T.J Alvis began his email to us by writing, “I bought this car when I was a broke construction worker in 2000. I was 20 years old at the time, and put in as much overtime as I could so I could buy it.” Like many now-collectable cars, this ’73 Chevrolet Corvette started life as T.J.’s daily driver. That is, until he grew tired of having the slowest car within his group of hot rod buddies.
Back then, it had the original L82 under the hood, but the transformation began when he traded his father for one of his spare engines that was a little more powerful. But, even the more powerful engine needed some help as T.J felt the need for even more power. “Over the years, I bought and sold parts to try to make it faster”, he told us. But the chase took a drastic turn when he located a 496 cubic-inch big-block that would become the base of the Corvette’s current motorvator. T.J. continued, “the engine had an old Edelbrock tunnel ram, but I decided not to put it in the car since it had the stock independent rear. But dad asked me, ‘why not’.” That was the impetus that caused the guys to build and install a chromoly rear frame section under the car.
The 496ci big-block resides snuggly between the narrow fenders, and inhales through a pair of Pro Systems 950 cfm carburetors, and exhales out a pair of Lemons headers. Inside is a custom-ground Comp Cams stick. Behind that is a Turbo 400 with a Neal Chance converter.
When the car was delivered to the track for its first appearance, things didn’t go as planned, and all T.J. would say is there was a steering issue. After the first unsettling experience, he took the car to a shop for a thorough inspection, and 13-months later he was ready to hit the track again.
On a warm day in October, he pulled into the staging lanes at Heartland Park in Topeka, completed his tire-warming procedure, and then staged the car. According to T.J., “I had done some launch tests at a buddy’s shop, and I was confident the car was going to launch straight. When the tree came down, I stabbed the throttle pedal, and the front wheels were instantly two still feet off the ground, and carried them to the 60-foot mark. I followed this up with a less than stellar 1-2 shift, and the rev limiter let me know I had forgotten to put the 7,200 rpm chip in it. The car still ran a 10.15-second quarter-mile at 132 mph.” Unfortunately, After he installed the appropriate rev chip, a following pass saw the tires rub the wheel tubs, ending his day. T.J. repaired the wheel tubs, installed a slightly-smaller tire, and with the tires spinning on a subsequent pass, he received a 1.40-second 60-foot time as the car ran a 9.65 at 132 mph.
T.J. was happy to tell us, “I can’t complain about the 91-octane-drinking 496ci big-block. The car is tagged, insured, boasts a full interior, and gets street driven regularly. That makes T.J’s Corvette a real Home-Built Hero in our book.
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