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restoration profile

1965 Chevrolet Corvette roadster
By Mike McNessor Photography by Terry McGean • Restoration photography courtesy of Prestige Motor Car • Studio photography by Dino Petrocelli If you caught last month’s issue, you already know how upstate New York Corvette dealer, restorer, expert and all-around enthusiast Joe Verrillo bought this 1965 Corvette extra-crispy and proceeded to transform it into a well-done rolling example of what his shop, Prestige Motor Car Co. in Clifton Park, New York, can cook up — given enough time, money and a stockroom full of rare NOS parts. To bring new subscribers and latecomers up to speed: Joe tracked down this fuel-injected roadster back in 2001, just 20 minutes from his showroom, moldering behind an independent body shop. The Corvette had been in a garage fire and was then left outside to fester for more than a decade. What made it enticing, however, was that the seller had the Corvette’s original block and heads — though the parts of the once-mighty 375hp 327 looked like something that had been used to keep a crab fishing boat anchored off the coast of Alaska. Further sweetening the car’s siren song: It was equipped with a 4.11:1 rear with Positraction and F40 suspension. With some detective work and a little cajoling, Joe later managed to track down the Corvette’s prior owner — the man who had owned the car at the time of the fire — and purchased a few key pieces that he’d squirreled away. The story of the car’s demise and the history of the lifelong Corvette affliction that made Joe see show-winning greatness in the charred ruins is detailed in HMM#89, February 2011. Suffice it to say, however, that

Above, ’65 Corvette flambé, more or less as Joe Verrillo found it. Below, the car, after a decade-long restoration and an NCRS Top Flight award.

this wasn’t an overnight rebuild — initially, Joe used it as a side project to keep his crew occupied during downtime. Its progress ebbed and flowed, finally coming together in a flurry of finish and assembly work last year. When we left off, the body of the Corvette had been repaneled and re-skinned from taillamp to headlamp using a mix of NOS and original parts. The chassis, meanwhile, was left


Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |

It’s amazing what a few hundred man hours and a stash of NOS and original body panels can do for a fire-ravaged mid-year Corvette that had been left for dead. Here, the car is fresh from the paint booth covered in DuPont urethane. However, the chassis is untouched at this point.

Here’s another reason that Joe considered tackling this project—the frame was solid. Note the rust-free kickups, a traditional problem area.

It looks bad, but under that patina of rust lie F40 front suspension components. Those original shocks and springs are keepers.

More rusty parts: A water pump pulley, some mounts and bracing, headlamp surrounds and a load of other stuff had to be blasted and refinished.

The inbox began to pile high with new-looking parts, now refinished and lined up for reinstallation on the fire-ravaged car. | March 2011 | Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES


restoration profile

Any pits were spot-repaired with body filler before the frame was primed, sealed and painted in the correct satin finish.

The rear leaf and a gaggle of hardware are lined up on a table in the shop, ready for installation. Organization kept the job moving ahead.

Parts were laboriously hung around the shop and sprayed with correct finishes after being stripped, cleaned and rebuilt where appropriate.

Here are the original coil springs parked on a shelf in the shop after being media-blasted and treated to a coat of paint.

untouched to provide a rolling platform for the body. After sitting in primer from 2006 until 2008, the body was shot with DuPont urethane basecoat/clearcoat paint, then removed from the chassis. The Prestige crew then turned its attention to the chassis and running gear. “We disassembled the frame on the floor, then sent the frame, all the brackets, the crossmembers and rear spring out to be blasted and sprayed with epoxy primer so they wouldn’t rust,” Joe said. The rear axle and trailing arms were sent out to be reconditioned and restored — the shop that performed the work also provided a DVD of the process showing the correct numbers on the housing and on the gears. The driveshaft and rear half-shafts were sent out for machining and polishing, and the four-speed transmission was rebuilt and refinished. Cast parts like the rearend housing and

the front spindles were left unpainted, but coated with a spray-on lubricant to prevent rust. The frame was treated to some cosmetic spot-repair with body filler, then primed, sealed and finally finished with DuPont paint, dulled with a flattening agent. Because the Corvette had been equipped with F40 suspension, it was imperative to preserve the original springs and shocks, so they, too, were refinished and replaced. The engine mounts and body mounts are new and 95 percent of the original bolts were refurbished and reused. “All of the bolts are correct; most are original,” Joe said. “We cleaned them up and sent them all to the plater, though some came back unusable.” Before Joe bought the car, the engine castings were Magnaflux-tested and proven to be crack-free, but all of the original

pieces and accessories required rebuilding and refinishing. The 327 was completely rebuilt to stock specs — 11:1 compression, solid-lifter cam — then painted in the body shop with a Chevy orange blend mixed in-house. An NOS six-quart oil pan went in, as did like-new original rocker covers. The original water pump, fuel pump and distributor were also rebuilt, refinished and reused. The fire-damaged Rochester fuelinjection unit was sent to noted Rochester fuel-injection specialist John DeGregory to be rebuilt. Sadly, the housing had been damaged in the fire, so it had to be replaced. Joe opted to outfit the car with optional Kelsey-Hayes knock-off wheels, though the car was equipped with steel wheels and full wheel covers when new. On the inside, the original shifter and instruments were all rebuilt and refin-


Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |

1965 chevrolet corvette roadster

The original housing hosts a 4.11:1 gear—just 4,294 1965 Corvettes were so equipped. The half shafts were rebuilt and polished.

A panel that blocks off the compartment behind the seats is clamped in place for installation. This is where the jack and lug wrench are stored.

The refurbished steering box is bolted to the frame. Manual steering was the norm on these cars, only 3,236 1965 ’Vettes had power assist.

A shot of the Corvette’s Z-shaped hinge pillar brace shows the allimportant trim tag and the serial number tag on the lower right side.

The car’s original shocks got their shafts taped off and a fresh coat of the factory-correct gray before being reassembled with new bushings.

The circa-’65 Muncie shifting lever was disassembled, stripped, replated and looking factory fresh here before getting bolted to the transmission. | March 2011 | Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES


restoration profile

You can still see some rust on the shock shaft, a small reminder of this car’s history. The big washers on top are unique to the F40 dampers.

Bellhousing overspray pattern and stripes around the circumference of the driveshaft were all faithfully reproduced on the Corvette’s chassis.

Disc brakes at all four corners were new for 1965. Rare F40 package used a bigger front anti-roll bar than standard, among other things.

The original fuel-injection case was badly damaged so a replacement stands in. 1965 was the last year for injection on a ’Vette until ’82.

ished; the original seat belts were refurbished, too. The Corvette had been ordered with the optional Teakwood steering wheel and, thus, Joe replaced it with an OEM wheel. The upholstery, door panels and carpet were replaced with aftermarket units. All of the car’s rubber, glass and top also had to be replaced thanks to damage from the fire, of course. After a nearly decade-long, on-again/off-again restoration, the Corvette was finished in April of 2010. At its first outing, an NCRS regional in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the car scored a Top Flight award: A gratifying end to a buildup that began with a Corvette most would have cast off as a lost cause.

It’s almost a shame to cover up this chassis. Fortunately, Joe rolled it into Dino Petrocelli’s studio for its close-up before proceeding.


Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |

1965 chevrolet corvette roadster

Here the body drop is about to begin. At this point the interior was still out of the car and the convertible top was yet to be installed.

The new top, rear window still covered by protective wrap, brings closure to this car, which was left open to the elements for so long.

The completed interior looks too good to sit in. Note teak wheel, radio delete and restored to new condition seat belts clipped on the console.

The owner fired up the 327 and drove the car the short distance to our photo location. The cackle of this solid-lifter engine is unforgettable.

Joe and Sunday Verrillo of Prestige Motor Car in Clifton Park, New York, have been in the Corvette restoration and sales business for three decades. So, what would Joe tell a customer who brought in a project like this to restore? “I would tell them that we could restore this car. But does it have sentimental value? If it doesn’t, keep in mind that whatever you put in this car, you’ll never get back. To me this car was worthy. It was something special and I wanted to do it.”

Kelsey-Hayes knock-off wheels weren’t original to this car but the owner opted to install a set. After what it’s been through, this Corvette deserves some extra jewelry anyway. | March 2011 | Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES