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1966 C2 Coupe Pays Tribute to 1963 Grand Sport

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 8/13/2018 Chuck Vranas

The early '60s were truly a turning point for the high-performance world where Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler had their engineers hustling horsepower at a feverish pace to maintain dominance on the street, dragstrip and road courses. It was also a time when the C2 Corvette was in its prime and its legendary engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov made the move to secretly develop it as a cutting-edge race car, giving birth to the Grand Sport. The lightweight, purpose-built racer featured a 377ci small-block V-8, an aluminum tubular space frame and a wicked power-to-weight ratio to make it a true contender on a road course. GM, however, cancelled the project after only five Grand Sports were built, making them some of the rarest and most coveted versions of the car amongst collectors.

At nearly the same time, 14-year-old Charlie Ranfos of Candia, New Hampshire, was feeding his automotive hunger by working at his uncle Angie's Chevron station in nearby Manchester. Little did the youngster know that this passion would lead to the build of the 1966 C2 Grand Sport tribute presented here. The station was a hotbed of activity, with plenty of local muscle car owners stopping by on a regular basis. He eventually met good friend Dave Parris, who ran a small shop—located behind the station—dedicated to hopping-up muscle cars. Sharing the same enthusiasm for Chevrolet performance, Charlie wasted no time in getting into the game once he got his license. He owned a string of hot Chevys, including a '64 Impala SS, a '68 Camaro Z/28 and a number of Chevelles.

1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-022.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-022.jpg

Charlie eventually opened is own shop, Auto Trim, Inc., focusing on custom upholstery for both classics and muscle cars. During this time, Charlie married his wife, Marleen, who not only helps run the business but also shares his obsession with performance. Before long, Charlie shifted his focus to C2 Corvettes, owning a number of small-block models before taking on his first full restoration of a big-block Mosport Green 1966 roadster. Once completed, he followed up with a big-block 1967 roadster for Marleen, while at the same time making plenty of visits to Corvettes at Carlisle in Pennsylvania to buy and sell parts with good friend Jet Thomas. If there was one quote that he lived by over the years it was that "there is no substitute for cubic inches." The sheer exhilaration felt when accelerating in a C2 Corvette fueled by a big-block V-8 was unlike anything else he had ever experienced. Having always been enamored by the legacy of the original Grand Sport, with its history and racing capabilities, he decided to take on the build of one for himself, but with one exception ... it would have to be based on an original Corvette.

1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-002.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-002.jpg

Taking on the exterior's metamorphosis took plenty of time, skill and determination. When deciding on the build, Charlie maintained that he would craft the project from an original Corvette. Thankfully, he started with a very clean original body that came with a set of mint doors and all the related parts needed for the transformation. Being a true enthusiast, any items not needed were carefully removed and repurposed to other car owners who could use them for restoration projects. When sourcing the parts for the restyling he contacted Mid-America Industries for one of their Grand Sport conversions called the GS-2. They offered nearly everything needed to take on the transformation. Working with good friend Joe Gillooly, the pair started by carefully removing the front clip and followed by removing the rear clip. They continued by preparing the body for the new GS-2 sections to be mounted in place. To give the car a very distinctive look, Charlie had Ron Gagnon work his magic on the hood by adding custom stainless louvers to set it apart from the rest. The doors, trunk and hood were then fitted and all panel gaps were dialed in to make sure everything was perfectly balanced. This included modifying the original doors with updated door handle recess panels, installing the fuel filler and glass. From there, the pair made the body razor sharp and prepped it for paint. It was Ron Lavoie at Eastern Auto Body in Manchester, who handled final prep and laying down an immaculate coating of PPG Glenn Green accented by a Gold Sand Poly stripe, bringing it all to life.

1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-031.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 1966-Corvette-GS-coupe-ranfos-031.jpg

Inside it's all business, starting with a custom dash from Mid-America—as part of their GS-2 conversion—filled with factory gauges with the stock speedo recalibrated to 200 mph. An original Corvette three-spoke steering wheel carves the course while a Hurst Competition-Plus shifter pulls gears. For comfort, Charlie covered a pair of 1968 Corvette buckets in saddle leather and equipped them with Simpson Racing five-point harnesses. Matching side panels as well as leather-bound factory-style carpet complements it all. Inside you'll also find custom aluminum panels by Mike Curley along with a four-point rollcage and ATI fuel cell with custom-fabbed mounting straps and fill tube by Ron Gagnon. Throughout the build, Mike MacCallister added plenty of mechanical expertise to various areas and Jay Doerfler of Auto Body Specialists in Manchester dialed the car in upon completion with all of the fine-tuning to make it completely road ready. The build spanned more than 1,000 hours over 15 years to create a visually striking C2 Corvette paying homage to the original Grand Sports. Seeing, hearing and watching it in action proves it's the real deal. Vette

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