Time doesn't stand still. Days and weeks morph into months and years all too quickly, until the kindergartener you were helping with her backpack is asking for your car keys. Car projects slip away with time, too. You tell yourself, "I'll get to it next week" a few times, and like a six-pack with friends on a hot summer night, a couple of years evaporate before your eyes.
The '72 Corvette Steve Grybel "restified" was in danger of being lost to time and unexecuted intentions. It was purchased new in 1973 by Steve's father, Dave, who got a good deal on what had been a demo car at a Detroit-area Chevy dealership. It was his daily driver for the first couple of years, shuttling him to work at sites that included Cadillac's Clark Street assembly plant. After someone tried to steal it in 1975, Dave shifted its status to a hobby car, and by 1976, he had delved into a complete redo of the chrome-bumper Vette.
The project lasted until about 1979 and included pulling the body off the frame, rebuilding the engine, and sprinkling on the custom accoutrements that were popular back then. Chrome accessories, braided steel line, and, of course, the requisite set of Cragar S/S "mag" wheels were also part of the makeover. By the time the Vette was finished, Dave was using it strictly for car shows and fair-weather cruising. With minor enhancements here and there, the car remained more or less in its disco-era attire until the late '90s.
"By that time the enamel paint was starting to crack, and the car was definitely in need of modern updates," says Steve. "I always wanted my dad to do something with it, but I now understand how raising a family, home renovations, and the other things that come up in life made it difficult to spend time and money on the Corvette."
Things started to change in the summer of 1998, when Steve and a childhood friend decided it was finally time to get their hands dirty on the Vette. They were in eighth grade at the time, and although Dave gave his nod of approval to work on the car, he probably didn't expect they'd strip the yellow paint off in a matter of hours—with razor blades.
Custom-mixed yellow paint features a healthy infusion of pearl gold. Polished side pipes a
Keeping it simple: Original small-block was punched out to 355 cubes and fitted with free-
Heavily made-over interior features a one-off fiberglass dash panel loaded with Dakota Dig
"There were yellow chips of paint everywhere, but amazingly it went very well, considering the unconventional tools we used," says Steve. "We also attempted a little bit of body work, but like most kids that age, we lost interest fairly quickly. I was more interested in getting a car running to take to high school, and the Corvette was taking way too long and costing way too much money."
He tinkered with the car here and there during that time, along with other automotive projects, but it wasn't until he graduated from high school that his vision of how the Corvette should be remade came into focus. Steve was also immersed in the mini-truck scene at that point, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail evident in those custom vehicles significantly influenced the approach he would take with the Vette. It all coalesced a couple years later.
"In 2006 I hooked up with the guys in the ‘Easy Street' department at Air Lift Company [in Lansing, Michigan]. After telling them about the Corvette I was working on, they offered up an entire air-ride system for the car," says Steve. "I was floored by the idea, but everybody at the time was saying it couldn't be done on a C3. Nevertheless, it was the start of what would be a pretty crazy and consuming project."
He then contacted Paul Arft at PMA Motorsports in Lapeer, Michigan, who had worked on a couple of his buddies' mini-trucks, to tackle the air-suspension installation. Two weeks later, Steve and Dave rolled up to the shop to find their Vette slammed on the ground.
"It was sitting there on a concrete slab in front of the shop, fully laid out on the new air suspension, and it looked amazing," says Steve of the essentially scratch-built system. "My dad was speechless, and amazed at how cool the car looked. It was also in primer, and the in-progress appearance was the turning point for us. Where it had been a project we worked on a few times a month, we now could see the possibilities and wanted to get it done as quickly as possible."
Unfortunately, desire and reality were two different things. After years of holding down the garage floor, the Corvette needed another thorough going-through, requiring new chassis, suspension, and interior components, a freshened drivetrain, and, well, basically everything. The only thing the Grybels didn't do was yank the body off the frame, as Dave had done 35 years earlier, but that was simply because they didn't have the room to do it.
"We decided to give the car a more modern look by cleaning up the engine compartment, hiding all the wiring and vacuum lines, making the interior more contemporary, and things like that," says Steve. "We also wanted to update the engine's appearance, but because it was going to be more of a show/cruise car, we weren't going to go crazy with the horsepower."