When the Stingray gets ya, there’s no going back!
Dateline: 8-7-20 – We all have a story about “the day” a Corvette grabbed your attention and never let go. For Joanne Woodard of Avon Park, Florida, the Corvette contagion occurred in 1986 when a Classic White 1974 350 Corvette stung her. 1974 was a pivotal year for Corvettes, as it was the first year that a Corvette did not have exposed chrome bumpers. This was a big deal because all Detroit cars had to abide by the new front and rear safety crash bumper government regulations. The 1973 Stingray had a soft bumper cover on the front and the 1968-1972 chrome bumpers on the rear. 1974 was the beginning of the chrome-less Corvettes.
The overall look of the 1974 Corvette can be traced back to the 1978 Astro-Vette show car. While the rest of Detroit’s cars (except for the Pontiac Firebird) suffered big, protruding bumpers that often looked like chrome-plated railroad ties, the 1974 Corvette still looked sleek and clean. The visual refresh looked great and sales hit their second-best ever to date with 37,502 units sold. It was the 1974’s clean sano good looks and the “Stingray” badge that captured Joanne’s heart and never let go. Unlike Joanne’s current customized 2016 Z51 daily driver, Joanne left her 1974 Stingray stock and did what Duntov wanted all of “his” Corvette customers to do; drive and enjoy their Corvette!
Fast forward to 2014, the 1974 Corvette was long gone, but the contagion was still with Joanne. Corvettes had vastly improved since 1974 and a ride in a C5 convinced her that she had to get another Vette. A Light Pewter 2000 Corvette Coupe caught her eye and once again, a Corvette was back in her life. Unlike the 1974 Corvette, Joanne personalized her 2000 Coupe with black and white stripes and the Corvette Racing Team’s famous “Jake” mascot livery. As with her 1974 Corvette, Joanne’s 2000 “Jake” Vette was a daily driver. Joanne’s attitude about Corvettes is that they are: “Made to be driven!”
Now, a peculiar problem with older Corvettes is that the newer Corvettes are so much better that, often all it takes is a test drive in a newer model to make the owner of an older Corvette want to trade up. Just a year after buying her 2000 Coupe and customizing the car, Joanne took a drive in a 2010 Grand Sport and had to have one! The C6 Grand Sport was a stroke of genius on the part of Corvette product planners.
Adding the Z06 widebody to the basic C6, with some minor trim differences and dedicated wheels seriously helped sales in what was otherwise a dreadful year for Corvette sales. Despite costing more than the base 2010 Corvette coupe and convertible models, the Grand Sport coupe and convertible outsold the base model coupe and convertible. This trend continued through to the end of the C6 2013 model. Joanne’s 2010 Grand Sport Coupe was Cyber Gray and being an avid Corvette Racing Team fan, she customized her car once again with Jake. Then, Chevrolet brought back the “Stingray”.
Former GM Director of Global Styling, Ed Welburn is on record saying that he held off on the approval of the use of the “Stingray” moniker until the C7 was ready to be shown to the public. He wanted to make sure that the look of the finished C7 was worthy of one of the all-time great automobile names, “Stingray.” No one disagreed with Welburn, and Corvette fans were thrilled that the Stingray was back! Joanne said, “I just HAD TO have one! I had to have another “Stingray!”
In June 2016 Joanne took delivery of a new, built-in April 2016, Arctic White Z51 Corvette Stingray Coupe with the 8-speed automatic paddle-shift transmission, all-black 1LT interior package, and Black Painted Z51 Aluminum Wheels. There are three interior trim packages available on the C7 Corvettes; the base model 1LT, the $4,455 2LT, and the $9,745 3LT. The 2LT and the 3LT options are spectacular, but that doesn’t mean the base model interior is a slouch – far from it. The basic 2016 Corvette comes with the following interior appointments: Alarm, Cruise Control, HID Headlights, Adjustable Steering Wheel, Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel, Remote Trunk Release, Keyless Entry, Heated Mirrors, Driver Vanity Mirror, Passenger Vanity Mirror, Power Steering, Back-Up Camera, Vehicle Anti-Theft System, Steering Wheel Controls, Navigation from Telemetrics, Intermittent Wipers, Power Door Locks, Power Mirrors, and Driver & Passenger Lighted Visor Mirror. Back in the Olden Days, this would have been a “loaded” Corvette!
The Arctic White 2016 Z51 Corvette was kind of like a blank canvas, but Joanne had a plan with three elements. First, orange accents. Her family said, “Orange??? Noooo!!!” Second, being a big fan of the Corvette Racing team, she wanted some racing elements. And third, Joanne wanted to do a unique Stingray graphic.
The project came together quickly. Dual orange racing stripes run from the leading edge of the front splitter, over the hood, roof, rear deck, and down the rear bumper cover. Joanne also added orange accents to the front fender vents. The C7 “Stingray” logo is a beauty, but Joanne wanted something unique, so she hired the services of Michele Lott, owner of Signtastic, in Sebring, Florida to help work out the Stingray vinyl graphic. The Stingray’s “eyes” made with Day-Glo ink so that they glow at night as she sneaks up on unsuspecting Mustangs and Challengers! The front splitter and side rockers are painted with Carbon Flash and trimmed with racing-style checkered flag edging. The rear spoiler is a factory part and painted with Metallic Carbon Flash and also trimmed with racing-style checkered flag edging.
The rear louvers by MRT Engineered Performance pay homage to the 1965/1966 Mako Shark and are also painted in Metallic Carbon Flash. Corvette Racing Team design elements are on the black trim just in front of the rear wheels, Michelin Man graphics are on the front bumper cover, and “Corvette Racing 100 Wins” graphics are on the rear bumper cover. And lastly, Joanne hand-painted the raised “CORVETTE” lettering on the painted black wheels, white. The car quickly developed into a street custom and custom cars typically have lots of special details.
Under the hood the C7’s LT1 engine is essentially stock, except for the AFE Cold Air Intake system and Granatelli Zero Ohm Spark Plug Wires. Joanne reports that the AFE Cold Air Intake and Granatelli Zero Ohm wires made a big difference in the engine’s responsiveness and grunt. The rest of the engine compartment is dressed up with various chrome covers and filler caps adorned with the C7 Corvette “Stingray” logo. On the driver’s side, just in front of the engine there’s a heat shield that says, “Corvette, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net”, along with Joanne’s stylized “Stingray” art and the “CORVETTE RACING” logo. And lastly, the Corvette hood blanket has airbrushed Stingrays with underwater bubbles. The only other modification to the engine is the removal of the two rear mufflers, but the factory NPP, Performance Exhaust is in tact and still functional. The car has a wonderful bark and growl.
The C7’s jewel-like LT1 engine responds very well to minor engine enhancements – just like any typical classic small-block Chevy engine. Between the intake improvement, better ignition wires, and some reduced backpressure from the removal of the rear mufflers, Joanne’s 2016 LT1-powered Corvette can handle even Dodge Hellcat in a Stoplight Grand Prix!
As is typical with project cars, they’re never really finished. Joanne’s future plans for her LT1 include a larger injectors and a performance camshaft. (I predict a supercharger later down the road, but we’ll get to what might get in the way of that notion.) Future exterior additions include; painted mud flaps, additional rear lights, a racing-style lower rear diffuser, and 6mm wheel spacers to slightly widen the car’s track.
When it comes to the Corvette lifestyle, Joanne and her wife, Daffne are all-in. Joanne and Daffne took delivery in June 2016 and by early November 2017 when I photographed the car, the Corvette had 35,000 miles on the odometer. One of the nice things about living in south-central Florida is that there are car events throughout the year. About every three weeks Joanne, Daffne, and the family attend car shows. Their “Pretty Pistons” Stingray won every car show they entered in 2016 and many “Best In Show” awards. Houston Chevrolet, in Avon Park, Florida is interested in using the car as their promotional mascot and MRT Engineered Performance, makers of aluminum C7 Coupe rear window louvers, wants to make Joanne and Daffne’s “Pretty Pistons” Corvette their goodwill ambassador.
I asked Joanne about the “Pretty Pistons” tag on the windshield and she explained, “The pistons that make the LT1 engine work are beautifully machined aluminum, kind of pretty – jewel-like. And the pistons go up and down and make the power. So, “Pretty Pistons.” I asked Joanne if she might be eyeing a C7 Z06 with the supercharged LT4 engine. She paused, squinted her eyes and said, “That’s AWFULLY tempting!” I responded, “But then you’ll have to start all over again.” Joanne smiled and said, “I know, that’s the fun of it! That and driving the car.” Ya yes, just like Mr. Duntov wanted! – Scott
Photos by, K. Scott Teeters
This story was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Vette Vues.