In the annals of Pro Street history, few car builders have the namerecognition--or staying power--of Maryland's Rod Saboury. Toimpressionable youth (this author included) who watched the Pro Streetmovement ramp up before they were old enough to drive, Rod was to CarCraft and Popular Hot Rodding what Wilt Chamberlain was to SportsIllustrated.
Indeed, Rod has a long history of feature stories in VETTE, too,including a memorable 1992 cover shot in which his wife, Martina,appeared. (That's her, still looking memorable, in the accompanyingphotos.) He made his name by carving up Corvettes into influential hotrods--and he didn't particularly care if the purists got their fiberglassnoses tweaked because of it.
Such was the case about 20 years ago, when Rod used a concours-qualitysplit-window '63 Vette as the starting point for a stunning creation.The car had a supercharger that stretched to the roofline, was stuffedwith some of the biggest tires found on a car with a license plate, andwore the multicolor graphics typical of the mid-'80s. Reaction to it wasdivided into two camps: "Wow, that's impressive" and "Wow, how could youcut up that classic?"
Since then, Rod's M.O. has been the same: locate a Corvette, envisionthe untapped Pro Street form inside, and break out the Sawzall. Thelatest of these projects is this crimson-colored '67 roadster. Comparedwith his wild creations of the '80s and early '90s, the low-slung Vette,with its mostly stock appearance and blood red paint, looks downrightsubtle. Of course, with wheel tubs filling what was once the car'smeager storage space and the sound from a 502-inch big-block, it doesn'tfool the uninitiated for very long.
Interestingly, this car represents the first convertible Rod has everbuilt. "I've done many Pro Street Corvettes, but they've all beencoupes," he says. "I always wanted to do a big-block '67 roadster."
Unlike some of his other project cars, this one didn't start out as apristine original. In fact, it had been used as a drag car throughoutthe '70s and even wore a gold-leaf paint job. Referring to the car'scondition and appearance, Rod says the Vette "wasn't pretty" when heacquired it.
Despite its pro-style appearance, the car is pretty stock forward of therear suspension. Rod also wanted to preserve the classic top-down lookof the Vette and not disturb it with a rollcage, so the chassis wasbeefed up to compensate. Heavy-gauge steel was used for the tubs andrear floor section, all of which was tied together with extensivewelding. This bolstered the strength and rigidity of the carsufficiently to eliminate the need for the 'cage.
In accordance with the Pro Street ethic, the stock independent rearendwas ditched in favor of a narrowed 9-inch, which is located with acustom four-link/coilover setup. It's stuffed with 4.10 gears and spins33x21.5-inch rear tires. Up front, custom tubular A-arms hold up theWeld Aluma Star wheels. Wilwood disc brakes are used at all corners.
Apart from the stretched rear wheel openings, the body of the car isessentially stock, including the Stinger hood. There are no protrudingcarburetors or Pro Stock hoodscoops--it's all Vette. The Corvette Corner,in nearby Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania, applied the Viper Red paint andblack Stinger accent.
The interior is pretty stock-looking, too, including factory gauges andupholstery. One of the car's best details is the vinyl covering on thewheel tubs, which perfectly matches the upholstery of the stock seats.It's a nice touch and certainly shows Rod is in tune with classicCorvettes. One of the cabin's few deviations from stock is a Hurstshifter, but even it looks like a factory-fit part.
No Corvette connoisseur, however, would ever mistake the ZZ502 crateengine under the hood for a factory-installed option. The big-inch,roller-type big-block is rated at 502 hp and 567 gut-wrenching lb-ft oftorque. It's fitted with aluminum oval-port heads, an aluminumdual-plane intake, and a Holley 850-cfm four-barrel. With 9.6:1compression and an HEI ignition, it's a streetable, pump-gas-friendlycombination that has no trouble spinning those big rear treads.
Ceramic-coated "block hugger" headers from Sanderson send away theexhaust through large-diameter outlets that help create a soul-stirringsound at idle. The engine is backed up by a Super T10 four-speedtransmission. The bulletproof powertrain and relatively simple chassismods help make the car an easy cruiser, which has been part of Rod'sphilosophy from the very start. "I always build my cars to be driven,"he says. "This one is no exception--you could drive it across thecountry."
By the way, Rod is also working on another Corvette project. It'sanother '63 split-window car, which he intends to be what he calls "thefirst real 6-second/200-mph street car." The progress of this ambitiousproject can be followed online at www.competitionplus.com.
If anyone could pull off such a feat, it's Rod Saboury--one of thepioneers of Pro Street.
Car: '67 Corvette convertible
Owner: Rod Saboury
Block: GM Mark VI (ZZ502 crate engine)
Displacement: 502 cubic inches
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Heads: GM aluminum oval-port, 110cc chambers
Valves: 2.25/1.88 stainless steel
Camshaft: Hydraulic roller; .527/.544 lift, 224/234 duration
Rockers Arms: 1.7-ratio
Pistons: Forged aluminum
Crankshaft: Forged steel
Rods: Forged steel, shot-peened
Intake: Dual-plane with CNC-matched ports
Carburetor: 850-cfm Holley four-barrel
Ignition: GM HEI
Exhaust System: Sanderson ceramic-coated "block hugger"
Transmission: Borg-Warner Super T10 four-speed
Driveshaft: Custom heavy-wall
Front Suspension: Custom tubular A-arms
Rear: Suspension Custom four-link with coilover shocks
Rearend: 9-inch type
Front Brakes: Wilwood disc
Rear Brakes: Wilwood disc
Wheels: Weld Aluma Star
Front Tires: Mickey Thompson ET Front
Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson 33x21.5
Fuel: Octane 87
Weight: Approx. 3,300 pounds
Best e.t./mph: N/A
Best 60-ft time: N/A
Current Mileage: Approx. 1,000 since completion
Miles Driven Weekly: Varies