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1979 C3 Corvette Balances LS Power & Style

David Gonce’s 1979 Corvette packs plenty of style fused with LS power and an aggressive stance for the win.

By Chuck Vranas, HOT ROD

Sometimes it all starts with something as simple as building plastic car model kits at the kitchen table after school. Drawing inspiration from particular automotive styles that spark a magneto buried deep inside your mind actually helps pave a high-performance path for you to follow. For David Gonce of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, his passion for Corvettes started with assembling an endless stream of model kits while also reading through any print material he could get his hands on to gain more knowledge on the cars and their history. The best part was being able to watch the real thing cruise through town whenever he got the chance.

There's nothing better than growing up in an automotive family where your parents share the same level of excitement for Corvettes as you do. Imagine how awestruck David was when his dad brought home a pristine, dark-blue 1979 Corvette with a white interior in 1996. Not long after the purchase, his mother surprised his dad with the gift of a complete interior package in black to give it an even racier look. As the years passed, the family would enjoy plenty of time together putting down the miles from their homes in Kentucky and, later on, in Maryland.

During this same time, David's passion for Corvettes continued to grow, eventually owning two C5s and a C6. Somehow, though, his dad's dark-blue 1979 C3 still held a special place with all the memories the family shared with it. In 2010, his dad told him he had made a decision to sell the car and without skipping a beat David paid the price and became the new holder of the keys. Full of enthusiasm after the purchase, his initial intent was to do a complete restoration on the still-original 60,000-mile car. At the same time his dad warned him to not just dive into a restoration and pump too much money into the project. He finally decided to motor the C3 on the weekends and enjoy it for what it was. However, the car had a much different attitude on the subject. Without fair warning, the car brought with it a number of mechanical issues as time passed, oftentimes leaving David stranded on the side of the road. One time, in fact, in a torrential downpour without the T-tops in place.

This led David to an alternative plan, one where he would take on the restoration, but with a twist. Being a purist, he would retain its original exterior styling but spice things up a bit with a modern driveline, wicked stance, cutting-edge wheels and a brilliant new color. This was around the same time that he met Peter Guida, owner of McQueen Classics in Lewes, Delaware. After discussing the project at length, the pair shared many of the same ideas of what it would take to bring the tired C3 back to life with a new edge. With the path set, the car was fully evaluated in its current form prior to getting started on the build.

Seeing that the original frame was in perfect condition, a decision was made to retain it and concentrate on rebuilding the stock suspension, but with a few changes. A call was made to the team at Corvette Central for all of the needed components. Starting out back, the rear was freshened up complete with the factory 3.55 gears complemented by new bushings, leaf springs and Bilstein gas shocks. To set the stance, 12-inch Grade 8 spring bolts were used in addition to a number of subtle tweaks to get it perfect. To match the newfound attitude, up front a deluxe front suspension rebuild kit was added along with Bilstein gas shocks and trimmed-down F41-style coil springs.

When it's time to drop anchor, a Wilwood dual power master pushes fluid through steel lines to matching Forged Narrow Superlite 6R big brakes complete with 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors and six-piston calipers in the front and 4R big brakes complete with 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors and four-piston calipers out back for maximum stopping power. For a truly exclusive look, anchoring the car to the street, a set of custom Schott Modsport Cover-Loc-series wheels sized 17x7 front and 18x8 rear wear Bridgestone Ecopia rubber.

When it came time to address a new engine, David went straight to Chevrolet Performance to check out their latest high-performance offerings. Working with Peter to find the perfect combination, they decided on a 376ci LS3 packing a wicked 430 hp right out of the crate. For the ultimate in factory performance, the engine features a cast-aluminum block with six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps packed with a nodular iron crank linked to powdered metal rods wearing hypereutectic pistons getting plenty of bump from a hydraulic roller cam. There's an abundance of power up top thanks to a set of L92-style rectangular port aluminum heads combined with the factory EFI intake system and 90mm ETC throttle body.

The McQueen team spent plenty of time finessing the installation of the engine to make it look factory in appearance, which included incorporating the Chevrolet Performance wiring harness, custom engine mounts and a myriad of refined touches. A stock ignition lights the fire while spent gasses dump through factory manifolds to a custom 2 1/2-inch stainless exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. To move the goods, a TREMEC TKO-500 PerfectFit Kit from Silver Sport Transmissions made the upgrade a breeze and included all the necessary parts to complete the upgrade, linked to a custom driveshaft. 

To bring plenty of class to the business office, a new dash from Corvette Central cradles dials from Dakota Digital to monitor the vitals while a factory tilt column and steering wheel carve the course. Gears pull through a stick from Silver Sport Transmissions while cool breezes are courtesy of Vintage Air and tunes roll through a system from JBL. For a vintage twist, a pair of 1968 low-back buckets from Al Knoch Interiors custom-covered in 1967 saddle-toned leather are deftly matched to matching door panels and black loop carpet. David may have forgotten his dad's advice to not pump too much cash into the build; however, the final outcome of this C3 is absolutely breathtaking. Vette


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Autos News: 1979 C3 Corvette Balances LS Power & Style
1979 C3 Corvette Balances LS Power & Style
David Gonce’s 1979 Corvette packs plenty of style fused with LS power and an aggressive stance for the win.
Autos News
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