Behold: A custom C2 Corvette Sting Ray towing a restored Donzi speedboat. (More pics of the hitch and the Donzi below!) (Image/George Lyons)

George Lyons began his automotive career while in high school, learning the ropes at one of the local garages. He eventually opened up his own shop, where he built a strong reputation for high-end restoration work.

Now, Lyons is displaying his vintage Indy Cars at Pebble Beach—so it’s been quite a journey.

Along the way, he’s owned an impressive mix of vehicles, including retired race cars, hot rods, and rare muscle cars (often bearing names like Shelby and Yenko). Lyons is well-known in Corvette circles too, thanks to his collection of unique and exotic Vettes.

Subtle, tasteful modifications is the name of the game here. (Image/George Lyons)

But it’s his modified ’65 Sting Ray that brings us here today.

“Growing up, I drooled over the ‘Cool’ cars that the ‘Cool Guys’ drove in the 1960s,” Lyons says.

“One that really intrigued me was the 1963-1967 Corvette, often seen lightly modified,” he continues. “There was this certain style they all seemed to share: mag wheels, side exhaust, big cam motor, Hurst Competition/Plus shifter, no front bumpers, and mild custom paint.”

There was one final touch too, six taillights, as immortalized in Jan & Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve.”  

“It was just The Look,” Lyons says with a smile.

What’s cooler? The sextet of taillights or the functional trailer hitch? (Image/George Lyons)

So, Lyons set out to build his Cool Guy Corvette, starting with a rough 1965 Coupe. The Vette had some minor body damage and the original 396 Chevy Big Block was long gone, but it was equipped with the coveted F41 suspension package—creating the perfect blank canvas.

Lyons established one clear guideline though: nothing newer than 1970. From the aesthetic to the parts, everything was going to be period-correct. “It had to have the look, the sound, the feel and the vibe of the day, ” he explains. “Totally authentic to how it might have been built back then.”

(Though keen-eyed readers may spy a lone deviation from that rule: single-adjustable shocks to make the car a bit more fun to drive.)

Taking the place of the long-gone 396 is a period-correct, cammed LT1 Small Block Chevy that’s approaching 500 horsepower. (Image/George Lyons)

Under the Vette’s hood now lives one of the most desirable small blocks of the era: the 1970 Chevy 350 LT1, good for about 370 horsepower from the factory. But Lyons wanted more power along with the delightful sound of a raucous idle. So he bumped the compression, added an aggressive cam, and made a few other period-correct tweaks. All-told, the LT1 now makes close to 500 HP on the engine dyno.

Power is sent to a Muncie M21 four-speed on its way to a Positraction rear end with 4:11 gears. The LT1 exhales through a set of Hedman side-exit exhaust headers and factory Vette sidepipes—shortened a bit to give the Corvette “just the sound I was looking for” Lyons explains.

A Sun Tach and Hurst reverse lockout lever complement the Vette’s hot rod vibe. (Image/George Lyons)

On the inside, you’ll find a Hurst Competition/Plus shifter, complete with a rare Hurst reverse lockout lever poking through the shift boot. The Vette got a custom four-point roll bar—another nod to those “Cool Guy” cars from Lyons’ memories.

And what late-60s interior would be complete with out a Sun Super Tach? “A period-correct modification from a day when we somehow believed they were more accurate than the factory unit,” Lyons laughs.

The front bumper-delete was a popular period-correct mod for midyear Sting Rays. (Image/George Lyons)

Outside, the Vette wears OE-spec Nassau Blue, cut by a Pearl White stripe. The Big Block hood remains, only without the 396 emblems. Lyons, a former Bloomington Gold judge, jokes about cutting holes for the additional taillights, remembering how many times he had to fill similar ones during prior restorations.

This custom midyear rolls on matched pairs of American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels, 15″ x 6″ up front and 15″ x 7″ in the rear. The wheels are shod all the way around with M&H Racemaster street drag radials. 

Lyons’ Sting Ray represents how a hypothetical hot-rodder would’ve modified a Corvette in 1970. (Image/George Lyons)

But we haven’t mentioned this best part yet.

While he was working out back, Lyons joined the rear bumpers with a (GASP!) slick custom trailer hitch. “It’s something many respected street terrors sported in the day, most often for no good reason,” Lyons reveals. But he assures us this hitch is fully functional, and he uses it to tow his restored 1965 Donzi Sporter 16′ speedboat.

What better tow vehicle for a 1965 Donzi Ski Sporter? Oh, and the trailer is custom-made too. (Image/George Lyons)

So, while no one would argue that George Lyons wasn’t already a cool guy, this custom midyear Corvette now makes it 100% official. Check out some of the work-in-progress pics below.

The Sting Ray still wears its factory-equipped Big Block hood bulge, sans 396 badging, of course. (Image/George Lyons)
This is how the Sting Ray looked before the work began. (Image/George Lyons)
No bolt was untouched in this frame-off project. Here the LT1 and the rest of the driveline await the Sting Ray’s freshly-painted body. (Image/George Lyons)
A four-point roll bar was added as an homage to a car Lyons recalled from his past. (Image/George Lyons)
Another look at the 1970 LT1 Small Block Chevy that delivers the exact performance (and sound) Lyons was looking for. (Image/George Lyons)
Wearing GM’s factory Nassau Blue and a Pearl White center stripe, the Sting Ray’s custom paint job is reminiscent of the legendary Grand Sport Corvettes that were pounding the tracks in the 1960s. (Image/George Lyons)

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.