When Eric Fleming first purchased his Corvette C3 in March of 2013 from a buddy’s uncle, he had no clue as to how far down the rabbit hole he was about to go. With a numbers matching 350 automatic, and finished in a coat of “Steel Cities Gray,” the Corvette had been in either his friend’s possession, or under the care of the man’s uncle since the early 1990s. Like many other dust-covered Corvette C3 sports cars, this relic had not run in years and was plagued by a rusted-out gas tank. Fortunately, Eric discovered that outside of that, the car had very little corrosion and was pretty much a complete specimen.
Photo Credit: Kaleb Kelley and Chad Bee Photography
Over the course of the next couple years Eric tinkered with the car off and on, replacing worn parts with more modern components like Wilwood brakes, and 17-inch alloy wheels. After deciding to pull the low horsepower 350 and begin a mild refresh, Eric installed a Chevrolet Performance 525-horsepower crate LS3 and affixed it to a 4L80E transmission from a prior project. The decision was also made to clean and refurbish everything from the firewall forward and attach all new suspension underneath.
Mini restoration complete, Eric found the combination of the LS3 and new suspension to be far more enjoyable than he had originally imagined, with the C3 becoming so much fun, that track days soon became a thing. However, no more than two track events in, and Road Atlanta’s stifling heat had roasted the car’s transmission, giving Eric the perfect excuse to call Silver Sport Transmissions about obtaining a TKO600.
It was around this time that suspension also became a core focus, with the C3’s antiquated leaf springs being replaced by recently released, track-focused coilovers from RideTech. Eric was so impressed with the quality of RideTech’s coilovers, that every time the company would release a new part, he would purchase it, with the car eventually being sent off to the company for an intensive round of part installs.
RideTech is known for its attention to detail, logging long hours all for the sake of collecting data on spring rates and suspension geometry in order to optimize performance, ride quality, and reliability. When asked why he has remained such an avid RideTech suspension supporter, Eric responds with a multitude of reasons. “I like how their coilovers can be installed with basic hand tools and don’t require hacking-up the chassis just to make them fit,” Eric says. “And opting for a complete suspension system takes all of the guesswork out of the equation.”
He goes on to talk about the RideTech StrongArm suspension arms on his C3, which feature modified ball joint angles for accommodating taller spindles. These upper ball joints have been bumped back in order to allow additional caster, which in turn improves high speed stability and steering feel. Both control arms and trailing arms also use injection molded Delrin bushings, which contain 13% Teflon in order to reduce deflection and stiction.
As for the C3 Corvette’s RideTech coilovers, they are all monotube in nature for superior ride quality and handling, and come with a rebound knob for easy fine tuning. Eric also says that their unbeatable 1,000,0001 mile warranty helped sway his decision to try a set out, especially since his goal is to keep tracking the car whenever possible.
Suspension nerd fest complete, we turn back to Eric’s Corvette, which was still sitting on a lift at RideTech. While upgrading to an independent 9-inch rear end was at the top of the to-do list, networking fell somewhere in the middle. But when Josh from Custom Image Corvettes spotted Eric’s C3 at RideTech, networking went straight to the top of the list. At the time, Josh was visiting RideTech as a member of a 48 hour build team, which just so happened to be operating on a car that was similar to Eric’s. Being that the two men had spoken prior about affixing fender flares to Eric’s C3, seeing the car in person reignited Josh’s interest in the build.
RideTech mods complete, the car was immediately sent over to Custom Image Corvettes in order to have flares installed and receive a coat of paint. To this day Eric is still not entirely sure how Josh was able to talk him into installing an LT4 crate engine into the car, but hot damn is he happy that he did! While this process took a lot longer than either man could have predicted, due to most of the swap parts surrounding the engine being fabricated from scratch, Eric tells us that having the first LT4 swapped C3 Corvette in history definitely made-up for the wait.
Car complete, Eric tells us that his current goal is to enjoy the car and attend a few Goodguys events around the country, followed by entering Optima’s “Ultimate Street Car” series, before hitting-up a handful of cruise-ins, and participating in the next Power Tour. As for future goals, Eric laughs and says that not crashing the car, or sending it all the way back to Josh in South Dakota for fixes is definitely at the top. This is followed by keeping the vehicle updated with fresh components as they evolve in order to keep the car from feeling “dated,” and in the process, maintaining what many consider to be the most badass C3 Vette ever built.