When the snow starts to fall around here in the Midwest, Chicagoans, and their metal machines, escape Mother Nature's frozen wrath by retreating to heated garages.
Drop south a few states and you'll find auto enthusiasts aren't afforded that same luxury when wet, turbulent weather comes their way. Very little can be done to protect their four-wheeled friends from the raging tropical storms that pummel our country's coastline.
A recent victim was a hapless 2001 Corvette, parked in the unlucky path of Hurricane Katrina. Submerged to the dashboard in water and declared totaled, it looked as if its wide-open throttle days were long over. That is until Dave Eich started pondering about what to use as the driving force in his 1967 Chevy II.
"I've never been one to do 'what's expected' and knew that a fuel-injected LS1 in a car that looks like something your grandma would drive, fit that bill perfectly," the Palatine resident said.
Eich's seemingly unimpressive ride was found in Wisconsin, missing its original straight six engine and two-speed Powerglide transmission. In Dave's mind, that empty chasm between the front fenders seemed just the spot for something unusual to be dropped in.
A quick call to his insurance company, accompanied by an explanation of what he was after, and in no time they sold him the waterlogged 'Vette from Louisiana. He rebuilt the 5.7-liter V-8 and 4L60 transmission himself and then took everything to Williams Autobody in Green Bay, Wis., to commence the creation of his street scheme.
The engine and under-hood sheet metal were painted to match the Artesian Turquoise body color. The A/C, heater and fuel lines were carefully hidden and a Dakota digital dash panel was dropped in place to keep tabs on underhood activity. Once assembled, the reincarnated bowtie was hauled to Speed Inc. in Schaumburg for final tweaking and tuning.
The unpretentious creation was completed in 2007 and has since fulfilled its mission of surprising onlookers who never expect to find the horsepower-producing heart of a late-model Corvette in something that has ho-hum 15-inch steel wheels and dog-dish hubcaps.
"I wanted that immediate 'wow factor' whenever I opened the hood and I still get it every time someone walks by," Eich said.
But this Chevy II wasn't just built for others to enjoy.
"Its exactly what I wanted: a sleeper with the ability to run low 12s in the quarter-mile but still having 20 miles per gallon, ice cold A/C, disc brakes, power steering and seating for my family of four," he said.
Safely out of the path of monster monsoons, the only water this American classic and its modern underpinnings worry about now are a few occasional raindrops.