It started off with Thomas and Kelly Glatch's coverage of the Fall 2002 semi-annual Chevy/Vettefest ("Legends of the Fall") in the July '03 issue, followed by an e-mail from the owner of one of the cars pictured in the article.
Donald Delmar was justifiably proud of his Marlboro Maroon '70 convertible. It looked great in the two photos we printed. But there was more-the fully and tastefully restified, numbers-matching big-block-propelled Shark had scored an exceptional 993 points out of a possible 1,000 in the Chevy/Vettefest. And this concours-quality convertible had, just a few months before, ran the quarter in the 12.60 range at 115 mph-on the motor and on street tires! It didn't take a lot for us to decide that Don's drop-top was feature material.
That wasn't always the case. Eleven years earlier, when Donald became the car's third owner, it more closely resembled a serious project for an automotive masochist or maybe just a parts car. The engine billowed more smoke than a Southern California brush fire. Portions of the frame and steel inner-body structure were in need of rust repairs, the interior looked like a tenement for rats, the body was in terrible shape, and the car's one repaint was of such poor quality that Donald found hairs imbedded in the top coat. But, there were a handful of factors in the car's favor; it was a convertible, it was relatively intact, and it still had its numbers-matching big-block/four-speed drivetrain.
All in all, it was not a particularly auspicious basis for building a dream car. But the Morton Grove, Illinois, resident looked at the old Corvette's sorry carcass and saw a plenitude of potential rather than a pile of problems-or worse.
When one is in the grip of a case of the middle-age crazies and the cure is spelled O-L-D C-O-R-V-E-T-T-E, the potential outweighs the problems. Donald evaluated his new prize and quickly came to the conclusion that a body-off-the-frame reconstruction was the only way to do the job correctly. About that same time, he realized that he wanted his Corvette to be more than restored to as-delivered. He wanted the '70 to truly be his, to reflect his personality, his tastes, and, without cutting up a fairly rare car, to utilize some of the advances in automotive technology that had come about in the 20-plus years that had gone by since the convertible had been built.
Once the frame was returned to good-as-new condition, Donald went on an ordering binge in the VBP (Vette Brakes & Products) catalog. Up front, Donald replaced the heavy stamped steel upper and lower control arms with VBP's lightweight tubular components and substituted a C4/C5-influenced composite mono-leaf cross spring for the OEM coils. After fitting all the moving parts with polyurethane bushings, Donald finished off the upgrades with a pair of Bilstein shocks and a Speed Direct "Steeroids" power-assisted rack-and-pinion conversion. The rear suspension was similarly updated with a pair of offset trailing arms, adjustable links, another composite mono-leaf spring (this time in lieu of the original and substantially weighty multi-leaf steel spring) polyurethane bushings, and an additional pair of Bilsteins. All four corners benefited from the fitment of stainless steel sleeved calipers, which clamp semi-metallic pads onto a quartet of slotted and crossdrilled rotors.
While the chassis was being refurbished, Donald had consigned the tired 454 to ace engine builder, Rich Groh, in nearby Algonquin. Rich bored the numbers-matching block .060 over and then pieced the reciprocating assembly back together utilizing the stock crank, Eagle rods, 10.5:1 SRP forged pistons, Childs and Albert rings, and a Crane hydraulic roller cam and lifters. He capped the 468ci short-block with a pair of Dart Pro1 aluminum rectangular port heads fitted with a stainless steel 2.30-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust valves and then slid an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake manifold in position between the heads. A Holley carb was called upon to feed high volumes of fuel and air to the combustion chambers, while firing the volatile mix would be handled by a MSD tach drive distributor, 6-Plus box, Blaster coil, and a set of 10.4mm Taylor Pro Race wires.