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by Steve Temple  More from Author

Converting a Corvette Into a Sixties-Style Gasser

While persnickety purists might decry tampering with a classic Corvette, Dave Glass has the street creds to try something different. After all, he’s been a Bloomington Gold judge for more than a dozen years, so he knows his way around a trim plate. Not only that, GM had him to restore a ’53 Corvette to commemorate the millionth Corvette in 1992, and he’s been working on Corvettes for more than 25 years at his shop, D&M Corvette Specialists. All of which means that when he decided to convert a classic Corvette into a Gasser, he knew the importance of not ruining the car, and making sure it would be possible to bring it back to original if need be.

Before getting into the details of the buildup, though, we should note a bit of background that led up to such an unusual treatment. For those not familiar with this era of drag racing, supercharged Gassers were some of the fan favorites in the Sixties. These wild, nearly uncontrollable machines were headliners at events around the country. The only rivals they had were the Fuel Altereds of the time, since Funny Cars had yet to appear on the tracks.

With their short wheelbases and body styles that were anything but aerodynamic, the Gassers were challenging to drive and fun to watch—from a safe distance. Many of the earlier machines ran Oldsmobile or Cadillac power, but as the years progressed, entries with blown Chevrolet V-8s and Chrysler Hemis appeared.

Among the most popular Gasser body styles were the Willys, both the ‘33 Model 77 and the

‘40 coupe. Some of their drivers (such as Big John Mazmanian, Stone, Woods & Cook, and K.S. Pittman) are nearly as famous today as they were when they campaigned in what would become known as the Gasser Wars.

So what does this all have to do with a ’62 Corvette? In addition to restoring Corvettes at their shop, Dave Glass and wife Mary share another automotive passion as well that dates back to the early days of their marriage.

“We watched all the Gassers race at the Nationals in Indy (Indiana) in the Sixties,” he explains. “We are John Mazmanian Gasser fans, so in our collection we built a clone ’40 Willys Coupe with a Blown 392 Hemi. This Hilborn-injected, all-steel car is painted Candy Apple Red (the same as his car).”

No surprise, then, that when Dave and Mary went to a Turkey Rod Run in Daytona, Florida back in 2002, and spotted a ’60 Vette with a straight axle, they got real excited. “Everyone loved the car so we tried to buy it, but the owner wouldn’t sell.” Undaunted, they decided to build their own version, using a ’62 Corvette in need of some serious attention.

 “We bought the car about 10 years ago.  The car was sitting in a garage, had not been running for some time, and needed a total restoration,” Dave recalls. The Vette, which had been raced previously, had a 350 small-block Chevy (instead of the original 327), four-speed trans and a Dana rearend with traction bars. But the owner lost interest in the project, and Dave took it off his hands, thinking he might bring it back to original spec.

But after his seeing people’s reactions to the ’60 straight-axle Vette in Florida, he decided to pull some parts off his ’33 Willys, which used to run in the 10s back in the early Seventies. To perform the transplant to his Corvette without carving it up, he built a removable subframe for the straight-axle front end. “The purist is still in me,” he admits. “I didn’t want to deface the car.”

In the meantime, Glass had his shop strip the paint down to bare fiberglass, which took a solid two weeks worth of sanding, rather than risking damage from the use of blasting or a chemical strip. “All solid-axle Corvettes are very time consuming, because of all the curves,” he points out. Since there was no trim code back then, he had no idea what the original color was, which freed him up to choose the same maroon that Masmanian used on his Gasser (and which happened to be his favorite color anyway, since his first car, a ’67 Sting Ray, was Marlboro Maroon).

The ’33 Willys also contributed its impressive powerplant, built by racer Gary Dyer of Mr. Norm fame. The engine is a 327ci Chevy, bored .60 over, and outfitted with a Milodon 4-bolt main, and Venolia 7:11 compression pistons. To handle the forced induction from the straight-up 6-71 GMC blower, the block has been O-ringed, and fitted with a studded 202 Fuelie heads, complete roller cam and kit, and topped with dual Holley carbs. While the engine has the appearance of a full-on Gasser mill, it starts right up without a hiccup, and emits a steady growl when Dave tools around town or on the show grounds.

The driveline has a four-speed trans and 488 gears in a Dana 60 rearend. The rubber came from the Willys as well, a set of M&H 31-inch meats on 13 x 15 American Racing rims.

The car’s interior was customized by the original owner, and Dave did add a hardtop he had in stock to protect it, and give it the period look of Masmanian’s Gasser. Even so, Dave never loses sight of the inherent value of an older Corvette. “One of the best thing about the car is that the car could be put back to original if someone wanted to.”

Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen, but in the meantime, Dave and Mary are enjoy paying tribute in their own way to the era of the famed Gassers. “Everything is so high-tech now,” he notes. “People really appreciate us emulating the time when drag racing was drag racing.” What a gas!




D&M Corvette Specialists

1804 Ogden Avenue

Downers Grove, IL




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