When introduced in 1953, the Corvette was a true roadster with side curtains and a folding soft top. While it retained this status through 1955, designer Harley Earl tipped his hat to pending production updates with a trio of Corvette prototypes at the 1954 GM Motorama. One of those concept cars had roll-up windows and a lift-off hardtop, both of which went into production with the face-lifted ’56 Corvette.

Larry Griffey’s ’54 Corvette, Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year Finalist, Goodguys

The fact that the original “bug-eye” body style never saw production with a hard top seemed like a lost opportunity to Larry Griffey. “I always thought, ‘it’s a shame they never built that body with the top on it,’” he said. As the owner of Larry Griffey’s Hot Rods and Restorations, Larry did more than just think about it – he decided to do something about it.

Larry found the right starting point in a derelict ’54 ’Vette. “It was a rough car,” he said. “There wasn’t anything there but a body.” That’s being generous – it was basically doors, quarter panels, and a hood. That was fine with Larry since his hot rod plans would involve significant surgery.

Conflicting desires complicated the build. Larry knew the car needed deep-dish wheels – “I like the hot rod look,” he said – but he also wanted late-model Corvette independent suspensions. Those elements are at odds on a narrow C1 platform. The solution? “You’ve got to widen that body,” Larry said, which he did – 3-inches in back narrowing to 1-3/4-inches in front. He also narrowed the C4 suspensions to fit the 18×8- and 20×10-inch Billet Specialties wheels. Then he channeled the body over the Jamison double-tube frame, with a slight rake toward the front. “It needed to have a hot rod stance,” Larry said.

To add the removable hard top, Larry and his team (including Chuck Powell, Kevin Riffey and Dustin Boone) had to re-contour the cowl to accept a ’56 Corvette windshield frame. They also widened the doors to accept windows. These mods and countless others are all hidden under gorgeous Soul Red paint, which in turn is complemented by Advanced Plating brightwork.

Larry Griffey’s ’54 Corvette, Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year Finalist, Goodguys

Under the hood beats a newer ’Vette heart – a supercharged LS1 backed by a 4L60E transmission. Inside, Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto Interiors is responsible for crafting a classy, comfortable leather-clad cabin outfitted with a custom CON2R wheel, Classic Instruments gauges, Lokar shifter and Vintage Air. It’s the perfect space for Larry to cruise with his wife, Robbie.

What began as a “simple” side project on weekends snowballed into a Great 8 contender in Detriot and a Goodguys 2017 Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year finalist, not to mention winning multiple Goodguys Builder’s Choice awards in 2017. “Somewhere along the line we got a little carried away,” Larry said. Aren’t you glad he did?

Larry Griffey’s ’54 Corvette, Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year Finalist, Goodguys
Photography by Mike Harrington