With more than 500 vehicles on display, there was more than a few eye-catching machines from all over the country parked last weekend at the 2013 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals.
The event, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, has evolved into an auto lovers paradise. After strolling the aisles during the two-day show, we assembled a trio of truly over the top four-wheeled creations that turned heads and wooed hearts.
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1964 Pontiac GTO John and Peggy Sieffert, Troy, Mich.
Despite all appearances, the dazzling 1964 Pontiac GTO that John and Peggy Sieffert had on display was never intended to be a showstopper. The couple purchased their Goat in 2009 at an auction in Indianapolis.
When they came across it, the GTO was a triple black car (black interior, exterior and convertible top). They had simple intentions in mind for the staid muscle machine. "All we wanted was something that we could use regularly," John said. "Just a good reliable driver."
Those days are long gone as the vehicle has been completely transformed into a rolling piece of gleaming artwork. The catalyst for the makeover occurred while the couple was attending the 2012 Detroit Autorama car show and came across some radical paint colors.
"After seeing the selection at some of the displays and liking specific ones, we looked at each other and said, 'Do we really need another black car?' " Peggy said. They took their GTO to Run Rite Classics, in Houghton Lake, Mich.
The overhaul began in March 2012. An Art Morrison frame was slid underneath and Corvette C6 front- and rear-suspension components were bolted in. Wilwood power disc brakes bring the muscle car to a halt while a LS3 V-8 engine provides the forward propulsion.
The original 389 tri-power V-8 was removed and cleaned up. "We were ready to put it back in when we made the last-minute switch" to a modern fuel-injection powerplant, John said.
The interior packs a custom formed dashboard, console, door panels and three-piece boot cover. The project was completed in time to be shown at the 2013 Detroit Autorama, where the GTO unveiled its shiny new coat of Mocha and Crème Brulee paint.
1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR2 Greg Boehme, Seattle
You hardly see custom 1956 Chevrolet Corvettes, so it's easy to see why some spectators thought Greg Boehme modified his example. The truth is, he didn't have to touch the Vette, as it was specially crafted by General Motors.
Basking in the glow of success with the launch of the '56 Corvette, GM built three special race-ready SR2 versions. Boehme purchased the car earlier this year from a collector in Carson City, Nev.
"The owner had held onto it for 28 years," Boehme said. "Another SR2 race car has been with its current owner going on 37 years. Needless to say, these don't change hands very often. I was thrilled to get it."
Boehme's vehicle was built specifically for then GM Vice President Harley Earl's son, Jerry. "I have the original title with his name on it. Many vintage cars, especially race cars, have smoky pasts," Boehme said. "There's no doubting the provenance of this one."
The three SR2s began as stock Vettes but were modified by GM's styling studio in Warren, Mich. The first race for this blue beauty was in June, 1956, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Later, Jim Jeffords, a famed Sports Car Club of America driving champion, acquired its sponsorship from well-known Chicago-area dealership Nickey Chevrolet.
During the late '60s, the vehicle changed hands and was slowly retired from racing. Those decades haven't made the car sluggish, as Boehme had a chance to awaken its racing nature in Monterey, Calif.
"GM asked to borrow the car for the 60th anniversary of the Corvette," Boehme said. "They brought the car and me and my daughter to (Mazda Raceway) Laguna Seca. We even led the parade lap on the track, getting up to 100 mph on the straightaway. I still get goose bumps thinking of that experience."
1936 Ford Coupe, Bill Raso, New York
The first you'll notice about Bill Raso's 1936 Ford coupe is its eye-searing paint color. The one-of-a kind hue was custom mixed and Raso's painter christened the color Nutso Yellow.
"I had him mix it seven different times. I drove him crazy trying to get the right shade," Raso said. "He thought I was nuts, hence the name."
You can't fault Raso for his extreme particularity; he built his Ford from scratch in his one-car garage in New York. He purchased the body in 2006 and from there the project took off. After building the tube chassis, Raso installed a LT1 V-8 engine, an air ride suspension and four-wheel disc brakes.
The interior received custom cut panels and leather upholstery. Raso took the level of personalization even further by machining many of the custom billet aluminum components on the vehicle.
"I'm not a machinist by trade but I do like to tinker. The parts that came right from my hand are very special to me."
Those custom-crafted pieces include such things as the shimmering brake rotor covers, exhaust tips, hood prop rods, details on the door panels and even the stands the vehicle was displayed on. A vehicle this visually delicious is worthy of a proper name and this sweet ride has one.
"One late night, several friends were over helping me with the vehicle," he said. "One of them brought 'Lemoncello' lemon cakes to share. That name seemed perfect."