You are on page 1of 4

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


Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


1965 chevrolet corvette roadster

Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |

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
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- | 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


1965 chevrolet corvette roadster

Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES | March 2011 |


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.

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.

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.” | March 2011 | Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES