SEMA 2013: Ford-Powered Custom C3 Corvette Breaks the Mold

IMG_4772GR“I did it because I could.”

You get the feeling that Thomas Pfarr, owner of FRP Customs out of Redding, Calfornia, has been saying that a lot this week. But when you drop a Modular Ford V8 into a 1978 Corvette, you should probably expect to have to explain yourself any time the hood is open.

That 5.4 liter supercharged powerplant, backed by a 6-speed manual transmission, is what gets all the attention and tends to dominate the conversation. Pfarr makes no excuses, though, and he knows he’s likely to offend mainstream Corvette fans with his creation. But to focus on the powerplant is to miss the point.


In fact, the engine swap might have been the least ambitious aspect of this build. You immediately notice the C6 ZR1 headlights and Euro-style C5 tails, but it takes a closer examination to see how Pfarr has reworked the iconic Coke-bottle shape of the C3 across practically every inch of the fiberglass body. Underneath, the car rides on C5 running gear with, appropriately enough, a Mustang II front suspension, but the frame is raked front-to-rear, with the body then readjusted to put the rockers level with the pavement.

A widened rear track and an extra 8 inches of overall width in back, plus front fenders that were split, widened an inch in front tapering to stock dimensions at the door edge, accentuate the Corvette’s natural curves and wasp-waisted planform. Then there are those doors…

IMG_4764GR“This chassis was never designed to have the structure you need to put suicide doors in,” Pfarr explains. “There’s 130 pounds cantilevered out on a long level arm, so I had to start with adding steel plate inside the sill, braced together with a bar from one side to the other.”

He’s still refining the door fit, working on a better front molding, but other details like the shaved T-top edges and door glass brought out flush are already worked out to his satisfaction. “The ’78 was a transitional year and not a great starting point,” Pfarr admits, but he didn’t let that stop him from forging ahead with his vision for the car.


fordvetteIn all, Pfarr says there is better than 4,500 hours invested in the body alone, 3,000 of them his. We don’t doubt that number, and anyone taking a close look would agree. Of course, just because something can be done doesn’t mean it necessarily should be done – that’s up for debate. But what can’t be argued is that Thomas Pfarr has the willpower and drive to take his ideas to places most of us never venture, and whether or not you agree with the finished product, you have to admire his ambition and ability to deliver.


About the author

Paul Huizenga

After some close calls on the street in his late teens and early twenties, Paul Huizenga discovered organized drag racing and never looked back, becoming a SFI-Certified tech inspector and avid bracket racer. Formerly the editor of OverRev and Race Pages magazines, Huizenga set out on his own in 2009 to become a freelance writer and editor.
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