Scott Belyea’s 1965 Retro-Mod Corvette Sting Ray Convertible

Corvette Passion Finally Fulfilled

PHOTO CREDITS: Scott Belyea and Dustin Segura

As you are reading this, it means that somewhere in your past, the “Vette Virus” got you. For some of us, it happens when we’re kids or teenagers. For others, later in life. But once you’ve got it, it’s with you for life. Some can fulfill that passion early on, and others when they’re older.

Scott Belyea grew up in beautiful Santa Rosa, California in the 1960s. Back in the day, “Auto Shop” was an Industrial Arts course taught in high school, along with Wood Shop and Mechanical Drawing. Auto Shop taught boys (mostly) the basics of car care and simple maintenance. For young car guys who were passionately waiting to get their driver’s license, it was the place to be. In Scott’s case, working on a friend’s 1964 409 Impala made the class even more fun.

Yes, Scott had a mild interest in cars until the day he saw and HEARD a 1965 big-block 396 Corvette with side pipes rumble by. “WHAT’S THAT?!?!?” he said. Scott had just been stung by a Sting Ray.

In the spring of 1965 Chevrolet released their new big-block replacement for the old W-Series 348/409/427 truck engine. As a truck engine, the W-Series produced plenty of torque for industrial use but didn’t like high rpm’s. But Chevrolet had its eye on covert racing efforts and knew that the W-Series engine needed to go.

A prototype Mark-II 427 “porcupine engine” was dropped into Mickey Thompson’s 1963 Z06 Corvette and raced at the 1963 Daytona 250. The press immediately noticed the Mark-II’s distinctive sound and dubbed the engine, “Chevrolet’s Mystery Motor”. According to Corvette development engineer, Bill Tower, sorting out the durability problems with the new engine was very challenging. But by the spring of ’65, the new 396 Mark-IV Big-Block was available to the public.

Chevy engineers learned that the easiest route to big horsepower was simple – cubic inches. The 327 Fuelie was maxed out at 375 horsepower; the new 396 big-block had 425 horsepower and only cost $292; the Fuelie cost $538. And, to go along with the new brutish big-block, real side pipes were a $134 option. Many have pointed out that the side pips weren’t as efficient as the straight-through $37 Off-Road Exhaust, but they sounded awesome. Like many of us, Scott heard the call of the wild new big-block Corvette, and that was it!

The expression, “Life gets in the way” applies to most of us at various times of our lives. While Scott’s passion for a big-block ’65 Corvette started over 50 years ago, it never left him. Along the way, Scott satisfied his Corvette itch with a Bright Red C4 1990 Coupe and later a Black 2009 C6 Convertible.

But after Scott retired from his career as a land developer, it was time to take action on his old big-block passion. Scott knew what he wanted; a modernized big-block 1965 Corvette. So he sold his 2009 Corvette to make room for his dream big-block C2 Sting Ray. The quickest way to get there without getting into trouble with your spouse (or your accountant) is to look for a “For Sale” Resto-Mod that isn’t completed.

Starting a Resto-Mod from scratch can be a very expensive enterprise. Many are started and then stopped when the owner runs out of cash. Resto-mods typically require automotive skills and abilities that are way beyond most driveway mechanics can handle, after all, they are “custom-made” cars. In late 2020 Scott was on the hunt for a complete but mild Resto-Mod C2 Sting Ray convertible. He quickly found what he was looking for at Gateway Classics, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Marina Blue 1965 Resto-Mod Convertible was a great start for Scott’s project. The car was fully functional, dripping with goodies, and had just 3,000 miles since the Resto conversion. As purchased, the car came with the following: a 427, 500-horsepower big-block engine with an Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel carb, a 4-speed manual transmission, full coil-over suspension, Wilwood disc brakes system with 14-inch drilled rotors, the C5 high-back seats, and all of the custom bodywork with Marina Blue paint.

Scott drove his resto-mod briefly then got to work. The biggest change was the installation of the rebuilt 1969 L71 427/435 engine. Wayne’s Engine Rebuilding specializes in old-school ’60s Chevy big-block setups for the street. The L71’s 3×2 carb setup was replaced with an easier-to-live-with, single Holley four-barrel carb. Under the carb is a polished stock aluminum intake manifold, and a roller hydraulic cam was installed.

Hooker Header Side Pipes gave Scott the desired rumble and roar that he wanted since back in the day. The rebuild is relatively mild and was dynoed at 450 horsepower. To keep the big-block cool, a double-thick aluminum radiator with a pulled fan was installed.

The Resto-Mod’s interior was already in great shape, but Scott added a few custom touches. The stock 16-inch steering wheel was replaced with a custom aftermarket wheel. All of the gauges were upgraded to Teletronics electronic units. The stock C2 Corvette shifters are pretty good, but Resto-Mods are all about style. A Hurst Shifter now handles the gear-rowing chores.

The stock console metal shifter surround and ashtray were replaced with a Speedway Metal, custom machined and polished piece with C2 Corvette Cross Flags engraving. The 4-speed H-shifter plate is also a custom piece. Speedway Metal also customized the polished glovebox door with the engraved 1965 “Corvette Sting Ray” badge and “427”. Note the absence of an aftermarket A/C system. Scott lives in northern California, so there’s little need for A/C.

Wheels and tires can completely change the personality of a car. Scott wanted modern-size wheels and tires. He chose Retro Mags, for that “Cragar Mag” look; 17” x7” on the front and 17” x 8” on the rear. The retro-look mags needed retro-look skins. Scott went with BF Goodrich Force Sport radials, 235/45ZR17s on the front and 275/40ZR17s on the rear.

As purchased, Scott’s ’65 Corvette came with flared fenders, a custom rear spoiler, ’67 side vents, a ’65-’66 big-block hood, custom front clip with fixed LED headlights in the corners of the custom-made grill. The factory-stock hidden headlights were removed and glassed over. The rear taillights are not LEDs.

As the car did not come with side pipes, Scott had custom-made side rocker panels made to accommodate the Hooker Header Side Pipes. And lastly, tucked away under the rear trunk lid is a functioning convertible top, just in case it rains, which it rarely does where Scott lives. Custom retro-Mod cars are typically about “elements of discovery”. Note the “1965” California license plate. Pretty cool!

In Scott’s “mind’s eye,” his ’65 Resto-Mod was always going to be black. The Resto-Mod’s original Marina Blue paint was stripped and some minor glass repair work was done. Since the car came with a rear spoiler, Scott found an aftermarket front spoiler. As black is the hardest color to paint a car because it shows every ripple and wave; most old Corvettes painted black and dark colors had waves and ripples from the factory. After being completely block-sanded, painter David Bell painted with the car with Intense Gloss Black. And lastly, not that John Q. Public will likely ever see it, Scott had the undercarriage painted Custom Silver Gray.

Scott’s ’65 big-block Resto-Mod project began in late 2020 and was completed by late summer 2023. The first show Scott took his Resto-Mod to was the Black Hawk’s Museum’s Corvette Show. There were 150 Corvettes at the show and Scott’s car won The President’s Award. Then in early November at his local “Corvette Express Show” his ’65 Convertible scored “Best C2 Corvette”. Looking back, the car has over 200 line item new parts installed and has been completely upgraded to a modernized, classic, ground-pounding, loud street beast.

We had to ask, “What do you like the best about the completed car?” Scott said, “Oh, the raw big-block power, the handling of the coil-over suspension, the great Wilwood brake system, but especially, those Hooker Headed Side Pipes. I LOVE hearing that big-block boom and roar!”

But we saved the sweetest part for last.

Scott is the past President of Vaca Valley Vette, his local Corvette Club. Last fall, the club participated in their local, “Fiesta Days Parade”. Scott’s grandson, Grayson, asked, “Can I come along”. Of course, Scott told Grayson, “Sure you can!”. When Scott picked up Grayson, the young car guy was decked out in his Spider-Man Halloween outfit! As Scott and Grayson paraded down the street, the kids were yelling, “We love Spider-Man! We love Spider-Man!”

Let’s hope that Scott successfully transferred the “car gene” to his little grandson. As it should be! – Scott

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