Article and photography by Richard Butschi
Bob Chiusano had a thought lingering in the back of his mind after completion of his ‘63 split-window Vette. What would the hard-core Corvette purists think of his decision to alter what is probably the most iconic, most prized model in 65 years of Corvette production? Like many of us “boomers” from the ‘60s, Bob never thought he would own such a car, but the stars finally aligned, acquiring the ‘63 a few years ago from a local owner. It had been passed along as a “numbers-matching” car, which sadly wasn’t the case. Knowing this prior to the purchase, Chiusano never hesitated in building a modern driver while retaining the look of a classic. A “restomod” - the best of both worlds.
Chiusano chose Eddie’s Rod & Custom to tackle the project, in part because of the personal, friendly feeling he got when dealing with the Pettus family and team at the shop. It was an 18-month build with great attention paid to the details – a sign of true quality. It was off to a great start with an Art Morrison full-custom chassis with independent front and rear suspension, JRi coilover shocks, 14.5” rotors with 6-piston carbon/ceramic brake calipers holding back the 19x10 front and 19x12 rear wheels by Billet Specialties. Subtle body modifications are found in the undercarriage, with custom front and rear valences, bumpers that are tightened up close to the body, a “floating” grill, and removal of the wind wings and door locks. Almost unnoticeable are the flush-mounted front and rear windows. Removing the chrome moldings really adds to the clean, classic lines of the Vette. And check out the door sills which match the valve covers on the engine, along with the headliner “rib” which matches the roof rib.
When it came to the drivetrain, the ball was handed off to Gary Meyer of Motorheads Mfg. in Ely. Chiusano was looking for something other than the standard LS implant and opted for a 327, standard in ‘63 with options from 250 to 360 hp. The Motorheads pumped-up version is estimated around 500, with Pro Topline aluminum heads, Comp Cams and 10:1 compression. It’s all hooked to a Tremec T-56 Magnum 6-speed transmission connecting to a Dana 60 rearend with 3.73 rear gears. One of the more unique features of the Vette is the Infinity Box which controls everything electrical in the car from a dash-mounted iPad, including an automatic hood retractor. It even has its own WiFi signal giving control from personal electronic devices. The interior was handled long-distance by Gabe’s Street Rod Custom Interiors in San Bernardino, CA, with sound system by Kicker, gauges by Classic Instruments mounted in an air-brushed dash by Scott Takes of Underground Art Studio in CR. Chiusano decided on the exterior color for the ‘63 while car shopping with his daughter, Christina, and wife, Joanne, in CA. It was a wine color that he and Eddie Pettus’ team deepened a bit at home, making it one-of-a-kind. Bob christened it “Biondi Santi” after a wine he and Joanne shared in Italy not long before she passed away over a year ago. It works well with the gold accents of the car.
The “Wow!” Vette debuted at the Detroit Autorama in early 2017, drawing gasps as it rolled out of the trailer. It made a also made a big impression at the prestigious SEMA Show last November in Las Vegas, making the “Top 12 Builders” list on national TV and receiving GM’s “Car of the Year” award, the award Pettus was really after, cherishes deeply and puts Eddie’s R&C towards the top of the list of American car builders. The Vette received a special guest invitation to a big show in Toronto, recently and there are plans to attend several GoodGuys Shows in the midwest this year, including Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and nearby Des Moines on June 29th thru July 1st at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. There is also the possibility of a closer look at this amazing car at the CR Corvette Club’s Charity Car Show on June 9th at the Cedar Hills Community Church. We’ll see what happens.