Marc and Vanessa delivered the stainless to Jaymz, commissioned more flame- and skull-themed airbrushing, and then returned to ACC with the completed pieces. Strangely, Rivera wouldn't allow the couple to watch the installation. "Please don't stop by here until I have completed the car entirely," he told them. "I want you to be really surprised with the results."
ACC reinstalled the accessories, making certain the artwork and the stainless pieces themselves weren't scratched. Then it designed and installed a special LED light system for the Corvette. The most impressive portion of this system is in the fender liner and features super-thin, super-bright LEDs. These lights are a stealth application: They're completely invisible unless illuminated. Once switched on, they dramatically change the appearance of the engine compartment, making the underhood area and its airbrushed stainless look like they're actually on fire.
Rivera also designed and inserted fiber-optic lighting between the hood's frame and pane. When lit, it gives the impression of real flames emanating from the bottom of each hood panel. Both lighting systems are activated by a hidden switch in the battery area. Using extremely low voltage and a miserly 3-amp draw, Marc can run them for hours at a time without any noticeable drain on the battery.
ACC's final steps were to hand-etch the side windows and hatch glass with tribal-skull and flame graphics. It also fabricated and applied stainless-steel emblems to both the taillights and to a perforated exhaust-port filler panel designed for C6 Corvettes.
Considering the flamed Vette's intended mission-torching competitors on the show field rather than the dragstrip-it's not surprising that the car's only aftermarket performance mod is a B&B Route 66 exhaust system with four polished tips. The factory six-speed automatic remains similarly stock, as do the C6's eminently capable OEM brake and suspension components.
Marc says he was genuinely shocked when he took delivery of the freshly modified Corvette. "I walked in, they opened up the hood, and I couldn't believe it was my car. I almost felt faint. It was beyond my wildest expectations." Still, it wasn't enough to satisfy the customizing-crazy Halphens. Marc took the Vette home, unbolted the interior gauge bezel, center console, shifter knob insert, A/C side vents, and kick guards, and sent them to Kunzinger for airbrushing. Finally, he added a Lloyd's cargo mat and floor mats from Fast Vette Accessories to complete the project. "Only then was I satisfied that we had created exactly what I dreamed," he says. "It's a crowd magnet wherever it goes."
Showgoers apparently agree. Marc and Vanessa's Corvette was featured in the American Car Craft booth at the Eckler's Reunion in 2007 and shown at numerous other car shows in Florida. These include the Chasco Fiesta in New Port Richey, where it won "Best Custom Corvette," and the October Vettes at Old Town, where it earned the "Eckler's Pick Award."
In October 2007, the couple finished its third custom Corvette, an '05 LeMans Blue convertible based around a similar, flame-intensive theme. Currently, the couple is looking forward to its fourth Corvette project, which will involve a black C6 coupe with a wide-body conversion kit, a high-rise hood, and a radical graphic design blending checker flags with-you guessed it-fire.
"The overall appearance of the Corvette was well thought out between James, Marc, and me," says Rivera. "Our goal was to display a very 'live' attitude-that is, to make the car look like a living creature. Between the shark-tooth grille, [headlight] eyebrows, and the way the flames are arranged, I feel we really succeeded in creating a custom Corvette that says, 'Move on over, I'm coming through.'
"There are a lot of flame jobs that have been created over the decades, and this particular arrangement was extremely successful in achieving a very tasteful result, without overdoing the theme. When you combine the flame work and the stainless accessories, we really ended up with a special Corvette."