How many people can say that their love of a soda pop as kids was the inspiration behind a customized Corvette? Well, Jim and Dormee’ McGruder can, because it’s true. Jim’s childhood fondness for the taste of Orange Crush bubbled up in his mind when General Motors announced the new Atomic Orange color for 2007, so they decided to pour that sweet memory into the theme of their Orange Crush’r.
The formula for this effervescent Vette began with three simple elements: Atomic Orange in color, cashmere interior and a six-speed manual transmission (because sports cars are meant to be manually shifted, just like early soda pop bottles need an opener). Everything else was optional, including the Z51 brakes and suspension package and the transparent roof.
Jim considers himself a “detail man,” while Dormee’ is more of an “idea woman,” which turned out to be a good combination, both in marriage and for a project car. In addition to family members, they also enlisted the help of several fine pros for the more difficult custom upgrades to the car.
The custom graphics were designed by their son Nick and expertly crafted and applied by Mike Halko of Halko Graphics in Grove City, Ohio. Dormee’ designed the sumptuous seats and door panels, handcrafted and installed by Danny Jones and the team at A-Tech Restylin’ in Columbus, Ohio. Bodyshop technicians at Bob McDorman Chevrolet Custom handled the paintwork on the interior and in the engine bay.
Enhancing the Z51 rotors are Z06 chromed wheels with orange accents. More subtle changes include body-color painted door handles, 3rd brake light, rear taillight louvers, front and rear license plate holders. Chrome buttons were added throughout the interior, and chromed trim pieces brighten up the engine compartment as well.
When displaying the car at shows, Jim includes several Orange Crush collectibles, such as vintage bottles of the soda (of course), along with an intentionally aged cap and T-shirt. Son Nick tracked down these nostalgic souvenirs.
After purchasing the car last January, Jim spent three months customizing it at the shops before bringing it home in April. Once the project was capped off, the couple began driving Orange Crush’r weekly, and toasting their favorite soda to its posh presentation. After 25-plus years of marriage, Jim and Dormee’ still remember their wedding toast with Crush soda pop, rather than champagne. (Now ain’t that sweet!)
In the short time since the first phase of completion (because we all know a Corvette project is never done), the car has already won many awards. These include Best of Show at an all-GM show, 1st place in class at a NCCC judged show, celebrity choice at both the C5/C6 bash in Bowling Green and the Funfest at MidAmerica. Orange Crush’r was also a sweet standout in the Custom Corvette section at Funfest, where we first spotted it.
As noted, the McGruders are already uncorking some more ideas for their Corvette. Future plans include a body kit, vertical doors and an underhood mural. Jim says the only thing holding him back is money (or lack thereof). That’s because Dormee' insists on being able to spoil the grandkids, too. Isaac, the oldest grandson at six years old, is already into the car hobby with his own Corvette. He has won a few awards with his battery-powered, two-seater toy car, complete with working headlights, radio and custom striping. He can be seen “detailing” his car the same way “Papa Jim” does at the shows. Hey, somebody give that kid an Orange Crush, okay?