Warren Scaife’s custom Corvette doesn’t technically have a name yet, but we’re not sure it needs one.
A name wouldn’t help people better understand what they’re looking at when they ask Scaife “What is it?” And it ain’t going to make the car stick in their minds any more than its off-the-wall looks already have.
But Scaife’s thinking of pinning an ‘XL’ badge or two on it, so the car can better fulfill its intended purpose: acting as a rolling billboard for his fabrication company, XL Stainless.
So—what is it? In short, it’s a 1998 Corvette fitted with a 665-horsepower supercharged V8, a custom leather interior, and a hand-formed aluminum body inspired by the Morgan LIFECar concept.
Why is it? In short, because of the recession, and all the down time Scaife had on his hands then in 2009.
Wait, but—how? All right, let’s start getting into details.
Blame it on the recession
When business slowed down at the beginning of 2009 due to the recession, Scaife, proprietor of Barrie, Ontario-based XL Stainless fabrication, found himself with way too much free time and nothing to do with it.
That’s when he came up with a make-work project for himself that’d double as an advertisement for his business: a radical, head-turning custom car.
XL Stainless specializes in making stainless steel pharmaceutical machinery and equipment, but about nine years ago, Scaife decided to break back into automotive fabrication, where he’d got his start.
This car would be the calling card for the automotive side of his business, and would hopefully turn him a profit when he decided to sell it, too.
(He’d gotten more than a little attention with his first effort, a hand-built trike half-nicknamed the “Smile Car.”)
He chose a Corvette as his donor car – specifically a 1998 Virginia rear-end victim that had been written off – because he figured the car’s high-performance reputation would help when looking for a buyer for the finished product.
Design inspiration came via the then-new Morgan LIFECar concept, a car that, with its not-short wheelbase and pontoon-style fenders, didn’t exactly lend itself to adaptation via a Corvette.
And the overhaul begins
So Scaife got creative. He moved the ‘Vette’s front suspension cradle forward 21 inches. He widened the car’s rear end. He relocated the engine and shock mounts, and tilted the radiator forward instead of backward.
And then business picked up again. The Corvette sat on the back burner while Scaife focused on work for XL’s commercial and industrial and residential (and generally less custom-car-savvy) clientele.
Originally Scaife was just going to reskin the car, but since its age was starting to show, he instead overhauled the thing top-to-bottom, repainting the frame, reupholstering the interior with Mercedes-sourced leather, and sticking good-for-resale-value Foose rims on it.
And then the drivetrain. Both engine and transmission got a full rebuild and were crammed full of almost every aftermarket performance part you could ask for. A stroker kit and supercharger gave the 383-cube V8 some 665 horsepower to work with, and the automatic trans – Scaife would’ve preferred a manual, but went with the safe-for-resale bet – and low rear gears help the ‘Vette pull 160 km/h (100 mph) in second while returning 10 L/100 km (23 mpg) highway, according to Scaife.
“I wanted the buyer to be able to have those bragging rights,” says Scaife. “It doesn’t need 665 horsepower, but I wanted it to have more than a [638-horsepower] Corvette ZR-1.”
A custom is born (from aluminum)
Then of course there’s that bodywork. Scaife put literally thousands of hours into hand-forming and shaping the fenders, fascias and belly pans from aluminum, basing them loosely on those of the LIFECar.
“I’m not claiming to be a designer of any sort,” he admits. “It’s hard to find the things that your eye catches and likes to see. So I struggled with it, and I wanted it to be nice—and overall, while I guess I wouldn’t build the identical thing again, it’s nice.”
“I’m not saying it’s the greatest-looking thing
in the world, but overall it’s nice—to each
—Warren Scaife, owner of XL Stainless fabrication
The back end is an obvious point of departure from the Morgan: Scaife says he felt it looked too plain, and instead aimed for a shape similar to one he’d seen on a Ferrari concept car. He says he had to redo the rear fenders four times before he got it the way he liked. (The final look is basically the result of building around the Mitsubishi Eclipse-sourced taillights).
A rear spoiler was originally in the plans, as were Lamborghini-style scissor doors, but both felt too off-the-shelf to him. The gloss black on the car was supposed to be matte or satin, but a mix-up on the painter’s part left Scaife settling for the shinier stuff.
To each his own
Scaife wrapped up work on the car May 2013, but has only taken it to two or three southern Ontario shows since then (he’s trying not to rack up too many miles on it).
The car inevitably draws a crowd wherever it goes, which Scaife figures is both a good and a bad thing. “When you’re in the car, you’re a celebrity,” he grins. “But sometimes when I might be going somewhere or have something to do, well—”
His solution with the trike was to print up two-sided cards with a photo of the car, basic specs and a FAQ, and to hand those out so he could get on his way if he had to. “Everyone was asking me the same questions,” he says.
And while Scaife understands the car’s styling can be a little controversial, he just wishes people would take the time to appreciate the workmanship – the total 2500 hours and $80,000 – that went into it (and we have to say, the fit and finish is pretty damn good).
“Everyone’s got a different opinion, y’know? I may go to a car show and say, I don’t like the look of that car or truck, but he did a really good job with it. But most people don’t do that.”