An Oldie Reimagined With Gary Atkins 1957 Chevy Corvette

Strolling around at the 18th Goodguys Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona, we stumbled across a custom that is an oldie but a goodie. Behold, Gary Atkins’ wondrous 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, which has a few tricks up its sleeve. Gary, a native of Scottsdale, had much to say about his beloved custom. “It took seven years to build this beauty,” he said. “I’d like to thank Bill Dawson at Corvette Correction for helping me make all of this possible.”

The custom needed a lot of work from the get go. Photos courtesy of Gary Atkins

Started From The Bottom

Just looking at this first generation Corvette, you can tell it isn’t normal. “The front of the car, specifically the bumperettes that typically carry over,” Gary said. “I removed the parking lights and turn signals, relocating them inside the grille, while also removing the bumperettes.”

The removal of the bumperettes give the front end a more simplified look.

The front end really has some character here, with its headlights and front grille resembling a face — one that is content and satisfied with what’s been done to it. The removal of the bumperettes essentially took away the cheekbones of an otherwise smiling and happy front end. “I like the single front headlight setup as opposed to the double headlight setup introduced in 1958,” Gary said.

Another interesting feature of the Corvette are the small gills before the doors near the windshield. They actually work well with the subtle chrome fixtures Gary has around the car. With enough curves and swooping lines to keep your eyes darting about, it gives the car more flair, separating itself from other first-generation Corvettes.

The addition of the gill along the fender adds another sweet curve to the custom Corvette.

“There’s thousands and thousands of hours put into this car, it’s simply astounding,” Gary said. “The car started life as a burned 1957, and was built from the ground up with truly no expense spared, with every nut and bolt being brand new or rebuilt.”

The coves from a 1960 Corvette add more aerodynamic flair to this Corvette, while also complementing the gill on the top of each front fender, respectively.

The coves on each side of the custom stem from a 1960 Corvette. “We spent countless hours cutting and grafting these coves into the car, but it came out clean when all was said and done,” Gary said.

The modern treatment on this Corvette is amazing, and a break from the norm.

The door handles stem from a fifth-generation C5 Corvette and the rear quarters were widened 3 1/2 inches on both sides to fit a wider set of wheels. “It took us twice to make these right,” Gary said. “We shaved the emblem off of the rear, and also removed the bumperettes out back, letting the gorgeous black paint really shine all on its own without all of the chrome in the way.”

The removal of the bumperettes in the rear make for a Batmobile-esque appearance, which is sleek and clean.

There is an extensive amount of body mods all the way around this Corvette, which earned it the Builders Choice Award at the Goodguys 5th Spring Nationals in Scottsdale. The PPG Black paint simply dazzles on this Corvette, contrasted with PPG Metallic Silver coves, and a clearcoat that makes the car shimmer.

“The top fits perfect on this thing,” he said. “There was a lot of fitting and measuring involved. It came out nice, even if it burned my pockets.” Seeking to make everything right, Gary spent a considerable amount of time carefully picking his weapons of choice on this highly custom Corvette.

Up Front And Down Under

One look at the engine bay and one will realize there is something serious going on under this black beauty. The engine is a Corvette LS7 7.0-liter V8, which is mated to a Tremec 6060 six-speed manual transmission and a Dana posi with 3.73 gears, which keeps the power tamed in the rear.

It looks to barely fit, but Gary was able to pull off what seemed an impossible feat.

“It was not an easy endeavor fitting an LS7 into this ’57 Corvette,” he said. “It takes forever with the dry sump, you gotta find a place for the sump and of course plumb all of the lines. I met with Bill Dawson at Corvette Correction and he said we could do it. It was a challenge for him to put this LS7 in the ‘Vette. He typically does LS swaps, but not LS7 swaps. This build was way over the top compared to what he typically does,” Gary explained.

The LS7 naked and baring it all during its building stage.

A fully custom 3-inch stainless, ceramic-coated exhaust flows all the way back, where dual polished chrome tips protrude from the rear bumper. “It took us twice to make the headers fit right,” Gary said. “I tucked the exhaust into the frame rail, giving a seamless look. You can’t see anything, but the exhaust flanges still sit low, so I have to watch it when I drive over speed bumps.”

The dual exhaust retains some of the vintage Corvette aesthetics.

“The car also has a McCleod dual disc clutch and is blow-proof with a scatter shield in case the clutch blows up. It’s more for race applications, but I wanted it just in case,” he said.

The chassis is custom-built by Bill Dawson, which consists of a C5 front and rear chassis. The suspension setup is also from a C5, a monoleaf configuration with trailing arms, which features front and rear independent suspension.

Corvette Correction went above and beyond, finding a way to fit an LS7 into the equation. Photo courtesy of Gary Atkins.

Incorporating a March chromed pulley system, everything under the hood is polished, painted, or chrome, and all wires and hoses have been routed out of sight to give it that ultra-clean look. A Be Cool radiator with electric fans car runs very cool in Arizona in the summer at 110 degrees F with the air on.

With the C5 suspension, this thing feels like it rides on rails. Everything just feels right.– Gary Atkins

Weighing in close to 3,000 pounds, Gary’s Corvette puts down a blistering 580 horsepower. “It’s plenty of power and the car is nimble,” he said. “It’s fast, reliable, and a real treat on the road. With the C5 suspension, this thing feels like it rides on rails. Everything just feels right.”

The Asanti Wheels and Baer brake set-up add some performance edge to the overall package.

Inner Beauty

With so much to gawk and drool over on the exterior, the interior has plenty going on as well. Gary relocated the rear view mirror from the windshield onto the dash. A sweet Hurst shifter keeps shifts quick and precise.

The Ron Mangus custom interior with the original dash make for a classy combination.

The all black interior has intricate red stitching, a nice complimentary color to the dark interior palette. The gauges are the original ones, redone by Classic Instruments. A hidden Kicker sound system and Vintage Air make for a comfortable and enjoyable experience during the scorchers in Arizona.

“The interior was done by Ron Mangus, which turned out with great results,” Gary said. “The amount of time spent on this car is just as much as any other build out here at the show. Some can keep count, while others lost count simply because it doesn’t matter anymore after a certain extent.”

The telemetry was kept intact and the stereo system is out of sight; all that can be seen are the air conditioning controls.

Farewell For Now

Gary’s Corvette definitely received a nod in our books for its artistic vision and design aesthetics. He stepped away from the chrome and fabricated a clean and curvy black beauty. Slicker than your average ‘Vette, the extensive commitment shows throughout the build. From squeezing in the LS7 to the relocation, and removal of some of the original components, this Corvette makes for one cool custom.

“I have one more spot in my garage, and would like to see another car there,” Gary said. “Maybe a 70-72 Camaro with a mid-engine setup, we’ll see.”

Proud of his build and all it has to offer, we were glad to get the opportunity to learn about his custom and commitment to precision and excellence. Here, we have a case where placing the modern touch on a timeless classic culminated in stunning results.

Photo courtesy of car owner Gary Atkins.

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