Hot rodders' fascination with the Corvette goes back to the marque's earliest days. Though it started out a little underpowered, almost six decades later, no one can dispute the Corvette can be one aggressive driving machine.
So why not slip a 2002 C5 chassis under a '54 Chevy 210 Post? That was the topic for discussion with Bill Baron and his buddies back in late 2002. The idea was to use as much of the original C5 drivetrain as possible-so much so they could drive the '54 into a Chevy dealership and be able to get it hooked up to the factory diagnostic equipment (though it would show up as a 2002 Corvette).
Topped with a Magnuson supercharger, the Corvette LS1 was left alone internally, but dressed up with custom valve covers and a special attention to detail. Up front is a Be Cool radiator (cooled by a Dodge Viper fan), and exhaust exits through Sanderson headers, polished 2.5-inch stainless steel tubing, and out a pair of Magna Flow mufflers.
A Corvette drivetrain was purchased in January of '03 and, later that year at the Goodguys Indy show, a '54 Chevy two-door with a six-cylinder stick was also purchased. Baron had fun driving it around for a year to different cruise nights, but in the fall of '04 he got serious with the project.
To get it on the right track, Bill contacted Tim O'Connell of O'Connell Specialties in Plainfield, Illinois, the same town where Bill lives. (Some may remember Tim as the builder of Al Brockly's '39 Willys, which won the Don Ridler Memorial Award at the Detroit Autorama in 2004). Tim started on Bill's car by creating a chassis to mate with the available C5 components.
The front suspension used cast-aluminum upper and lower control arms working with an Air Ride Technologies air bag system. Narrowed (6.5 inches) halfshafts and C5 calipers with power slot rotors were also bolted up and, for steering, so was an '87 Corvette rack-and-pinion. Out back the Getrag transaxle used another pair of narrowed halfshafts (4.5 inches) and was mated to a 4L60E trans. Vette power slot discs are found in the rear, too, and stainless steel plumbing was used throughout the new chassis. The drivetrain was complete with the addition of a carbon-fiber driveshaft, which has been stretched 9.75 inches.
A pair of Lincoln Mark VIII bucket seats, covered in blood red leather by Schober's Trim and Upholstery in Yorkville, IL, takes center stage in Bill's '54. A custom center console and dash is the interior's main focus, and is filled with Classic Instruments gauges up top and controls for the 1000-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo and Vintage Air AC/heat system below. An aftermarket billet steering has been bolted up to a Flaming River column, and a ratcheting B&M QuickSilver shifter selects the gears in the C5 4L60E trans.
In keeping with the theme, the engine is all C5, with an LS1 (5.7L, 350-inch) and an intercooled Magnuson supercharger added up top. The only other additions were the Be Cool radiator (with a Dodge Viper cooling fan) and custom made valve covers. The headers came from Sanderson Headers, and the 2.5-inch polished stainless steel exhaust tubing exit connects to twin Magnaflow mufflers. O'Connell also fab'd the 23-gallon, stainless steel gas tank, and then bolted up a set of aftermarket Z06 18x9 and 20x10 wheels, shod with Dunlop 265/35ZR18 and 295/40ZR20 rubber.
The bodywork began with the standard custom tricks: a shaved hood, trunk, and door handles. All of the grille teeth were removed, too, and the headlights from a 2004 Jeep Liberty were frenched in. The vent windows were removed in favor of one-piece door glass and, to accommodate the one-piece bumpers, new splash aprons were made to fit between the bumpers and body.
Once the bodywork was finished, J&D Auto Body's Ron Kral painted the ride a Corvette 50th anniversary red and silver, with Letters, Lines, and Design's Jim Ross following close behind with the airbrushed trim treatment horizontally separating the two colors down the side of the car.
Schober's Trim and Upholstery got the call to trim out the interior, which included using blood red leather throughout, from the six-way Lincoln Mark VIII front buckets to the custom rear seat. The custom console holds all of the instrumentation the Chevy has, from the Classic Instrument gauges up top to the 1000-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo and Vintage Air AC and heat controls below. A billet steering wheel tops the Flaming River steering column, and Yogi's supplied the seatbelts.
When you first see Bill's finished ride, you think: "Nice Chevy." But the more you look at it the more you can find. Corvette-derived parts and pieces have found their way onto many hot rods before, but the level of workmanship in this endeavor places this '54 among the best we've seen.