For Greg Thurmond, founder and owner of GTS Customs in Simi Valley, California, the Corvette is more than just the bread and butter of his business. They’re special creations, beautiful beasts that arrive in various states of neglect or defect, and leave as illustrious machines restored to their former glory, and then some.
In our previous interview with Thurmond, we got to understand the man, his craft, his passion, and how they come together. Now, we turn our attention to the apple of his eye, the 1964 coupe that he calls Scarlett.
Working with a focused attention to detail and sharply-refined picture of what he wanted, Thurmond was able to take the swell little midyear and turn it into something out of this world. And he did it all in a matter of weeks, turning the street machine into a full-blown performer (complete with fire suppression system!).
The Background Of Scarlett
The story begins in 2008, when Thurmond first bought the C2 to use as a show car for the shop, daily-driven by his wife Jane around the local community and down to the beach on occasion. “It was one of her girl friends who came up with the name Scarlett,” recalls Thurmond. “I think to myself, ‘Man, that’s perfect,’ and I never really named any of my cars before, but I like it a lot for this car.”
Charlie, a friend of Thurmond’s, was the one who found the Corvette sitting pretty at an auction in Pomona. Thurmond longed to have a C2 like the one Charlie had found, and managed to buy it before Charlie set about putting it up for auction himself. “I had told him I was in the market for a Stingray, and two weeks later he hit me back, saying ‘I bought the car for you at Pomona,” says Thurmond. “He said, ‘Come and get it, it’s yours for 10 grand, and all of the sudden I had to scrounge and dig up $10,000.”
Thurmond’s purchase was costly, and prevented him from investing in other projects for close to a year. “I just sat there and looked at that thing,” he jokes. Nevertheless, once his savings were back up to par in 2012, Thurmond was excited to start digging in and changing the car to the autocross superstar he had originally envisioned.
“I built it in about four months,” he says. “It was in pretty good shape when it arrived. It was just that once I got the paint off the front end, I discovered it had been chopped in the middle and pieced together with another car. I had to take the whole front end off and put on a new one.”
The modifications didn’t end there, however. Next was a Newman Car Creations frame, which Thurmond uses on all of his restomods, whether personal or for business. Quarter panels had to be made as well, and so too was a mini-tub, which moved the fender wells inboard for wider tires.
Modernized C4 suspension was fitted to the chassis, which Thurmond explained the features and benefits of. “When the load from the rear end is torqued, the torque arms put the load to the front of the car rather than keeping it in the back,” he says.
Other modern touches were derived from the C5, including the door handles and the engine. The latter proved to be a bit of a problem starting off, as Thurmond found it difficult to keep them from breaking on the autocross circuit. “The engines were our weak link,” he explained. “I rebuilt the first engine two or three times, before we finally got this LS6 all dialed in in-house.”
Over time, additional modifications lined up and were taken care of as needed, including issues like shocks, springs, roll bars, racing equipment, and tires. Experimentation was the name of the game as Thurmond and his wife made notes after every event, whether it was to change up the weight distribution or try a different sway bar. “To this day, I still have four different front sway bars and three rear sway bars, all dependent on where we’re heading to race,” said Thurmond.
Scarlett has made a name for herself in the two years that she’s been actively chasing apexes and dodging cones in autocross, and along the way has garnered some special memories for her owner. “In April of this year, I had my proudest moment with the car,” said Thurmond.
Sum Of Its Parts
- Owners: Greg and Jane Thurmond – Simi Valley, CA
- Build: In-house at GTS Customs
- Engine: LS6 V8 w/ AFR heads, Speed Pro Pistons, DM Performance main girdle, and more
- Transmission: Tremec six-speed manual
- Chassis: Newman Car Creations custom chassis
- Rear Axle: Dana 44 w/ 3.73:1 gear ratio
- Brakes: Baer Decela rotors with C5 Z06 calipers and Bosch ABS system
- Wheels: Stock C6 Corvette wheels
- Tires: Falken Azenis 315/35R18 front and rear
- Suspension: C4 Corvette by Newman Car Creations, Ridetech shocks
- Mod Highlights: Custom quarter panels, door handles, and mirrors; roll bar; DJ fire suppression system; cross-generational design and aesthetic cues including C2, C4, C5, and C6
- Interior: Original leather dashboard; Corbeau seats; Autometer Phantom gauges
- Paint: Glasurit Victory Red
- Notes: Won 2013 GG Del Mar Street Machine Autocross, 2014 GG Scottsdale Street Machine Autocross, 2014 GG Del Mar Pro Class Autocross, and 2014 Hotchkis Street Machine Autocross in Fontana
When asked about the most stressful part of owning Scarlett, Thurmond had a confession to make. “It’s when my wife drives,” he stated. “I don’t want her getting hurt doing this stuff, and I remember at the Portland USCA event she got the car up to 125 miles an hour, far faster than we would ever go in autocross, and that was a little frightening. We’re a lot more careful now when we get roped into short course races.”
The total investment ran up to $30,000, but in the end, the car has proven itself worthy time and time again. Just when it might seem like the car is rather expensive to maintain for the amount of fun it provides its owners, Thurmond argues that the opposite is true.
“It has just been labor and very little money,” he said. “The engine rebuild this year was only $1,700, and where most people will go out and spend almost ten times that amount, I was able to do it all here. Plus, I always shop around for whatever I need to get the best deal possible; I don’t often just buy something out of convenience.”
Outside of the racing and numbers-crunching, however, Thurmond credits the people of autocross as his inspiration to keep at it and stay strong. “I’ve met and made some great relationships through the sport thanks to common interest,” he says. “People that like to do what I do. They’re the best part of this whole activity, and have turned out to be terrific friends.”
The newcomers to the Corvette world, especially the midyears, may feel intimidated to work on such valuable and timeless cars, but Thurmond encourages folks to find a way, no matter what. “Anybody can go to a Home Depot or Lowe’s and buy fiberglass kits and play around with them, and there’s loads of information on the internet too. And always keep your eyes peeled for the deals, because there are tons of them out there.”
Thurmond’s achievements with Scarlett show just how far one can get with the right mix of resources, drive, and forethought, but the people who helped him along the way have been indispensable. “K&N, Falken, and RideTech did a lot to get us started on the racetrack,” he said. “We’re really thankful for what we’ve gotten from them.” The future of this crimson Corvette is in excellent hands, and we can’t wait to see how Greg and Jane do in 2015.