2009 Chevrolet 789 Corvette review - flashback

By: Steve Nally, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

Presented by

corvette onroad corvette onroad
corvette onroad 2 corvette onroad 2
corvette 789 corvette 789
corvette 789 2 corvette 789 2
corvette rear corvette rear
corvette rear 2 corvette rear 2
corvette side corvette side
corvette wheel corvette wheel
corvette wing corvette wing
corvete badge corvete badge
corvette 789 badge corvette 789 badge
corvette detail corvette detail
corvette engine bay corvette engine bay
corvette interior corvette interior
rocco morda rocco morda

A blend of iconic American designs with modern Chevy muscle, this 789 Corvette is unlike anything else on the road

 

Chev 789 Corvette

From Unique Cars #300, Jun/Jul 2009

It rumbles into sight, backlit by the setting sun and looking like the winged wheels of a cartoon super hero, all outlandish fins and curves. When it pulls up I half expect a couple of caped crusaders to leap from its blacked-out cabin. Quick, faithful sidekick, there’s no time to lose if we are to save the world! Splat! Zot! Boom!

No, we’re not on the set of the next Batman or Mission Impossible movie but in Melbourne’s western suburbs and this car isn’t nuclear powered and doesn’t fire heat-seeking missiles. It just looks like it does. And its driver, Rocco Morda, workshop manager at Motor Cars International, doesn’t wear tights and a cape. Thankfully.

corvette-onroad-2.jpgLong ’57 Bel Air front blends with ’58 Impala centre and ’59 Impala rear end for best of ’50s Chev styling...

This car is the only one of its type in Australia (build plate AU01) and is even rare in America, where it was designed. It’s called the 789 and is an amalgam of three iconic ‘50s Chevrolet-inspired body styles sitting on a C6 Corvette chassis. The nose is ’57 Bel Air, the centre ’58 Impala and the rear-end ’59 Impala. Look familiar now?

corvette-onroad-3.jpgOn the road the 789 sits low and wide and with its two-tone paint creates a commanding presence

It’s the work of LA company N2A (No 2 Alike), which has created numerous retro cars based on the ubiquitous (in the US, at least) late model C6 Vette, including a ‘60s Ferrari-inspired version, the Anteros, and N2A’s take on a ‘60s Stingray called Stinger.

corvette-rear.jpgNo, it’s not the set of the next Batman movie, but this four-in-one Californian custom wouldn’t look out of place on a Hollywood set!

N2A is owned by a former hot rodder Fred Kanter, who has parlayed his childhood love of cars into Kanter Auto Products, a profitable business that sells new and original replacement parts for vintage American cars. N2A is a high-tech off-shoot of Kanter Concepts, a company created after Kanter bought a US west coast design studio and all its facilities. Kanter’s inspiration for starting a low-volume car building business was famed Italian coachbuilder, Carozzeria Ghia.

Motor Cars International boss, Joe Scordo – who also doesn’t wear tights but probably has a Utility Belt – first saw the 789 on one of his annual trips to the giant US aftermarket car show, SEMA, in Las Vegas, and was hooked on the wild coupe. And he had a client who he thought would also be interested so he acquired the Australian rights.

corvette-rear-2.jpg

Joe reckons this car has the first coupe body N2A has done; in the US they are usually convertibles and, it has to be said, the convertible is a much more cohesive design. But Joe’s client wanted a coupe (it does have the removable Targa roof panel).

The 789 was built in two stages. Firstly, MCI imported a 2006 Corvette then did the left-to-right-hand conversion to Australian standards. Unlike early Mustangs, for example, which had symmetrical dashboards that are easy to reverse, the ‘Vette’s is asymmetrical and a good RHD conversion is not a simple matter. But the fact that MCI had already done quite a few conversions made it easier.

corvette-side.jpg

"When we did R and D on our first C6 we made our own dash pad moulds out of fibreglass so when this car was being converted to the 789 we made up a new dash, which was pre-fitted (to check accuracy) then sent out to get padded and skinned," Morda explains.

"There’s a fair bit of work involved. We try to keep it as original as possible; the dash goes straight in and picks up some of the original Corvette mounting points and a lot of the original parts are re-used, like the airbag which is cut out and fitted into our mould. The firewall is also cut out and replaced by our own (fibreglass, like the original) and we also make our own steering rack.

corvette-wing.jpg

"There’s a fair bit of work involved in the wiring loom too, which is extended about 1300mm. We convert the seats, as well, to accommodate the memory function and this model has heated seats.

"The door trims are modified, door looms are swapped over (left to right) and we use our own fibreglass centre console, which flips the gauges around so they face the driver. We also swap the console lid so it opens towards the driver and retains the original glovebox lid."

corvette-detail.jpg

Inside the Corvette – er, 789 – you’d hardly know it was once a left hooker; it’s a good conversion and everything works as it should. It’s a little gloomy, though, and some re-trimming using the body colour would lift the interior ambience but the client likes it as is.

The 789 panels are made from a carbon-fibre/fibreglass composite for strength and also to allow a lustrous paint finish. The body sections arrived from N2A in raw unpainted condition and were sent straight to a paint shop before fitting. The ’59 Impala rear section comes in one piece and it’s bonded onto the Corvette’s bootlid using strong industrial adhesives and the ’58 doorskins are glued directly to the doors.

corvette-789-badge.jpg

The grille arrived with a chrome finish which was repainted gold and the chrome on the bumpers is actually painted on. The headlights are original (reproduction) ’57 Chev, as are the bonnet emblems. Taillight globes are changed to suit Australian design standards and amber indicators and front repeater indicators (which aren’t on the car yet) fitted too.

corvete-badge.jpgN2A is the LA company behind the retro custom car

Overall, the fit and finish of the 789 panels is very good, although the front ‘clip’ – the front-hinged, one-piece ’57 nose, bonnet and guards section – wasn’t lining up perfectly when we saw the car after a trip back to the painters. This is the biggest piece of the bodykit and the heaviest and perhaps the car would have been better served by separate nose, bonnet and guards. Nevertheless, it works and looks great.

corvette-789-front-to-back.jpg

"The whole job was a bit of a challenge but working with fibreglass is fun," Morda says, with not a little understatement. "It’s a bit tricky and it takes a while to get it all lined up; the back piece and the front-end were the most time consuming."

Riding in the 789, it’s hard not to imagine you’re in a ’57 Chev because ahead all you can see is that long bonnet, bulging fenders and ‘gun sight’ bonnet emblems. The car is very low and very wide and roundabouts look very narrow.

corvette-wheel.jpg

Inside, it’s modern American sports car with the 298kW, 6.0-litre LS2 V8 resonating deeply throughout the small cabin and its exhaust gases exiting through a little touch of Aussie muscle car – four XA GT Falcon exhaust tips. Mechanically, though, the car is stock.

The ride is firm and, even though the underpinnings are that of America’s best sports car, the 789 is hardly a coupe that you’d fling into corners on a whim. The 789 panels add considerable extra mass making it nose-heavy and it’d probably understeer if pushed too hard.

corvette-engine-bay.jpg298kW LS2 6.0-litre V8 provides the grunt

But, in a way, all that is neither here nor there. As befitting any custom car from La La Land, it’s all about The Look and the 789 has that in spades.

Its wild styling gives it a very imposing presence and whichever way you look at the 789, it’s a dramatic car.

corvette-interior.jpgInterior is all C6 Corvette, which means pretty dark and gloomy. It’s a stark contrast to the wild exterior

But its best angle is rear three- quarter. From that view you get the full drama of ‘50s fins, those big, squinting red taillights and the quad exhausts.

It’s full-on Batmobile and it’s arrived in our Gotham City. Zap! Ka-Pow! 

rocco-morda-2.jpgRocco Morda, workshop manager at Melbourne’s Motor Cars International, which has imported and converted Australia’s only 789 Corvette

2009 789 Corvette specs

Body: composite, two-door coupe
Weight: 1500kg (approx.)
Engine: 6.0-litre V8
Transmission: six-speed manual
Drivetrain: front eng, RWD
Power/torque: 298kW/542Nm
Price: $220,000 (approx.)
Contact: Motor Cars International,
Phone: (03) 9312 7855.

 

Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here

 

 

Subscribe to Unique Cars Magazine and save up to 39%
Australia’s classic and muscle car bible. With stunning features, advice, market intelligence and hundreds of cars for sale.

Subscribe