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Stealing Your Heart Away

Classic Restomod Corvettes

Story Rod Short / Images Keith Keplinger - September 05, 2013 10:00 AM

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When you get down to it, an automobile is really nothing more than assorted combinations of metal, rubber, fluids and glass.

Individually, none of those things can provide those warm and fuzzy feelings we cherish. Collectively, they can epitomize all the things that can steal your heart away. That’s exactly what happens when most people first come across these his ‘n’ hers classic Corvettes that belong to Jimmy and Patsy Powers.

“In the past 54 years, I have bought, restored, and sold many airplanes, boats, and classic cars,” said Jimmy, who is a marine and aircraft restoration specialist. “Twelve of them were Corvettes. Of the cars, the Corvettes were my favorite. Each time I finished one, I would vow to keep it, but there was always an offer that I couldn’t resist. It is said, however, that with age comes wisdom, and I guess that’s true because I’ve managed to resist all offers on these two — and for those who are curious . . . no, the numbers don’t match, but after all these years, neither do mine!”

Both of these Corvettes represented some high water marks in sales for Chevrolet. The 1959 model had 9,670 sold off the showroom floor while the shorter wheelbase 1964 body style more than doubled that figure with 22,229 deliveries. Assembled in St. Louis, the hot engine set-up for both cars involved the use of a high-lift cam with Rochester fuel injection. In 1959, the top 283 engine provided 230 peak horsepower while the C2 Sting Ray model had the L84 327, which offered 375 horsepower. Both cars could be bought with Powerglides. The earlier ’Vette had a three-speed manual but now both cars feature a four-on-the-floor for more sportier driving. “I purchased the 1959 from a high school buddy when he finally agreed to sell it to me,” Jimmy said. “I’d only been asking him about it for 10 years! I was told the car was found in a diner in Libertyville, Illinois, in the 1960s. Found in the trunk were stainless steel containers for dressings, croutons, Bacos, and assorted fruit. My conclusion was that it must have been used as a salad bar. The restoration became such a lengthy project, I sometimes wondered if I should have left it as a salad bar!”

After owning the car for a number of years, Jimmy totally restored it in 2004 with a competition theme in mind. The car was still in decent shape with everything mostly there, except for the original 283 engine, which had been replaced with a 307 V-8. Jimmy replaced that with a 5.7L GM crate engine that pumps out 375 horsepower. With a BorgWarner four-speed working with a 10-bolt posi-traction rearend with 3.73 gears, the car feels pretty spry, especially with the aftermarket road racing suspension and brakes.

While the car has killer good looks with its flawless white paint, red cove and American Racing TorqThrust rims shod with BFGoodrich tires, the addition of a custom-made removable Duntov-style road racing headrest gets more than a little attention.

“The headrest on the ’59 is reminiscent of the Sebring SR2 factory Corvette race car, minus the fin,” Jimmy said. “I decided to use my creative fiberglass experience to design a headrest similar to the 1959 Duntov GM prototype of the ’63 to ’67 midyear Corvette. The biggest challenge was finding a way to attach the headrests without drilling holes in the convertible top deck or trunk lid. After much thought, I came up with a creative solution. I attached three suction cups, leaving 3/16-inch between it and the body, therefore, no abrasion. I’ve used them for over 30 years, sometimes at 100-plus mph, and have never lost one. When I want to remove them, I simply slide a credit card between the suction cup and the body, and it pops right off.”

With such a cool car, it’s understandable that Jimmy might find himself competing for some seat time with his wife, Patsy. As such, he soon found himself spending time to find a suitable convertible she could call her own.

“We purchased the 1964 ’Vette from another high school buddy,” Jimmy told us. “It had been stored in an old building for years, along with some other vehicles. It had been put in the building in 1974 by a forklift that was no longer around, so we actually had to build a high wooden ramp to get it out.

“It was filthy and was a real orphan,” Jimmy continued. “I spent 10 hours a day, seven days a week for 3½ months disassembling the car and stripping the old paint. I brought it up from there, always guide coating and blocking all surfaces. I know I had the doors on and off three times to get a perfect fit. The effort put in these cars was done in the spirit of knowing people would see these cars someday. Patsy has always enjoyed driving high performance cars and I had decided to keep this car especially for her. As you can see, on the headrest is ‘Patsy’s Thunder.’”

With its red exterior accented by a fresh black leather cockpit, it was a real looker, too. Jimmy made sure that this ’Vette ran as good as it looked, adding another GM 5.7L crate motor, along with a set of 1965 vintage sidepipes.

“When I restore an airplane, car or boat, I work on them 10 hours a day, six or seven days a week,” Jimmy said. “Don’t ask me how the guys that only work on them during the weekend ever get them done. One day, when I was becoming weary of the all the repetitive work to complete the 1964, I remember a car restoration specialist asking, ‘What’s another day?’ But when a fellow pilot and airplane builder asked, ‘When you’re restoring an airplane, what’s another year?’ it really put things in a different light for me.”

To wait another day or even another year, life behind the wheel of a restomod roadster like these can be like falling in love again!

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