Before long, Johnson and Lockton had struck a deal, and a 1-year restoration was planned. "Brent suggested that I `repair the Corvette, etc., etc., etc.' I told him `etcetera' was a small word with a large horizon," Johnson says.
The project began by stripping the Corvette to its frame, at which point it was determined that the car had been wrecked not once, but twice. "When Johnson pulled the front clip off, he saw that it had been repaired using chicken-wire aluminum strips and papier-mch," Lockton says.
It was then that both men decided to take on the shark and win.
"Building a street-driven, show-standard Corvette requires planning regarding driveability and dependability," Johnson explains. "With the Corvette stripped to its frame, I began with suspension reconditioning, followed by a gasket overhaul on the [previously built] 350 engine. This is where the picture started to come into focus." Which is not to say that the two immediately agreed on every facet of the resto. "When I told Brent I had painted the engine yellow to match the plug leads I bought, the phone went quiet on the other end."
"Yellow? Bloody yellow?" Johnson recalls Lockton saying.
"You'll love it," Johnson reassured him, buttressing his argument by e-mailing Lockton photos of his progress. "We were then on a mission," the car builder says.
Johnson then turned his attention to the body, starting with the firewall. After a thorough detailing, he commenced creating a full complement of custom body work. The modifications involved accentuating the styling lines to improve their visual flow and equaling out the body gaps and radii to create a correct reflection angle. With that done, Johnson reinstalled the body on the frame, pre-installed the engine, gearbox, and chrome accessories, and installed an aftermarket front clip.
Traditional body prep and paint followed. Johnson used PPG products, starting with a high-build undercoat and following it with a four-step base/clear system. The finish consists of a direct-gloss solid color called Medium Gray, a metallic Mercury Silver basecoat, three coats of clear, and, after 12 hours of drying time, a final "flow coat" of clear reduced by 10 percent for a smooth gloss finish.
"Brent's concept of a classic Corvette with a hot-rod engine was very straightforward," Johnson says. "I was respectful of the effort the original Corvette team made, so I worked on the idea that since [the car] was originally silver, a modern silver would retain the classic look."
Lockton offers another reason for the color selection. "I had a red Corvette before, and the police constantly hassled me. In addition, I nearly owned a silver '69 L88 many years ago and am still kicking myself that I never bought it. I've wanted a chrome-bumper silver Corvette ever since," he says.
Final assembly was next. Johnson began with the engine-bay accessories, followed by grilles, bumpers, headlight mechanisms, door handles, window glass and mechanisms, front windshield, and stainless moldings.
John then turned his attention to the cabin. Luckily, former owner Toovey had already installed a full interior kit, so it was a simple matter to reinstall it and detail the passenger compartment. To keep the look classic, Johnson spent countless hours hiding the CD changer in the jack housing behind the right seat. He then enlarged the battery compartment to create a new home for the jack.
In March 2008, the shark was finally ready to be delivered to its excited owner. Stockton's first drive in the freshly rebuilt car was down the coast to Canberra. "I was ecstatic when the Corvette was completed. It drove beautifully," he says.
Since then, he's tallied a three-for-three record on the show circuit, winning the Best Convertible award at the South Coast Nationals (2007, 2008) and Best Corvette at the Canberra Chevy Nationals(2007).