This Fifth-Generation Corvette Is A Heavenly Tribute

Given that Corvettes are just about the most customized cars ever, rolling outlets for expressing creativity, it makes sense that the reasons for doing so are many and varied. For Tom and Barb Noel, the motivation for their extensive buildup of this C5 was inspired by their daughter April who shared their love of Corvettes. Sadly, April passed away from a rare form of cancer at the tender age of 28. Even during her waning days in hospice care, she made her parents promise they would continue to enter car shows.

The Noels have a long history of celebrating life with Corvettes and other show cars. Tom has been enthusiastic for them ever since he was a kid, with his first one a yellow 1980 coupe, followed by a root beer brown version of the same model and year. In 1990, he acquired a light-blue ’85 Corvette, the car he first customized with the intent of entering car shows. He was soon hooked on the whole process.

Navy Blue was April’s favorite color and she loved the Light Oak Interior – Barb Noel, owner

Over the next ten years the Noels participated in a number of events, but when the C5 Corvettes came out, their immediate reaction was “Gotta get one!” So, they sold the C4 and bought a new one in 2001.

The Mods Begin

This Corvette in particular would be customized in memory of their beloved daughter. It would become a labor of love, with every square inch lavished with the kind of love and attention they gave April. One of the more unusual mods isn’t apparent at first glance, until the doors are opened—vertically, that is. Obtained from West Coast Corvettes, these winged doors were installed by Quint Walbert, owner of Kustom Kolors Body Shop, in Avon, Indiana. An obvious question is how difficult is this sort of conversion? Even though Quint had to shave a little off the body molding to align the doors properly, it’s otherwise a fairly straightforward bolt-on deal.

In addition to the Lambo-style doors, several other body enhancements were supplied by Greenwood Corvettes, including side skirts, rear wing and a carbon-fiber hood raised three inches. Quint also handled installing these items, along with the deep blue exterior color, graphics, and custom painting of components under the hood and Nitrous Oxide Systems nitrous bottle. “Navy Blue was April’s favorite color and she loved the Light Oak interior,” Barb explains. “That’s why we’ve kept it in its original colors.”

But wait, there’s more! LEDs went into the engine compartment, side vents and undercarriage. Also, strobe lights were added to the front parking lights and rear taillights along with pulsating turn signals. The LEDs and strobes brightly illuminate both the undercarriage and engine compartment. Smoked rear lens covers with a stainless steel tribal design accent came from American Car Craft. In addition, the side and rear windows have a three-layer flame window tint.

The Noels also replaced the stock rims with Weld Racing Evo Axis chrome wheels; 18-in. front and 20-in. rear. For an added touch, they applied precision-cut blue metallic accents by Ridecals on every other spoke. Wrapping the rims are Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. They swapped out the stock exhaust system with a MagnaFlow exhaust system as well.

As for the oak-colored interior, that too was embellished with a carbon fiber dash kit from Mid America Motorworks. They also ordered sport seats with new foam from this same company, which took care of the install. Completing the cockpit treatment are audio/visuals from Matt Julius, who also handled the LED lighting. The system boasts a Pioneer stereo, CD and DVD Player with two monitors, one in the dash and the other in the passenger visor.

Of course, the car wouldn’t be complete without a number of upgrades under that provocative hood bulge. Just about every component gleams with chrome: battery cover, engine shroud, plenum cover, power steering cover, fluid caps (also etched), top hose, hood and trunk struts, latches, side markers, door reflectors, stainless steel vent screens, master cylinder, and wiper cowl.

How did the Noels come across all these shiny parts? Not long after purchasing the Corvette, they took a road trip one weekend to visit the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After stopping at a restaurant to eat, they came out and discovered that the owner of Design Specialties had placed his catalog on our windshield. They contacted the company and started purchasing the chrome engine items.

Carbon fiber trim and custom leather upholstery colors were favorites of the Noel's beloved daughter.

The Noels’ attention to detail is astounding, as they also replaced the standard body bolts and screws with chrome hex head bolts, nuts and plates. The oil dipstick is billet with the Chevy bowtie and Corvette emblem and the rear side parking/turn signal indicators are also made of billet.

Commitment And Friendship

The project met with some non-technical challenges along the way, but close friend Pete McAllister lent a hand. In 2008, Tom and Barb went through some financial hardships and they talked about selling both show cars, this Corvette and a 2000 Camaro SS. Previously Pete had helped out with April’s care. As a Corvette enthusiast as well, he came to their aid once again. He purchased both cars and allowed them to pay him back over time. “Without Pete, we would have lost our show cars,” Barb says. “He is truly a wonderful person and a great friend.”

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While the Noels are regulars on the show circuit, earning many trophies and recognitions for their efforts, their most memorable event was at the 2010 Mid America Funfest. The King of Kustomizers, George Barris, and Miss Golden Hurst Shifter, Linda Vaughn, singled out the Noels’ car from the field of thousands of Corvettes and selected it as a show winner. They stayed and chatted with them for about an hour.  “They were both so friendly and down to earth,” Barb relates. “George Barris presented us with his own family crest which he autographed. We proudly display his family crest, trophy, and his handwritten Judge’s Form in our Corvette-themed pool room.” On the Judge’s Form he noted, “A 100-point car!”

Other car shows resulted in similar reactions. For instance, at the entrances of the 2013 World of Wheels Car Show, all kids attending the show were given ballots to cast their vote for the show’s best car. The Noels’ Corvette won the Kid’s Choice Award.

The Noels try to give back by participating in car shows that benefit local charities such as the Ronald McDonald House, Riley Children’s Hospital, Woman and Children’s Shelter, IN School for the Blind, Animal Shelters, and Boy Scouts of America, but one in particular stands out. The car show for the Indiana School for the Blind was dramatically different, as the Judges were blind. All the participants were asked to describe their car in great detail to the Judges.

“We were also asked if the Judges could touch the car as we described all the features to them,” Barb recalls. “This was very unusual since all other car shows are: “Look, but don’t touch!” And they were clearly impressed by what they were able to experience through their fingertips.

Looking back on all their car show adventures over the years, what sort of tips do the Noels share? “If you love cars like we do, the projects are fun and exciting—and expensive!” Barb admits. “Our biggest issue, is which car gets to have an update next—the Corvette or the Camaro. We’re working-class folks, so projects have to be planned and done a little at a time.”

The Noels are a good example of what can be accomplished, even on a budget, coupled with some inspiration from a beloved daughter.

About the author

Steve Temple

Steve Temple has more than three decades of experience as an automotive photojournalist. He has served as editor of several automotive enthusiast magazines, and also as director of marketing for Shelby American. As such, he is intimately familiar with a wide range of vehicles, ranging from vintage street rods and classic musclecars to modern sports cars. Steve has handled tech and install features on all types of aftermarket upgrades for both cars and trucks.
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