It is far from unusual to come across a couple of exceptionally restored vintage Vettes at a large show. At a recent Fort Worth, Texas, event, two extremely immaculate machines grabbed our attention. One was a solid-axle '58 roadster with a 283-cid and T10, the other a pristine '63 split-window coupe with an automatic and air conditioning. On the surface, they seemed quite different, but then we put two and two together. They were both class winners and restored with the same attention to detail, but there was more, much more. It turned out that these two fine Corvettes are the prized possessions of a pair of brothers-identical twins, in fact-and the same shop, owned by one of the brothers, restored both of these fine cars.
Ralph Canalizo of Flower Mound, Texas, and Charlie Canalizo of Southlake, Texas, are both second-generation car nuts and have had love affairs with Corvettes since they were children. When Charlie and Ralph talk about their obsession with cars, both men give similar explanations for how they got involved. It was their father, Carlos, who got his boys hooked on fixing up and collecting unique examples of American muscle. Carlos, a retired engineer and a real hands-on kind of guy, instilled in his boys from a very young age a love of cars and respect for the dollar. He taught his sons to stretch the dollar by doing all their work for themselves, and both Ralph and Charlie have been rebuilding and driving cars since before they even had their licenses! Each of these men has since pursued professions in automotive body repair.
Both of these Corvettes have been carefully restored by Charlie (the "older" brother by a whole six minutes) and his gang at Leezo Brothers, a specialty body repair shop in Irving, Texas. Charlie's '58 roadster looks showroom perfect these days, but it was quite a sight when he purchased it four years ago. Charlie was restoring a '65 Corvette for friend and customer Johnny Wood, but Johnny also had a '58 and a '68 Vette that still needed restorations, too. Charlie managed to convince Johnny that he just had too many projects, and volunteered to help him with the burden by taking the solid-axle off his hands. "When I got it," says Charlie, "the car had purple and white paint, with gold metal flake seats. There was some body damage to the left front, but otherwise it was really solid. However, it looked like all of the parts had just been thrown in with a shovel."
With the help of his friend and colleague Bob Hill, Charlie returned his ragtop to factory condition, including all new interior trim and a fresh dash. Under the solid-axle's non-functional louvered hood lies the refreshed 230-hp 283 with a single Carter carburetor and T10 four-speed combo connected to the 3.70:1-geared Positraction rear axle. Charlie returned the '58 to its original color combination of Snowcrest White with a red interior. When asked about the not-quite-correct red coves, though, Charlie responds that it was GM's mistake. "The red coves were not an option in 1958, but they sure look good. GM should not have waited until '59 to offer them," he reasons.
Like Charlie, Ralph has also had several Vettes in the past, but he had always wanted a '63 split-window coupe. While he was away on a business trip in Niagara Falls, New York, in 1999, Charlie found it for him in the classifieds of a Dallas morning newspaper. It was quite a unique find. Ralph is only the fourth owner of this Stingray, and it is endowed with an uncommon package of goodies. The Corvette was ordered brand new by a woman who wanted America's finest sports car complete with all the amenities. The Vette came with the base 250-horse 327 engine and two-speed Powerglide automatic, 3.36:1 ring-and-pinion, factory air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, an AM/FM radio, and the unusual gold-hued Saddle Tan with Saddle interior color combination. Ralph estimates that it is one of fewer than 250 '63 Vettes with air and an automatic, a logical supposition since just 278 '63 Corvettes were built with air conditioning.
After a couple of years, the woman traded the Vette in, and it was grabbed by a zealous college professor who pampered the split-window for the next 30 years. The professor chose to rebuild any components that wore out rather than replacing them, thus all of the Stingray's casting numbers still match! The car survived the tests of time in very respectable condition, but Charlie's crew went through it from bumper to bumper to bring it up to concours quality.
Ralph spends most of his time traveling around the country and other parts of the globe practicing his profession in paintless dent repair. When he ventures home, though, he is nearly as happy to see his mid-year as he is to see his wife, Debbie. The '63 is primarily a show car, but it is also a great cruiser. "When I go home, I definitely want to drive it," says Ralph. "And the automatic is great for cruising. I have other cars with manual transmissions for playing, but when I'm just cruising, I don't want to be working." Charlie's '58 is also primarily a show car but, "I never build a car I can't drive," he states, "and its longest run so far has been to Houston, more than 200 miles from home."
When it comes to car shows, the two twins with very similar interests have been very different. While Charlie has been showing many of his cars since his teenage years, this year's Lone Star Corvette Classic was Ralph's first car show ever. Charlie has entered his roadster in 15 shows over the past four years, and earned 15 first place awards, and even a Best of Show, as well. Although Charlie has more show experience under his belt, both brothers took home best in class awards at the LSCC show in Ft. Worth. Texans had better watch out-it looks like a new dynasty is coming to town!
Another '58-only item was the pair of chrome-plated spears adorning the trunk.
The '63 models were the first entirely new Corvettes, after 10 model years of evolution on
Look closely; this is one of just 278 Corvettes built in 1963 with factory air conditionin
Controversial when introduced and eliminated after just one year, the split or divided rea