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Charlie Spiteri's 1963 Corvette Stingray

At first glance Charlie Spiteri is probably not the kind of bloke you’d expect to see driving around in a classic 1963 Corvette. While most people tend to associate Corvettes with the ‘corporate car enthusiast’ stereo-type, the reality is that these iconic vehicles appeal to a very wide cross section of the automotive community.

As a long term member of the NSW Unlimited Corvette Club and a motorcycle enthusiast from way back Charlie has certainly earned his stripes on both two and four wheels.


Charlie first came into contact with his now treasured ‘63 ‘vette back in the early 1980s when he saw it sitting in a mate’s garage. Back then it was just a body and chassis but Charlie took an instant shine to it. A kind of magnetic attraction you might say. "I watched George spend ten years or more and a lot of money getting parts and repairing the body and chassis". Charlie said. "Then one day out of the blue George went and sold it as an unfinished project to Bob Maynes". Bob was responsible for advancing the project further which included a new paint job. Charlie heard on the grapevine that the car might be coming up for sale once again. "I went around to see Bob to see if there was any truth in the rumour. It turned out that his wife didn’t really want him to sell it but he said he‘d think about it". Charlie waited patiently for a week while Bob decided what he wanted to do. In the end Charlie rang Bob to get the final verdict and to Charlie’s delight successful negotiations were entered into resulting a much anticipated sale.

Now that Charlie had the project of his dreams in his possession, the next step was to find a motor and gearbox. He sourced a 350 Chev and a Muncie 4 speed transmission which served the purpose for about three years. When Charlie decided that an upgrade was due he stumbled across an opportunity to buy the original 350ci supercharged motor that George May had planned to put into the car back when he owned it. Funny how things work out!

Four years down the track and the supercharger spat the dummy. Charlie, a mechanic by trade repaired the damaged unit but about 500 miles later, the same thing happened. "By now I was getting a bit tired of that bloody supercharger but I didn’t want to downgrade from the power level it was putting out". said Charlie. "I got talking to a mate and he was telling me about these LS7 ‘crate motors’ that you can buy now. They put out 505hp from the factory". These motors are the standard factory issue for the Z06 C6 Corvettes which have been billed as the fastest, most powerful car ever offered by Chevrolet and GM.

Not satisfied with 500+ horsepower straight out of the box, Charlie just had to tweak it!. He needed more!. The standard fuel injection system has been replaced with a 90mm Holley Throttle Body and larger injection. The LS7 now runs a Comp Cams XER287HR camshaft and custom made JE forged pistons have been installed to cope with the extra grunt, while the engine is kept lubricated via a dry sump system. The spent gasses are sent out the sides courtesy of the custom stainless steel 2" headers and stainless steel 3.1/2" side pipes. In all the LS7 now packs a hefty 640hp.

The extra power is delivered to the wheels via the Tremec 6 speed transmission, LS7 clutch, heavy duty drive shaft and Corvette 3.7:1 positive traction diff.

The front suspension consists of Pedders coil springs and Koni shock absorbers while the rear end runs a composite monospring system, Koni shocks and a ¾" anti-sway bar. To get that tough stance the car has been lowered 2.5" all round and fitted with nylothane bushes. Stopping power is provided by the Corvette vented and drilled discs and 4-spot calipers.

The interior of the Corvette has been fully refurbished to match the quality of the exquisite exterior. Black is the colour of choice as it offsets to full instrumentation nicely. The full array of Autometer gauges have been carefully fitted into the standard Corvette dash so as to create a modified yet authentic looking finish. The steering wheel has been upgraded to a SAAS sports version and the aftermarket Recaro seats have been fitted with full racing harnesses.

The cargo area behind the seats is now home to a brace bar, Kenwood 500W amplifier, Kenwood 6x9 speakers and a sizable Sony sub-woofer. Other audio components include Kenwood tweeters and a Sony head unit.

Now those who know their Corvettes are probably arguing that Charlie’s car is not a ‘63 because it doesn’t have a split rear window, but it is in fact a true 1963 Corvette. You see the split window only came out in 1963. After that America’s equivalent the RTA ruled the centre pillar an obstruction of view and legislation was passed forcing the manufacturer to discontinue the current rear window design as of the following year. As this was the most obvious visual change, it became a popular practice for ‘63 owners to grab a hacksaw and remove the ‘outdated’ version and simply throw in a 1964 rear glass and trim. If there’s one thing that really annoys Charlie it’s that bloody back window!. "That’s one thing I’m definitely going to put back to original" said Charlie. "It’ll cost me three or four grand all up to do it but to me it will be worth it"

Although the ‘vette retains a classic stance, the body is actually far from original. The guards have been flared to give a ‘fatter’ look - or should that read ‘phatter’? Charlie has also added an aftermarket front spoiler that fits like a glove. It really follows the lines of the car nicely and most people would be forgiven for thinking that it came from the factory that way. " It’s not just for looks either" said Charlie. "it’s really noticeable how well it holds the car to the road at high speed"

One look underneath and it’s obvious that this car is owned by a true perfectionist. Although the car is built to drive, and drive hard, the level of workmanship and attention to detail on the undercarriage needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. There is no shortage of braided lines, polished aluminium and performance enhancing equipment. The twin Bosch hi flow electric fuel pumps keep up the demand for fuel while a Carter fuel pump accommodates the surge tank and the custom aluminium fuel cell stores the supply. Even the short-shafts are enshrouded in the star spangled banner while the brake and suspension components are colour coded in Custom CS Corvette Red.

Attention to detail is everywhere right down to the Chev bow tie on the brake calipers. Nothing has been overlooked.

It’s no secret that Charlie loves his horsepower but even a motor that’s been built to go as hard as this one still needs to look it's best. No expense has been spared within the engine compartment with colour coding and polished aluminium being the flavour. The underside of the bonnet has been tastefully trimmed in black to match the interior while the underside of the bonnet scoop has been done in polished aluminium. The Chev bow tie has been cunningly applied to reflect in the aluminium. The effect is stunning!. Other enhancements include the colour coded engine covers, power steering reservoir, air filter intake tube and engine oil tank.

Sure, Charlie likes getting the car out on the road and giving it a boot-full but he also enjoys entering it into the occasional car show so that others can appreciate it too. The ‘vette has won the ‘Car of the Show Award’ two years running.

Charlie still has a few more things he’d like to do to the car before he considers it totally finished - but then again, are these projects ever finished? There‘s always something more that can be done. In addition to the aforementioned back window he also has a few more tweaks in the planning. Charlie’s really happy with the way the car has come up so far and would like to extend his sincere gratitude to his good friends Tony Roberts, Ray Langlois, Oscar, Joseph and John from Illawarra Collision Repairs and his cousin Joe Spiteri. Without these guys the car could never have reached the standard that it is today.

See more photos of this car at our Feature Cars gallery >

 

Spec list

Colour
Custom CS Corvette Red

Engine
Type: 7ltr LS7 V8 Induction: 90mm Holley Throttle Body with larger injection
Pistons: Custom made JE forged Cam: Comp Cams XER287HR
Exhaust: Custom stainless steel 2" headers and 3.5" side pipes
Horsepower: 640hp/570ft lb

Transmission
Gearbox: Tremec 6 speed
Clutch: LS7
Diff: Corvette 3.7:1 positive traction

Suspension, brakes & steering
Springs: (f) Pedders coils (r) Composite monospring
Shocks: Koni all round Steering: RHD Toyota Cressida
Brakes: ‘65 Corvette vented & drilled discs, 4-spot calipers Wheels & tyres Tyres: (f) 235/40x17" (r)255/40x17" Wheels: Dragway (f)17"x9" (r)17"x9.5"

 

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