, and there was this red one with its hood open in the wrong direction,” he says with a big laugh. “Everybody was looking at it and thinking, What the heck is that? It got more attention than you could imagine.”

It got even more attention in November of 2012, in the Meguiar’s booth in Las Vegas. “There were probably 6,000 pictures taken,” says Campbell. “There would be as many as 10 to 12 people around the car. I had to sit there all day, because I didn’t want anybody to get too close.”

Take one glance at the ’72, and you’ll understand why the knowing car people at the SEMA show needed to get a closer look. Especially noteworthy are the parts that K-Tech Automotive’s Morrison fabricated, which include the engine bay’s side and rear panels, along with a 4-inch cold-air intake to keep the MagnaCharged LS2 (which puts out around 550 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque) happy.

Campbell has a story about one showgoer’s reaction to that intake. “There was a gentleman looking under the hood who appeared to know what he was talking about. He said, ‘I saw one of those air intakes—I can’t remember what magazine they were advertising those in, but they were quite expensive.’ I’m just listening to the guy, and I didn’t correct him at all, but he didn’t have a clue. You can’t buy that [intake] anywhere!”

How does Campbell’s C3 perform on the road? “It handles and drives great,” he says. “It’s got a six-speed, it cruises, and gets out of its way—trust me!”

If you’re inspired to create your own restomodded Corvette, Campbell offers the following admonition: “It’s a major undertaking, and a thing that can snowball out of control, if you let it. That’s because once you get in there and have all these creative ideas, it can be hard to stop. And those ‘while I’m at it’ projects quickly start adding up.”

But the results can be well worth it. “I think restomods are coming on—they have for the last couple of years,” Campbell says. “Corvette enthusiasts are looking at what’s being done with all restomods, not just with Corvettes. It’s the ideas that are fascinating.

“When you go to a car show, you want to see something different—not just a lot of store-bought chrome on someone’s so-called ‘custom.’ That’s nonsense. They may have added flash, but that’s not…much of a modification.”

And not anything to compare with this once-ordinary, now-extraordinary shark.

SPEC SHEET
'72 CONVERTIBLE
Owner Jim Campbell; Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Block Stock LS2 aluminum
Displacement 364 ci
Heads Stock LS2 aluminum
Valves Stock 2.00/1.55-in
Camshaft Stock LS2 hydraulic roller
Rocker Arms Stock 1.7-ratio
Pistons Stock hypereutectic aluminum
Compression Ratio 10.9:1
Crankshaft Stock nodular iron
Rods Stock powdered-metal steel
Oil System Stock
Power Adder Magnuson supercharger, 7 psi max boost
Ignition Stock electronic coil-on-plug
Exhaust Custom Street & Performance stainless-steel with Borla mufflers
Transmission Tremec T56 six-speed manual with close-ratio gearing
Suspension Heidt’s stainless steel with Ridetech air springs (front); Heidt’s Super Ride IRS with Ridetech air springs (rear)
Brakes Wilwood discs with power assist (front and rear)
Wheels American Racing Wheel Torq-Thrust II; 17x8-in (front), 18x10-in (rear)
Tires Nitto NT55; 235/40ZR17 (front), 275/40ZR18 (rear)
Current Mileage 308 since completion