Art and Mary Krepps’ 1961 Corvette

Art Krepps built his 1961 Corvette with one hand tied behind his back. Well, maybe we’re exaggerating just a bit. But he did bring the ’Vette from backyard trash to a showstopper himself, with help from his sons. That includes fabrication, body work, paint, engine work, interior, and anything else custom the car needed.

It just goes to show you that if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. From the big-as-life BDS 8-71 supercharger sticking up out of the hood to the stock-appearing body and interior and five-inch exhaust tips that peek out in front of the rear tires, the Vette is an all-around awesome car.

“Most people have a list of shops that did the body work, paint, and fabrication,” Art said. “Doing that work myself was the most rewarding part of the project. I put a lot of hard work into making it just the way I wanted it. I had a good idea of the engine this car would have so I built everything as strong as possible. And except for being tubbed and having a blower sticking out of the hood, it still looks original.”

The Corvette started out like so many cars—as an “empty nest” project. After Art and his wife Mary raised their two sons, the high performance bug came back with a vengeance. Art was preparing a motor and transmission for a 1974 Corvette, but both he and Mary were quite fond of the 1961 body style. He found just what he was looking for: a raggedy ’61 that needed some attention in a bad way.

Not that there weren’t accomodations that needed to be made for the car.

“He kicked me out of my spot in the garage, but that didn’t last long,” Mary said. “Soon he built a bay-and-a-half addition just for the project. He had plenty of room and I got my parking spot back.”

Wise move there, Art.

A concrete contractor by trade (A.C. Krepps & Son Concrete Contracting), Art happens to have a lot of free time during the cold winter months in Pennsylvania. In the three years he spent working on the car, Art backhalved the frame, replaced the front end, fabricated the trunk, and radiator mounts, and cut an access hole in the hood that perfectly follows the supercharger’s lines.

When you peek under that hood, a L88 427 with a pair of Larson two-piece valve covers will stare back at you.

“I get a lot of people who think [the valve covers] are the cylinder heads because they’re so big,” Art said. “People have offered to buy them, but I’m not giving ’em up—I’ve only seen one other set.”

The supercharged L88 puts out an estimated 850 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Art needed an exhaust system that wouldn’t rob any power, so he he fabbed a system from a pair of four-inch diesel truck mufflers, Car Chemistry inserts, and five-inch exhaust outlets. The no-nonsense, stovepipe black finish keeps the big pipes from looking too obvious and detracting from the Corvette’s body lines.

In his mission to keep the car as close to stock as possible, Art didn’t cut up the dashboard to fit the Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges. He made a custom console that simply slips over the original center console and holds the gauges in an easy-to-read spot. He also recovered the seats so they’re look like newer, cleaner versions of the factory originals.

Between the local car shows and cruising with one of the two clubs they belong to (The Cruizin Few and Corvettes of PA), Art and Mary put about 500 miles on the Corvette every year.

And when the neighbor’s windows start to rattle, everybody knows the Krepps are home.

Frame: Stock frame with 2-inch x 3-inch tube backhalf, extended front frame rails, custom body and radiator mounts
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch wiith Strange 31-spline axles, 4.33 ratio Richmond Gear ring and pinion, Detroit Locker differential
Rear Suspension: Chassis Engineering adjustable ladder bars, Aldan adjustable coil-over shocks, Competition Engineering diagonal link
Front Suspension: Fat Man Fabrication Mustang II tubular A arms, Heidt’s 2-inch dropped spindles, power rack and pinion steering
Brakes: 11-inch Wilwood front disc brakes, 11-inch GM rear disc brakes
Wheels and Tires: Weld Aluma-Star wheels (3 1/2 x 15 front, 15 x 15 rear), Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires (28 x 7.50 front, 33 x 21.5-15 rear)
Other Items: Street & Performance polished aluminum steering pump, urethane mounts and bushings, custom driveshaft
Chassis Work: Art Krepps

Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: 1969 Chevy L88 427
Block: Cast iron, bored .030 inch over
Reciprocating Assembly: GM steel crank, GM “pink” rods, 8:1 TRW forged pistons—assembly balanced and blueprinted
Camshaft: GM solid lifter cam, .600-inch lift
Cylinder Heads: GM aluminum L88
Valvetrain: GM 7/16-inch pushrods, 1.7 ratio Harland Sharp roller rocker arms
Induction: Edelbrock intake manifold, two 750 cfm Holley double pumper carburetors, BDS 8-71 Stage II supercharger (approximately 14 psi), Hilborn style scoop with K&N air filters
Ignition: Taylor Vertex magneto, Auto Meter Pro-Control, Taylor ignition wires
Cooling: Two 13″ Be Cool electric fans, custom-built Be Cool radiator, custom aluminum radiator hose, Aeroquip braided lines, Edelbrock aluminum water pump
Exhaust: Hedman fenderwell headers with 2 1/8-inch primaries, 4-inch diesel truck mufflers, 3-disc Car Chemistry inserts, 5-inch exhaust outlets
Transmission: Turbo 400 transmission by Carl Rossler, 10-inch/3,500 rpm stall converter, Hughes transmission and flexplate shields

Other Items: Tilton Super Starter, Optima battery, Summit aluminum pulleys, Mallory 140 Comp fuel pump, Pete Jackson gear drive, Hurst Line Lock, ATI flexplate

Modifications: Modified hood for blower clearance, custom hinges to allow hood to come up and forward
Paint Color: PPG Bright and Bold Cherry Red
Fabrication and Paint By: Art Krepps

Upholstery: Black vinyl
Seats: Original, recovered with new foam
Dash: Stock
Gauges: Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, Auto Meter 5-inch memory recall tach with Pro Shift Lite
Shifter: B&M Hammer shifter
Other Items: Custom-built center console and gauge panel, Simpson 5-point harnesses

Special Thanks To:
My wife Mary, for all of her love, patience, and understanding; sons Jason and Josh, for always being there even into the wee hours of the morning; John Chevalier, owner of J & S Auto Body, for use of his paint booth; good friends Ed, John, and Barry for their expert input and support

1961 chevy corvette drag car, front quarter
1961 chevy corvette drag car, rear wheel tire tubs
1961 chevy corvette drag car with supercharged 427 engine
1961 chevy corvette drag car, front
1961 chevy corvette drag car, interior
1961 chevy corvette drag car, rear

If you need a lesson in the craft of doing things your own self, talk to Art Krepps of Beaver, Pennsylvania. He'll be glad to tell you what it takes to build a car like his 1961 Corvette: the long winter nights, the new addition on the garage, the hours of planning, doing, and redoing until things were exactly how he wanted them. With help from his sons Jason and Josh, Art fabbed the frame, built the supercharged L88 big block, sprayed the paint, and rehabbed the interior. "Doing the work myself was the most rewarding part of the project," Art said. "I put a lot of hard work into making [the car] just the way I wanted it." Observe and learn well, grasshopper.

Chevrolet didn't fit 33 inch rollers under Corvettes in 1961--nor any other year, for that matter. Art backhalfed the stock frame with 2 x 3 inch box tubing and built aluminum tubs to accomodate the big Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires. A narrowed Ford 9 inch rear axle is suspended by a set of Chassis Engineering ladder bars with Aldan coil-overs and a Competition Engineering diagonal link. Art trashed the 1950 Chevy truck front suspension, replacing it with Fat Man Fabrications tubular A-arms, Heidt's 2 inch drop spindles, and a power rack and pinion steering setup. There are the requisite four-wheel disc brakes (Wilwoods up front, GM 11 inchers out back), Art-fabbed body and radiator mounts, and a custom driveshaft.

Having a 427 cubic inch L88 motor under the hood would be quite sufficient for most Corvette fans. Not Art. He wanted something with presence...and nothing says presence like a polished 8-71 supercharger. Art rebuilt the 427 with 8:1 forged pistons, a .600 inch lift GM solid camshaft, and aluminum L88 heads. The blower is a BDS Stage II Air-Loc sitting atop an Edelbrock intake and two 750 cfm Holley double pumper carburetors. At 14 pounds of boost, the engine makes around 850 horsepower. And those big honkin' valve covers? They're two-piece Larsons, one of only two sets Art has ever seen. "People think they're the cylinder heads because they're so big!" he told us.

Art kept the body modfications to a minimum. With a car with lines like a '61 Vette, we heartily agree with his decision. The biggest changes were made to the hood; Art cut it for blower clearance, and molded it so the opening followed the contours of the supercharger perfectly. He also made new hinges so the hood comes further up and forward than it did in the factory configuration. Once the fiberglass was up to snuff, Art sprayed the car in PPG Bright and Bold Cherry Red and installed the original chrome and stainless trim.

Art's passion for keeping the Corvette as stock-appearing as possible extended to the interior as well. "I didn't want to cut up the dash because I was trying to keep the car as original as possible," he explained. "I made a gauge panel that covers the center panel where the radio was originally." The panel houses Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges; an 5 inch Auto Meter Monster tach sits on the dash next to the rearview mirror. As for the missing radio, Art says he doesn't mind not having it "We'd never be able to hear it anyway--the rumble is our radio!"

Check out the sewer pipes peeking out just in front of the rear tires. Those 5 inch diameter outlets are connected to an Art-fabbed exhaust system that consists of Hedman fenderwell headers, Car Chemistry three-disc inserts, and four inch diesel truck mufflers. The flat black finish helps the system blend into the chassis.

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