Back in the 1980s, singer Rick Springfield was the proud owner of a silver-blue 1963 split-window Corvette Stingray. While he loved the look of that car, he didn’t enjoy driving it as it was lacking in comfort and conveniences. Eventually, Springfield sold the car, but hoped that someday he could have another one that drove as well as it looked.
Enter Jared Barris, the grandson of George Barris, known as the “King of Kustomizers.” Jared, the only grandchild of the legendary movie and TV car builder, was friends with Springfield’s son, Josh, and had heard that Springfield was longing to once again own a 1963 Corvette, only this time he wanted it to be completely customized and comfortable.
In January, when members of the Barris family were walking around the Barrett-Jackson auction with builder Steve Sanderson, it was mentioned that Springfield was looking to have a 1963 Corvette custom-built. Since Sanderson and his team at Sanderson’s Customs & Conversions build custom Corvettes, Sanderson suggested Springfield get in touch with him. Within a week Jared, Sanderson and Springfield met to discuss the concept of the car and plan the build.
“The first thing I want to know from my customers is their wants, needs and desires,” said Sanderson. “I asked him what he liked and disliked about the car and he told me [he disliked] that it had no power brakes, no power steering or A/C and a four-speed transmission. I asked him what was most important and he said for it to look like his original car, even the same color, silver-blue, but he wanted it to drive like a new car. This is one of the things we do best, so [he was] our kind of customer!”
After the consultation, Sanderson went back to his shop in Pilot Point, Texas to design the perfect Corvette for Springfield.
“I took what I liked about both the 1963 and 1964 Corvette, collaborated with Jared Barris and brought aspects of both models together in a drawing for Rick to see,” he said. “He liked the ideas and, five months later, we brought it to life.”
It took a team of eight builders to create the Corvette, which boasts a slew of custom features, including front fenders that look like they were from a 1964 Corvette. The team put three open gills with wire mesh on each side, which not only look good, but also disperse the heat from the engine bay outward. The back rear valance of the car was customized to allow four port exhaust tips to carry underneath the car with Corsa exhaust tips.
The inside of the car was also customized completely to Springfield’s tastes. To accommodate Springfield’s request for “a place to put his coffee,” the team created a custom console with two drink holders. The entire interior is done in dark blue, including custom carpet, door panels, and quarter panels. It also features electric seats from a 2000 C-4 Corvette.
Obviously, music is important to Springfield, so the team knew his car had to have an impressive audio system. The car’s Kenwood stereo system includes a GPS, iPod hook-up, Sirius Satellite radio and a backup camera that can be viewed from the dash. A custom-made rear kicker box with a 10-inch subwoofer, a speaker box covered in pleated dark blue leather and matching component set speakers mounted in the rear quarter trim panels are just some of the car’s impressive electronic features.
Jared Barris worked with both Sanderson and Springfield, going over designs, offering ideas and keeping in constant contact with both. For Barris, it was a good way to learn the process of building cars in case he chooses to follow in the footsteps of his famous grandfather.
“The big reason that Steve and I did this together is that I want to learn from this,” said Barris. “Steve was constantly updating me on the car, and I was offering suggestions and offering my input.”
Sanderson taught Barris perhaps one the most important lessons a builder can learn.
“One thing Steve taught me is that what you want for the car and what the customer wants are two very different things,” he said. “You have to build it for the customer.”
Needless to say, when the car was finally delivered to Springfield in July at the legendary Barris Kustoms shop in Hollywood, California, he was one very happy customer.
Car: Rick Springfield’s 1963 Split-Window Corvette
Owner: Rick Springfield
Location: Southern California
Builders: Steve Sanderson and his team at Sanderson’s Customs & Conversions in Pilot Point, Texas
Interior: The custom dark blue interior was done by Steve and Nick Brinlee of JBS Interiors in Carrollton, Texas. It includes a wrapped custom-made dash, a custom roll bar, custom Classic Industries gauges and electric seats from a 2000 C-4 Corvette that have been customized with pleated dark blue leather. Other features include custom-made four-point seat belts, and pleated dark blue rear quarter and door panels.
Powertrain: The Corvette is powered by an LS3 engine and also features a 4L70E four-speed automatic transmission, long tube headers, power rack-and-pinion steering and a 2 1⁄2-inch exhaust built at Bobby Gentry’s Muffler Shop in Denton, Texas. An aluminum radiator module, Dana 36 rear end with 354 gears and a Rock Valley stainless steel gas tank round out the car’s powertrain.
Body & Frame: The team started with a stock 1963 Corvette frame that was modified to fit a 1985–1987 complete front and rear Corvette suspension. Newman Car Creations in Templeton, California, took the old chassis and converted it. The frame is powdercoated and everything is polished. The rear body of the car was widened by 3 inches by customizing each quarter outward by 1.5 inches. The front fenders were designed to look similar to 1964 fenders by putting three open gills with wire mesh in each side.
Wheels: Evod turbine wheels were used for both the front ( 17 x 8 ) and the back ( 18 x 9 ).
Tires: BF Goodrich G-Force TA 245/45ZR17 95Y (front), 285/40ZR18 101Y (back).
Paint: Sherwin-Williams’ “Silver-Blue”
Other Features: Springfield requested a special console with two drink holders to hold his coffee. A backup camera was installed that can be viewed through a 7-inch Kenwood screen that’s mounted in the dash.
To see more photos of Rick Springfield’s Corvette and see our behind-the-scenes photo slideshow from our cover shoot, click here.
UPDATE: There was an error made in the print version of this story. The engine was mistakenly identified as an LS376 Ford crate engine. It is actually an LS3 engine. HRR regrets this error.