“I wanted to do something that no one has ever done before,”
Kevin Mackay says. He succeeded in doing so.
According the Kevin Mackay, “It’s likely that 50 percent of the workmanship that goes into a restoration is covered by the (car’s) body panels.” Since Mackay is the owner of Corvette Repair, Inc. — a restoration shop in Valley Stream, N.Y. — he should know.
“We just kind of pushed the envelope a little further to show what it takes to restore a Corvette,” was Mackay’s explanation for the car you see on these pages. He calls it, appropriately, the “See-Through” car.
With the body panels removed, enthusiasts can view the hidden parts of a Corvette. Mackay refers to the metal structure that many different parts are attached to as the “birdcage.” Like Corvette factory workers did in production, modern restorers must bond the fiberglass body panels to the birdcage. The birdcage is painted with a dull-green, rust-inhibiting paint. Later, it’s bolted to the chassis. The chassis consists of the frame and the suspension components.
The See-Through Corvette has its body panels removed, so many other parts are visible. For example, Mackay pulled the fiberglass door skins to reveal the inner workings of the manual window’s rollers.
The engine is fully exposed, since its fiberglass hood is missing. The inner fender wells and side fenders are visible, as are the gas tank and differential. When seated in the driver’s seat, you realize how close the Corvette driver is to the spinning driveshaft. Mackay’s shop even gave the car see-through floors.
The car that Mackay modified for the public’s “viewing pleasure” is actually a rare Corvette. It is one of 116 ultra-high-performance L88 models built in model-year 1969. According to Mackay, when it was a complete car, this Corvette was the only fully documented black-on-black L88 with factory side-pipes and its original gas tank sticker.
“We’ve done a lot of crazy things, like the drivable chassis,” Mackay pointed out. “Once, we did a suspended body exhibit for the Bloomington Gold Corvette show’s “Special Collection.” Another time, we cut a Corvette in half. That was the ‘Cut-Away Corvette.’ You could sit in it and drive it, too.”
Mackay says his See-Through Corvette takes things “one step further.” The car has proven a big hit everywhere it goes. And believe it or not, it’s 100 percent street legal.
“Everything is operational,” Mackay noted. “The wipers, the headlights (low beams and high beams) the turn signals, the horn. Everything works.”
In order to pass a New York safety inspection, Mackay had to make a few compromises. At the rear of the car, he installed a new-old-stock rear body panel (a part that is almost impossible to find) to mount the back-up and brake lights and the license plate holder to. Front and rear bumpers were also required. He could have left off emblems — such as the crossed-flags on the front nose and the Stingray script on the sides of the front fenders — but he decided to use them. The way they are screwed in place, the emblems appear to be floating in air.
“People gawk when they see the car on the street,” says Mackay. “They wonder what it is.” He’s never even been pulled over by police or state troopers. Some officers have even given him the thumbs-up sign.
At car shows, Kevin’s L88 is usually surrounded by curious people. With such lofty collector prices on 1968 and 1969 L88 Corvettes, Mackay plans to eventually install the car’s body and create a restored L88.
This story was excerpted from Jerry Heasley’s book “Corvette Masterpieces” — a 352-page, hardcover compilation from his 40-year career as a writer and photographer. Copies of the book are available by calling 800-258-0929, or by visiting www.krausebooks.com. For autographed copies, e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org