This article was originally published in the February 2012 issue of Street Machine
I USED to draw ’63 Corvettes on my school desk back in 1966,” Ross Spurling says. That childhood fantasy never waned. But while his childhood dream was to own a ’63 split-window Sting Ray, he created ‘Prodigy’ instead. It’s the perfect marriage of a ’63 body with 2003 Corvette C5 Z06 everything else, a combination of style and performance worthy of James Bond.
“A friend gave me the curved rear split windows,” Ross says. Reverse lights were added and help with the proportions of the extra-wide back end, while the beaver panel was created to suit the mufflers, with vents to keep ’em cool. The Corvette badge was relocated to the left, with a Z06 badge on the right
“Over the past few decades I’ve restored a few Corvettes but old cars are old cars; I never felt fulfilled,” Ross says. “I had a C5 which was fast, economical and comfortable so it seemed like a great idea to merge a 50th Anniversary C5 Z06, with the body of a 10th Anniversary C2.”
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The bonnet bulge is wider and higher to suit the motor and supercharger; the hood scoops are 4in shorter and feature polished stainless spears. The wiper grilles were sectioned and the wiper locators moved. Side-mounted bonnet hinges use BA Ford gas struts and under the bonnet you’ll find factory-looking ribs
“In 2004 I retired, sold my restored ’Vettes and got stuck into the design and planning.”
And boy did he plan! While many on the US Corvette forums said it wouldn’t work, Ross, his equally keen wife Jan and “good friend and master fabricator” Darryll Osborne, used Photoshop and scale models to thoroughly work through the design — including the ability to gain rego as an Individually Constructed Vehicle.
The body line incorporates the C5 mirrors, which are complemented by C5 door handles. Prodigy retains the C5’s functional rear brake ducts behind the door — they were hand-created by Darryll
To get the wheels turning, Ross bought a wrecked 18-month-old, low-mileage 50th Anniversary C5 Z06 from a US insurance salvage site on the ’net. That was easy. The C2 body proved more difficult.
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“More than 2000 hours were spent building and massaging the body to suit,” Ross explains. “All parts are one-offs — there are no moulds,” Darryll adds
“I didn’t want a repro body, so I contacted 50 clubs in the US, checked eBay and had a dealer in LA looking around. The dealer found a ’64 body. It was dead-set rubbish from sitting in a barn for the past 15 years. The rust was terminal but after nine months of looking, it’s all we could find.”
In 2007 both wrecked ’Vettes hit Aussie soil and the real work began.
The pumped-out doors mix C2 glass tracks with C5 mechanisms. Packed into them are central locking, remote entry and electric windows. They swing on C2 hinges and lock with C5 catches and strikers
First they tackled the body’s skeleton. Otherwise known as the birdcage, it’s the metal frame that mounts to the chassis, over which the fibreglass body sits. Due to the noted rubbish condition, it took Darryll nine solid days to bring it back to life.
Next the C5 chassis was straightened and then there was the immensely tricky job of mating the diminutive C2 birdcage with the larger and far more modern chassis.
The Kenne Bell supercharger sits atop an LS6 disguised by old-school rocker covers. GM engineer Zora Duntov had the idea for the Z06 version when the Sports Car Club of America banned factory-sponsored racing. To circumvent the ban, racing parts were created to suit the new Corvette Sting Ray and the ‘race ready’ Z06 was offered in 1963, with 199 built. Being the only year with the split window, the ’63 Z06 is especially desirable
“As the birdcage location relates to the seating, doors, steering and controls, the body had to fit with that alignment,” Ross says.
Naturally, it’s the lovingly fabricated ’glass body that first catches your eye and draws you in.
Darryll hand-formed the unique front and rear panels, the bonnet and the sills by mounting foam to the body, then shaping it using a wood saw and 80-grit sandpaper. That done, fibreglass was laid over the foam to take the shape.
The curvaceous exterior is seriously wider than a C2 — 10 inches in the rear, six inches at the doors and back out to eight inches up front.
“We wanted to accentuate the Coke-bottle design,” Ross says. “It’s a ’63 on steroids,” Darryll adds.
C5 controls were cleverly relocated to the centre of the dash, around the clock. Hiding behind the Z06 dash badge is the dual-zone climate control; air vents are RT140 Corona. At the back of the glovebox is a door labelled ‘Prodigy DNA’. Behind is a VIN plate welded to the birdcage
With the body ready, Michael Falzon spent more than 1000 hours (that’s 25 weeks if you worked eight hours a day, five days a week) massaging the new body, panel-gapping it, then prepping and painting it in two-pack Mazda Mid-Silver.
Hidden under the console lid are power-mirror controls and a 12-volt outlet. Handbrake is C5 Z06, fast-glass switches were made 60s-style
“We didn’t want a fancy colour that would be hard to touch up in the future,” Ross notes.
Inside Prodigy’s luxurious cabin there’s classic red Connolly leather throughout, including the C5 Z06 seats. Roger Davis is responsible for the stitching but it was Darryll yet again who created the cabin mods.
“He spent 550 hours hand-fabricating the C2-style dash pods whilst retaining the C5 features,” Ross says. “The only parts that are C2 are the speaker grille, clock and the glovebox door — cut to spec.”
In essence the interior was modified to look like it has a bunch of ’63 factory options — options that didn’t exist back then. Now right-hand drive, the ’Vette sports a period-correct Grant wheel and swaps cogs with a 1970 C3 Corvette shifter.
The classic styling continues under the heavily modified bonnet.
“I didn’t want to see a modern engine, so the coil packs were relocated and I bought old-school rocker covers. I added a Kenne Bell 2.6-litre twin-screw supercharger, purely to fit with the design.”
Custom fibreglass panels cover most of the bay, with speed clips allowing easy access. Beneath the blower is a 5.7-litre alloy block running 11:1 compression. A few key elements were beefed up to suit the forced induction, including valve springs, 60psi injectors and the Kenne Bell-tuned ECU.
From the factory, the Z06 LS6s pumped out an easy 405rwhp; Ross reckons he’s got more than 500 neddies with the forced induction.
Assisting this impressive ’Vette’s drivability is the 50/50 weight distribution of the C5 driveline. The M56 Tremec six-speed gearbox resides up the back, bolted straight to the Getrag diff. “It’s one of the many reasons we used this driveline,” Ross says.
Breaking from the factory mould are the Phadt Racing coil-overs in all four corners, and cross-drilled rotors to assist the standard calipers. Attached to those stoppers are four stunning one-off alloy rims, thanks to Ian Splatt and Dragway.
“The wheels are a contemporary version of the Corvette knock-off rims of the 60s,” Ross says.
But they almost didn’t happen. “Ross had just bought the supercharger and didn’t want to spend the money on the wheels,” Darryll says. “So I said to him: ‘You can’t see the supercharger unless the bonnet is open but the wheels make or break the car.’”
“I hated when he said that,” Ross adds, “because he was right. And it cost 10 grand.”
The build time came in at more than 7000 hours, but it was still a race against the clock to complete it for its MotorEx 2011 debut.
“I dented it the night before we left for the show. I was so tired and emotional that I cried,” Ross admits.
But it was all worth the pain, with Prodigy taking out five Street Elite trophies. Then at the Extreme Auto Expo, the Corvette won a Top 5 Elite spot, People’s Choice and an invitation for the Superstars Showdown at MotorEx 2012.
While it was the build that brought the team together, they get along like lifelong friends. Ross says: “Darryll had spent two weeks on the interior and it didn’t reflect the look I was striving for.” When Darryll was told, he took it in his stride: “Each of us was able to critique the other’s work; it wasn’t a problem,” he says
“The car has been a monumental build and it’s a tribute to Team Prodigy. It’s exactly how I envisaged it,” Ross says. “I’d love to inspire one young person to make his car-dream a reality. Stitched into the interior’s rear panel is my slogan: dare to dream, dare to believe, dare to achieve.”
For more photos and details of the car and the build, see www.prodigy-z06.com.
ROSS & JAN SPURLING
1963 C2 / 2003 C5 Z06 CORVETTE
Paint: Mazda Mid-Silver
Donk: LS6 5.7-litre
Induction: Kenne Bell 2.6L twin-screw supercharger
ECU: Kenne Bell tuned
Valve springs: Blower-spec
Cooling: C5 Z06 radiator
Exhaust: C5 Z06 titanium, ceramic coated
Output: Guesstimated 500hp
Gearbox: Tremec C5 Z06 rear-mounted M56, close-ratio six-speed
Diff: Getrag C5 Z06, 3.42:1, shot-peened gears (standard on Z06)
Shifter: C3 Corvette shifter grafted onto C5 linkage
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Phadt Racing coil-overs
Steering: Magnasteer, right-hook
Brakes: Cross-drilled rotors with C5 Z06 calipers (f&r)
Dash: C5 Z06 instruments
Seats: C5 Z06
Stereo: Clarion (hidden)
Rubber: Toyo, 265/40/17 (f), 295/35/18 (r)
Rims: Ian Splatt/Dragway custom alloys 17x9 (f), 18x10 (r)