From all appearances, Jerry and Felicia Mulick's 1967 Chevrolet Corvette looks just like your typical, albeit very pristine, example of Chevy's classic performance star.
While its Marina Blue exterior screams old school, crack open the bulging hood and you'll find an engine bay full of modern mechanics and technology.
A 327-cubic-inch V-8 was bolted in at the St. Louis factory on Feb. 3, 1967, but it has been swapped out for a LS-2 V-8. This 6.0-liter small block is what powers Corvettes made from 2005 to 2007.
"It's always fun to drive somewhere and have people admire the car, but then they open the hood, which always leaves them breathless," Jerry said.
The new engine provides all the power the original-size 7.75-by-15-inch tires can handle.
"The driving experience is out of this world," Mulick said.
Before the purists rise up in arms, the engine conversion can be undone.
"No major modifications to the body or frame were necessary to insert the engine," he said. "We didn't want to cut any panels and ended up not having to. The fit is downright perfect."
Mulick came across the iconic convertible in 1987 from a seller in Naperville. He had intentions to merely relive some youthful memories.
"After getting out of the Marine Corps in '66, I purchased a new '66 Corvette," he said. "I sold the blue sports car when I got married and always remembered the excitement I had with it. I told myself someday I'd have another one."
When he purchased this '67 Corvette, it was unrestored but in very good condition with an undamaged body. One of the major draws was the original factory air conditioning.
"That was one option I always wished my '66 had."
It also didn't hurt that Jerry got to see and feel the AC in action. "It was a warm summer day when I test-drove the vehicle. I turned the air on and it was ice cold. I was hooked," Mulick said.
The next several years were spent driving the sports car largely unchanged, parking it at local cruise nights and area judged shows. "I was always fixing things, cleaning parts but nothing major." A crossroads was reached in 2006 when the fiberglass body developed a crack under the windshield.
"It was either just get the damage fixed or undergo a complete body-off overhaul. Around that time, Chevrolet released their LS-2 engine and I decided I wanted that underhood," he said. Mulick also bought a new Tremec five-speed transmission with overdrive to mate to it.
The Vette enthusiast employed Myers Classics and Corvettes in Rockford for the two-year restoration work. A huge benefit of the engine swap is the Northfield couple is now able to use readily available unleaded fuel and, thanks to the updated technology, drive the car at 70 mph with a fuel economy of over 30 miles per gallon.
Adding to the pleasant, and gas-sipping, cruising experience are options such as power steering, windows and brakes, headrests and telescoping steering wheel. The distinct side-exiting exhausts were retained with the LS-2; the increase in decibels being the only giveaway to passers-by that something is different about this special Vette.
"With most modified cars, the changes are so drastic, it can't be brought back to original condition. It's not practical or cost effective," Mulick said. "We wanted our Corvette to change but still look like it did when it came from the factory. The engine and trans are safely stored at home so any time we want, we can change it back."