Beauty Really is More Than Skin Deep

MetalWorks Updates an Iconic Corvette

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by Chadly Johnson

Eugene, Oregon, is noteworthy for a variety of reasons: it’s home to the University of Oregon, Animal House was filmed there, but more importantly for us, it’s where you’ll find MetalWorks, one of the premier restoration and hot rod shops in the country. In the 20 years since Jon Mannila founded the company, he and his crew have gained a reputation for turning out quality vehicles that are not only prizewinning caliber in appearance, but are solid, reliable drivers as well.

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000 art morrison GT Sport Chassis c2 corvette swap

Along with MetalWorks’ expertise in fabrication, body, and paintwork, Mannila and his team have the knowledge to guide customers in selecting components that work together. They pride themselves on coordinating components when updating vintage vehicles to Pro Touring status; a case in point is Sam Dommer’s ’63 Corvette.

002 C2 Corvette
The new C2 Corvette, introduced in 1963, incorporated a number of unique styling features, including electrically operated hidden headlights and split front bumpers. This example was equipped with optional knock-off wheels.

When the C2 Corvette series that ran from 1963-67 was introduced it was hailed as revolutionary. The styling was striking and under the sexy new fiberglass body was a new chassis. Over the five-year run C2 Corvettes received minor styling changes (most notably the removal of the split in the rear window due to safety concerns) and the chassis remained relatively unchanged, the biggest improvement was the switch from four-wheel drum brakes to discs at all four corners in 1965. But while the new C2 front suspension and steering and the innovative independent rear suspension were certainly considered an exotic combination in their day, that was then and this is now.

003 Corvettes was the spilt rear window
Unique to the ’63 Corvettes was the spilt rear window. While it looked cool, the split rendered the inside rearview mirror practically useless. Note the exhaust pipes exiting through the rear panel below the bumpers—that will change, we’ll explain why.
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The truth is the C2 front suspension wasn’t anything special, it was basically the same as what was under a Chevrolet passenger car. And while the IRS was unique it had a host of handling peccadillos, including poor toe, camber, and antisquat control. Of course, rolling on skinny bias-ply rubber (6.70 x 15 in ’63 and ’64, 7.75 x 15 in ’65, ’66, ’67) didn’t help. But the fact remains for a C2 to have performance commensurate with its visual impact a modern chassis is in order, and that’s where Art Morrison Enterprises enters into our story. MetalWorks slid a complete new AME GT Sport chassis under Dommer’s split window.

004 340hp 327ci small block
Powering the split window was a 340hp 327ci small-block. Somewhere along the line the original single brake master cylinder had been replaced by a dual chamber design. Other than that, the coupe appeared to be pretty much original.

As the stock frame fits tightly to the body, AME’s replacement duplicates the original contours while increasing torsional rigidity. GT Sport chassis are available with ride heights 1-3/4 or 3 inches lower than stock and engine/trans mounts for small-block, big-block, and late-model LS power coupled to all popular manual and automatic transmissions are available.

005 carefully separate the body and frame
The first step in the chassis swap was to carefully separate the body and frame. As the MetalWorks crew is the top AME dealer in the country, they deal with chassis swaps on a regular basis.

Up front the AME GT Sport chassis features a specially engineered IFS with tubular control arms, coilovers, antiroll bar, and rack-and-pinion steering with steering Ackerman geometry similar to high-end European sports cars to improve cornering grip and stability. In the rear is AME’s sophisticated multi-link rear suspension that is far superior to the C2’s original IRS.

006 AMEs C2 chassis
AME’s C2 chassis are made from 0.180-inch wall thickness material with gussets to improve rigidity and reduce torsional twist. The tubing inserts in the transmission crossmember are for the exhaust pipes.
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1000x450

With this project, MetalWorks combined beauty and brawn, the stunning styling of a vintage Corvette with the contemporary performance offered by an AME chassis and modern running gear. The end result really is the best of both worlds.

Check it out: Turn that crate ls engine into a vintage work of art with ls classic series by Lokar!

007 front track of the AME chassis is reduced slightly to lower ride height
The front track of the AME chassis is reduced slightly to lower ride height and allow the use of wider tires than stock-framed Corvettes. The new IFS provides vastly improved suspension geometry when compared to the original.
008 cradle that mounts the AME four link IRS
This is the cradle that mounts the AME four-link IRS. It attaches to the frame at four points with rubber insulated mounts to eliminate noise, vibration, and harshness.
009 AME IRS reduces unspring weight by roughly 100 pounds
The design of the AME IRS reduces unspring weight by roughly 100 pounds, which allows a lower spring rate for improved ride and handling characteristics.
010 chassis has been preassembled
Here the chassis has been preassembled to ensure everything fits as it should. Note the supports for the front suspension that significantly stiffens the front end. Unlike original frames, the AME center crossmember is removable.
011 paint all the suspension components
Satisfied with the preliminary assembly of the chassis, it was blown apart to paint all the suspension components gloss black and powdercoat the frame.
012 AMEs front suspension uses tubular control arms c2 corvette swap
AME’s front suspension uses tubular control arms, coilover shocks, and rack-and-pinion steering; 14-inch Wilwood brakes will be added.
013 art morrison GT Sport Chassis c2 corvette swap
The completed frame rolls on C7 Schott Wheels wrapped with Hankook tires. The LT1 crate engine has been equipped with a Holley front drive kit.
014 Ricks stainless steel gas tank with an internal pump
Fuel will be supplied by a Rick’s stainless steel gas tank with an internal pump. The tank will connect to the original fill pipe, cap, and lid in the body.
015 bulkhead behind the seats and a removable panel
In stock form there is a bulkhead behind the seats and a removable panel covering a storage compartment (the hole is a finger pull to allow removal).
016storage compartments can be seen
With the cover removed, the storage compartments can be seen. This is where the factory jack and handle were stored.
017 AME four link takes up more space than the original IRS c2 corvette swap
With the mounting cradle the AME four-link takes up more space than the original IRS, so the rear floor must be modified.
018 section of the floor aft of the passenger seats that MetalWorks removed
This is the section of the floor aft of the passenger seats that MetalWorks removed. Other than this modification, the frame bolts in place.
019 There are also two notches to the inside of the wheelwells to accommodate the coilovers
With the body on the frame the need for the floor modification is obvious. There are also two notches to the inside of the wheelwells to accommodate the coilovers.
020 MetalWorks fabricated a new rear floor section
MetalWorks fabricated a new rear floor section that looks like it came from the factory. Reinforcement ribs were added for strength and covers for the coilover mounts were made and bonded in place.
021 Ron Davis aluminum radiator
Keeping the LT1 cool is a Ron Davis aluminum radiator. A Wilwood master cylinder supplies hydraulic pressure for the same-brand four-wheel disc brakes and an E-Stopp electric parking brake system is used.
022 Side pipes were an available option on 1965 67 C2s
Side pipes were an available option on 1965-67 C2s but are often added to earlier models. These reproductions are from Ecklers.
023 MetalWorks hooked the chambered side pipes to the stock LT1 exhaust manifolds
MetalWorks hooked the chambered side pipes to the stock LT1 exhaust manifolds. Installing these pipes does require some trimming of the body.
024holes in the rear panel for the exhaust tips are eliminated
Not only do the side pipes look cool, they sound awesome. When side pipes are used the holes in the rear panel for the exhaust tips are eliminated.

Sources

Art Morrison Enterprises
(800) 929-7188
artmorrison.com

Ecklers Corvette
(877) 815-5799
ecklerscorvette.com

MetalWorks
(541) 341-3372
metalworksclassics.com

Rick’s Tanks
(915) 760-4388
rickstanks.com

Schott Wheels
(714) 891-7680
schottwheels.com

Wilwood Disc Brakes
(805) 388-1188
wilwood.com

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