1965 Corvette Convertible C2

Owner Monty Booth

Photos by Chris Wall

In 2010 while looking at Corvette C2’s on e-Bay, I came across a pic of a 1965 Convertible that looked like the best value for my limited budget.  The exchange rate was approximately R7 to $1 at that stage and I was shocked at how limited our currency made my search!!!  There were far better C2’s available, but they were way out of my monetary capabilities. 

I was looking for a near write-off project, as I was never intending to try and find a matching numbers Corvette nor to try and restore the car with an old stock  327 engine and drivetrain. What I wanted to build was a classic looking C2 with a modern LS engine with a fresh gearbox . An up to date resto-mod Corvette. I also did NOT want any old suspension with outdated controls and an unstable steering box. I wanted an original looking car outside BUT with brand new components underneath for reliability and handling.

After lots of careful thought and doing some more homework, I decided to pull the trigger on e-bay. It was not a cheap buy, but realized C2’s are getting quite scarce!! They seem to be the most sought after model other than the new C7. When the car arrived in Florida, at Ash’s American Connection , he sent me some detailed pics. I was truly shocked at the appalling state the Vette was in. I then realized I was in for some extra hard work.

After an anxious wait of about 5 months the car arrived in Durban and my good friend Richard Irwin graciously helped me with the offloading and transport, while encountering unexpected issues at the docks and other little snags. On arrival in Midrand, the cars condition in real life was now even worse than what I saw from the pics 5 months earlier. Not being scared of any challenge and fully stoked with the new baby, Gaye and I decided to start stripping and sorting the recoverable pieces out that same weekend.

The chassis was really badly rusted and it seemed as though the car had stood in a dam or was exposed to long term moisture while lying on its right side. The doors and window  metal mechanisms were completely rusted to bits. All metal fasteners and brackets in the interior and on the floor boards and engine bay were also rusted to hell. The front window frame was rusted extensively and in pieces .The soft top was totally unrestorable and scrap.

The fibreglass body was assembled from 4 or 5 different Corvette panels and parts (different colours and strands in the fibres) – it was truly a mix of allsorts and painted matt black to give it an acceptable look on e-bay…It even had 3 bullet holes in the right door! Shoddy repairs were done layering new strands of fibre glass over old unprepared surfaces.There was also lots of old Bondo. The doors could only close because they had no claws in. The front windshield cracked. The dash was cracked extensively and with parts missing including mixed model components and switches, the seats were in pieces and the inner door panels very badly damaged and cracked.  They still however sent me the original rotten carpet. The chrome bits that came with the car were so badly bent and rusted that I estimated I could only use 20% of what was there. All semi good parts had to be rechromed.

Now the long haul started:

The chassis was sent to Marius Raaths for sand blasting and primering, after which it was welded , boxed in certain sections and repaired to its original spec and painted Corvette Torch Red.

The body panels were sanded down piece by piece to the raw fibre and repaired with new mat and fibre fill to maintain the integrity and shape.  This was long tricky process! A new 1967, 427 bonnet was secured and prefitted.  All the fibreglass repair  work was done by Bern van Gass. I would estimate that there were 500 weekend  hours of labour on it, just to get it straight and strong  and to the standard it is, at present.

My first task was to try and secure as many missing/broken/used C2 Corvette parts locally. Various items were bought from Vic Hugo, Anton de Lange, Russel from Supaquick in Sunward Park and Mick van Rensburg (Tarlton)over a period. Not being a common model in S.A. the rest had to come from the States.

 A Jim Meyer full racing front and back suspension kit (this includes a racing Wilwood disc brake system) was sourced from Oregon, as well as an extensive missing parts list that had to be ordered from Ecklers in the U.S. This big order included a new front windshield as well…PLEASE BELIEVE ME,  aftermarket and OER Corvette parts are more expensive than other Chev models!!! Some cannot even be found, so they have to be repaired. Complicated C2 popup headlights come to mind.

An LS1 engine and a 4L80E gearbox was prepared and sprayed silver by Dave Corbett and Doors Bezuidenhout. An aftermarket  Holley LS sump and rear pickup oil pump had to be installed to accommodate the rack and pinion. New LS engine mounts were ordered as well.  An aftermarket Holley 90mm throttle body was added. The slick aluminium radiator and power steering bottle was manufactured by Barry from Walkerville. A special cover was made to hide the windscreen wiper motor in the engine bay. The specialist wiring computer box loom was ordered by Dale from US Connection to match my stock GM one.

The body was primered and sprayed by Bern van Gass in my garage. Mike Miscia and Riaan from Shield Car Care & Chemicals came out to us on 2 weekends and taught us short cuts and tricks in polishing. The Corvette body is finished and painted to the same exacting standards underneath as on top. This includes the inside of the bonnet as well. I wanted less chrome visible on the car and make it a little more refined, so I used the paint to accentuate the sleek, classic Corvette lines. The lower outer running boards was sprayed the same Torch Red colour as the rest . The rear bumpers were frenched-in to give it a tighter, sexier rear look. With the exception of the rear Corvette Stingray badge and gas cap, all other symbols were removed. Some of the insignia is just too much and overpowering. All the shiny bits on the seats, dash and console were dechromed and painted gloss black.We also decided to remove the outer door locks, which serves no purpose in my opinion.

The interior is stock and includes a stock steering wheel , only more black was used to bring the contrast out. New black calf leather was used and all the upholstery work was done by Doors and his team, including installing a new white soft top. The stock gauges were  tweaked  by Pierre from Speedometer Services to match new electronic signals sent from the LS computer box .The wiring was masterfully done by Clint Mann and his son Wesley from Alberton Autolec.  No ugly wires, pipes and tubes are visible. The finish is top notch.

The entire car is soundproofed with Dynamat and carpeted  in black Van Dyck thick pile house carpet throughout. An Optima battery is fitted behind the passenger seat and a fibreglass cover was made to hide the terminals. The electric brake master cylinder was sourced from Speedway Motors. No ugly booster in the bay!! 

The chroming was done by Gavin from Bon Accord in Pretoria. The trick exhaust manifolds were imported and the rest of the system was once again done in stainless steel  by Tom jnr. from TNT in Knights Germiston. They are also fully wrapped for heat dispersion.

I decided to fit classic American Racing Torque Thrust 2 wheels to give it the hot rod look. This was not an easy build as fibreglass is not a common medium and needs a specialist to get it just right. Luckily Bern has lots of patience. The car was completed in late 2013 and taken out only on a few select weekend drives. In 2016, we decided to take the car to the Streetrods Nats 2017 in Klerksdorp, but before doing so, decided to sort out a few little issues I had with it. A new fuel tank had to be fitted as the old one always gave many hassles with rusty fuel delivery. New lines were routed to make it easier for filter changes.

New fuel rail covers were made from scratch, as were various small covers in the engine bay to hide pipes and steering control arms and bumper brackets, and the intake manifold was resprayed. These extra one off little custom pieces were all done by Bern as well. All the graphics were done by Pierre from Pure Grafix in Midrand.

Sometimes pictures don’t always do justice to the actual car……This world class Corvette can be compared to any high dollar restoration in the U.S.  It has to be seen in real life to be believed. Bern once again outdid himself.

This car is dedicated in loving memory to my mom in law Mavis Verster , who kept us supplied,  during this build ,with endless cups of tea, coffee and biscuits. She gave us lots of enthusiasm and motivation. Sadly she was never able to take a drive in it …that is all she wanted to do.