C6 CORVETTE BODY KITS HISTORY (PART 5)

C6 Corvette Body Kits are the 5th in the series of customization and body kits by Corvettes by their generations (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, and now C6). The larger of these companies sold both fully prepared cars and/or kits. The smaller companies manufactured individual parts or “themed” kits but tended to retail them through merchandisers.

The C6 Corvette Body Kits were created by many companies both large and small. We take a look at these body kits and how they vary.
The C6 Corvette Body Kits were created by many companies both large and small. We take a look at these body kits and how they vary.

C6 CORVETTE BODY KITS HISTORY (PART 5)

by: Wayne Ellwood

Photo credits:  Al Sandid, J Caravaggio, Callaway, Facebook, W Ellwood, Geiger GmbH, and others

C6 Corvette Body Kits and Custom
C6 Corvette Body Kits and Custom

From its introduction with the 2005 C6 Corvette to its replacement with the 2014 C7 Corvette, the Corvette continued to offer opportunities for both the individual and the aftermarket. Since the new car was not dissimilar to the C5 Corvette, many companies continued their well-established themes, simply updating for body style. New entries were abundant too. These included the Anteros, Iso Griffo, LOMA (and their arch-rival Supercar), RK Design in Japan, Rossi 66 retro-Vette, and Specter Werkes. Not all survived.

Marketing for these kits or pieces followed the same pattern as in earlier years. The larger of these companies sold both fully prepared cars and/or kits. The smaller companies manufactured individual parts or “themed” kits but tended to retail them through merchandisers.

C6 CUSTOMS ON A MODEST BUDGET

The more basic customs (or personalized) Corvettes comprise a large part of the Corvette aftermarket. So, it is worth observing these cars as they give an insight into grassroots (commercial) trends. There are endless examples, but these can be roughly divided into two parts…. Innovation and application at the individual (or very small shop) level and manufacturers (or would-be) trying to get established. It is not easy to make precise definitions, but some ideas emerged in the C6 era.

C6 CORVETE BODY KIT IDEAS AND INNOVATION AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL:

Toronto graphic designer, Al Sandid, bought a used C6 and turned his graphic background to create faux body panel effects. The use of graphics to create a visual change worked well, and he carried over his work to include a refresh on the interior, a stereo upgrade, and vertical doors. Also, he was enthusiastic about the new C7 “Stingray” logo and decided that this should carry over to his design. This was a relatively low-budget build that is highly reflective of the owner.

An endless variety of add-on flares has emerged over the last few years. Some are simply bolt-on, and others are intended to be molded into the front and rear quarter panels. Various styles of diffusers that adhere to the rear bumper are also popular. There are quite a number of suppliers, many in the smaller size range. However, as the trend to bigger and wider wheels and tires has progressed, so too has the demand for flares large enough to meet legal requirements.

If an owner has greater financial capacity, the degree to which they will customize their Corvette increases. This does not mean they necessarily go wild, but they certainly strive to make their car truly unique.

At a recent car show, Enzo Carboni (Ontario, Canada) displayed his 2005 LS2 Corvette, which, I suppose, would be classed as a mild custom. Enzo’s updates included a Vortech supercharger, related driveline work, and a custom paint job featuring Betty Boop and the Jake skull. The interior leather was updated, as were the gauges. Scissor doors were added. The combined total cost for all this work would probably take the owner past a reasonable definition of “reasonable,” but on the other hand, not excessive for a person who is passionate about their hobby.

At the Detroit Autorama, Larry Mosely (Belleville, MI) entered a “conservative sport” category. The more obvious personal features included blacked-out headlights, dark tint glass, personal stitching on seats, color-matched painted surfaces on the interior, and updated chrome wheels. This is an example of the threshold for entering a professional show.

Another car on the threshold of the professional series offering was a C6 custom presented at the Detroit Autorama in 2012. A failure to record ownership details limits what can be said, but the car was so well done that it merits mention.

ENTRY-LEVEL PARTS / KIT MANUFACTURERS

Following the rear window divider (as per 1963), one entrepreneur developed his own fiberglass interpretation for his C6 Corvette body kit. The intention here was to create an item for sale and to enter the aftermarket community. Although this is highly dependent on an individual’s sense of style, the theme has had legs for many generations

Smaller shops continue to dream of making it big with an innovative ideas. But the early stages have to be well-thought-out if they are to survive.

At the 2017 SEMA show, a company named Innovative Design introduced a kit that would change your C6 into a C7 look-alike.

We are not here to judge, but they did not have a shot.

A very small number of companies produce drag car bodies. It is a very real market but not large. As above, new entries must be well funded.

The C6 era was marked by a rather bitter rivalry between LOMA and Supervettes. It was clear that LOMA had a solid product and was better equipped to deliver the product worldwide. Supervettes was often accused of copying ideas, and they had problems with quality and delivery. It appears that neither is offered a product in subsequent years, but they did stretch the imagination of customers.

The C6 ZR1 offered an interesting opportunity for customization.

RK Sports was a subsidiary of Japan-based RIP Just Balance. They offered no improvements to the powerplant but did create a rather elegant and subtle new look inside and out for the Corvette superstar. The body changes include a new front bumper with integrated dive planes, vents, and cutouts for the new round fog lights, carbon fiber rocker panel extensions with dive planes ahead of the rear wheel arches, a radical lower rear diffuser with a pair of square exhaust tips, a slighter taller rear spoiler, and a strip of flow modifiers atop the rear hatch (similar to shark fins).

Supervette C6 widebody Corvette style - CAD
Supervette C6 widebody Corvette style – CAD

THE RETRO-VETTES CONTINUE FOR C6 CORVETTES

The topic of “retro-Vette” has been discussed in each previous article. It is probably redundant to repeat too much detail, but some detail is appropriate since this is the era of greatest production.

Advanced Automotive Technologies

The Advanced Automotive Technologies company (AAT) of Steve Pasteiner has several C1 variants based on the C5-based Corvette…. the 1953 Commemorative Edition and the Nomad might be the two best known.

These cars blend the styling cues of the original 1953 Corvette with modern automotive technology. The donor cars are C5 Corvettes. AAT installs all-new body panels using the same attachment locations as the original factory panels.

Modifications to the inner fiberglass components vary by the model being constructed with the wagon-style of the Nomad, obviously including a more serious overhaul. All original driveline and safety-related items are factory stock. Total production statistics are not available, but over two hundred units are thought to have been produced.

Classic Reflection Coachwork

Doug Graf leads classic Reflections Coachworks (CRC, Tacoma, WA, US). Doug initially owned a beer distributorship and became involved with CRC through local contacts. Later, he sold the beer company and committed to Classic Reflections full time. CRC’s classically themed exterior panels and support structures are formed from carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP), not fiberglass. It is wider and longer, and its scaling differs, but CRC has always tried to maintain the basic characteristics.

In business since 2001, CRC has been built on a concept first developed in 1993 by Graf, who built the first Retro-Vette in his garage, based on that year’s Corvette C4 convertible chassis. Fitting a stock 1962 body over the C4 chassis, which first had to be lengthened and otherwise modified to align with the ’62 body properly, took six years and more than 5,000 hours. Spurred on by interest in his finished ’62 Retro-Vette, Graf began a new project, spending several months shaping a new design for the ’62 around the larger Corvette C5 convertible chassis. Since then, many more models have been developed, and technologies have been updated.

CRC closed its doors in the late two thousand.

Karl Kustom Corvette

If you love restomod ‘Vettes,’ you’re probably aware that Karl Kustom Corvette builds C2 “retro-Vettes” on a C6 platform. It all started when Jared Johnson from Desmoines (IA) approached Jim Hidy of Karl Chevrolet to build such a creation. Jim referred the project to Karl Performance, their sister business with a 66,000 square-foot facility specializing in frame-off car restoration, performance builds, and Chevrolet mods. The collusion of Jared and Karl Performance was the genesis of the first Karl Kustom Corvette. It was such a big hit that Jared and Carl joined forces, giving birth to KKC. As production evolved, KKC began producing not only a convertible C2 but also a coupe body. A wide-body version was also developed so a high-performance Z06 could make the transition too. Since its start of production in late 2008, KKC has built roughly seventy cars. At its peak, the facility built ten cars per year.

Rossi

Another company named “Rossi” (David Rossi) created another C2 resto-mod called the Sixty-Six. Aspirations were high, but the Rossi team had entered a high-demand sector. When introduced, there was optimism, but time has also taken its toll on this company.

AAT Nomad tribute at Carlisle show
AAT Nomad tribute at Carlisle show
1953 Commemorative Edition officially endorsed by GM
1953 Commemorative Edition officially endorsed by GM
CRC 1962 yellow Corvette at SEMA
CRC 1962 yellow Corvette at SEMA
CRC 1958 Corvette retro-Vette
CRC 1958 Corvette retro-Vette
CRC 1959 Corvette dressed in race livery
CRC 1959 Corvette dressed in race livery

RACE-INSPIRED CORVETTES

Midway through the C6 year group, Pratt & Miller introduced a street version of their Corvette C6R race car, called the C6R-S. Many of the resto-mod kits carry a solid price tag. This one moved the bar up a little more. But, in all honesty, this was a car that no other shop could be reasonably expected to replicate. The car carries a supercharged 7-litre 427, producing 760 HP and 820 lb/ft of torque. The body panels are carbon fiber, and many other race car technologies have carried over. P&M has the expertise in the race set-up, which will be critical for someone who wants a car like this. So, we can always ask Jay Leno if it was worth it, as he got the first one to be sold.

Speaking of race cars built for the street, we can also look to Cauley Chevrolet in Detroit (MI). Starting in 2008-09, Jeff Nowicki partnered with Cauley to produce their new CTR body package, which had a very racy theme. From 2010 forward, Cauley moved on this project on their own. Nowicki branched off to develop his own projects…which we will see in the C7 section.

At the same time, however, other shops were also in the game. Kerry Hitt’s Advanced Composite Products (Harrisburg, PA) makes race bodies and street bodies. Kerry developed a streetable Z06 track package. It has all the cues as well as fully functional aerodynamics. The prototype was on sale at Carlisle in 2008.

The Racing Theme Drives Corvettes

Kerry Hitt’s Z06 prototype Corvette from Advanced Composite Products
Kerry Hitt’s Z06 prototype Corvette from Advanced Composite Products

BESPOKE AND HIGH-END BODY KITS AND FULL BUILDS

GEIGER 6 KITS FROM EUROEPE

Geiger introduced its first full-body custom kit for the C4 Corvette. In the C5 years, it appears that a special body kit was not offered, but they were definitely back on track for the C6 Corvette. Two core variants were developed, although anyone willing to front the money could have additional mods drawn up. The base model for the 2007 Corvette shown in the photo is very conservative in its modifications. The bulk of the personalization focuses on the rear bumper. A lower valance suggests a diffuser, while the upper portion is revised to fit a European license plate and a small lip running the width of the upper edge. A separate ZR1 model has a more pronounced rear bumper treatment and a more radical front bumper treatment.

CALLAWAY

The C16 by Callaway was yet another leap forward in terms of technology and style. It is hard to give a full description without going overboard. Perhaps the most important feature of both the C12 (C5 group) and C16 (C6 group) is the fact that, as bespoke cars, they are sold fully equipped. And many of the unique components, such as the suspension, were manufactured in Germany, while fabrication was conducted in Europe for that market and in Montreal (Canada) for the US market.

The Callaway C16 is marketed as an alternative to the Porsche 911 GT3, the Lamborghini Murciélago, the Ferrari F430, or the 599 GTB and is offered in three different body styles, Cabrio, Coupé, and Speedster. It was unveiled at the  Los Angeles Auto Show in 2006, and production began in 2007. The car features coordinated features such as the supercharged engine, full leather interior, proprietary Callaway/Eibach suspension system, the LeMans brakes, and carbon-magnesium wheels. Options are the selection of a comfort seat or a sportseat, carbon-ceramic brakes, and fitted luggage. The engine is a 6.2-liter (378 cu in) Callaway-modified LS3 V8, powered by an Eaton supercharger, producing 650 bhp (SAE). The engine has a cast aluminum block and heads with six-bolt cross-bolted main caps.

CARAVAGGIO

As noted in the discussion of C5s, John Caravaggio made his first big impression with GM and John Cafaro with his C5 and C6 Z06 ‘Targa” and “convertible” conversions. There was a lot of technical work to adapt his ideas to the new aluminum hydroformed chassis members.

John’s other major multi-year project included a C6 Supercoupe….a C6 coupe designed to look more European with an Aston Martin flavor and an early view on what the C7 might be. But this Supercoupe was a super expensive project and not one that the average fan would have undertaken. So, while it was definitely in the top tier as far as exotic Corvette customs are concerned, the eventual appearance of the C7 rendered the whole project obsolete.

In the end, the owner sold the car to a new owner in Europe and moved on to another brand.

Caravaggio Z06 Corvette convertible conversion
Caravaggio Z06 Corvette convertible conversion

ANTEROS by N2A

The Anteros Coupe was conceived by the California-based company N2A Motors (which stands for “No Two Alike”). The Anteros Coupe is based on the C6 Corvette and features European-inspired exterior styling with svelte curves, circular headlights and taillights, and a mesh grille. The Anteros Coupe cost around $150,000 brand new. The price is mostly due to the custom carbon fiber body panels. But the price is also quite high when you consider that this pricy second-hand C6 Corvette is bone stock apart from its custom bodywork. The 6.2L LS3 V8 engine is the same as when it left the factory and sent power to the rear wheels through a stock six-speed automatic transmission.

MANTIDE DESIGN FROM BERTONE

The 2009 Bertone Mantide was designed by Jason Castirota (Long Island, NY) and built by Stile Bertone; a noted Italian shop associated with Bertone. The car was created using a Corvette ZR1 with its 6.2-liter supercharged LS9. This Bianco Fuji (Pearl White) exterior with Charcoal and Red bespoke Alcantara interior was created with the hope of building a series of ten such cars. This did not materialize, and the car was put up for auction with only 10,000 miles and a new, 6-speed manual gearbox. As a result, this is the only “Mantide” in existence.

GM’S “LIFESTYLE MARKETING”

In a strikingly stupid example of lifestyle marketing, GM decided it would be a good idea to join forces with Guy Fieri to develop a special car recognizing his place in American society. Of course, one can only presume that someone on the inside was a big Fieri fan.

The Guy Fieri concept Corvette is stated to reflect the high-energy personality of this executive chef and restaurant mogul. This 2013 high-performance 427 convertible Collector Edition has been modified with Chevrolet accessories and graphics that give it an edge to match its personality. It features the Black-and-Yellow theme associated with Fieri’s Chevrolet collection.

GM’s “Lifestyle Marketing” – the Guy Fieri Concept Corvette
GM’s “Lifestyle Marketing” – the Guy Fieri Concept Corvette

EMERGING TRENDS IN BODY KITS AND CUSTOMS

VALARRA BY Matthew McEntegart

The 2004 to 2013 timeframe was difficult for people in the automotive trades. The 2008 financial crisis deflated the entire economy, and it is not surprising, therefore, that many projects crashed, and only well-established businesses with financial depth would come out of recession with their sanity still in place. Later in the cycle, a few businesses again began to venture back into the fray. One such project was called VALARRA, a unique body kit is the brainchild of a Florida designer named Matthew McEntegart of Mattao Concepts, the Valarra kit car was unveiled at the 2019 SEMA show, and the company was scheduled to accept orders by the next year.

C3 BODY ON C6 CHASSIS BY HARDCORE ENGINE BUILDERS

It was inevitable that the idea of retro-Vettes would evolve to incorporate the C3 body style. By 2021, this became a reality. In this case, this C3/C6 Corvette mashup was created by a Hungarian shop called Hardcore Engine Builders. While many customs would use the more current chassis, this “retro-Vette” uses an original style C3 frame and transfers the C6’s major mechanical components on top. As for what exactly comes from the C6, this retro-Vette uses the C6 steering components brakes, 6-speed automatic transaxle with paddle shifters, and engine. That engine is the standard LS3 V8, albeit with a few upgrades. Its stock form made 430 hp (436 PS / 321 kW) and 424 lb-ft (575 Nm) of torque, although with its new stainless steel long-tube headers and exhaust system. After that, it is a bit of a modified update to the C3 components, and…presto.

ROCKET BUNNY BODY KIT ON C6 (WITH Wrap)

Rocket Bunny C6 Corvette body on C6 Corvette with wrap
Rocket Bunny C6 Corvette body on C6 Corvette with wrap

The final indicator of future trends is the continuation of the Rocket Bunny / Liberty Walk style of body kits. While not many companies entered the field in the C6 era, those with a solid foundation would carry on.

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