The world of competitive car shows can usually be split into two camps:

  1. The purists who demand originality down to the factory chalk marks
  2. The customizers who gleefully swap parts, change colors, and mod away

While there is mutual respect and appreciation between those two philosophies, it’s rare to see a car that’s able to straddle them both—especially one with a resume like this 1988 Corvette carries.

At first glance, it looks like an meticulously maintained, bone-stock C4. But draw closer, and you’ll see some subtle, elegant deviations from Chevy’s original recipe.

driver side view of a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

The ‘Vette belongs to Ed Wheeler Jr. Ed’s got a racing background and has owned a few Corvettes before he inherited this particular C4 from his father—it was always kept in great shape, so Ed made the decision to start making the rounds on the Corvette show circuit.

“I just got to cleaning it up, showing it and stuff, but then I put it in the national Corvette series—and it won four championships,” he smiles. “They put it in the museum.

rear quarter view of a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

Thanks to its clean, original state, the Vette had plenty of success with the OE-spec and restoration crowds—but things changed when he started running with the custom car folks.

“I came to the Cavalcade of Customs a few years ago, met some car guys, and they said it wouldn’t do well over here,” he chuckles. “You can’t take an Indy car and go race the Daytona 500 with it.”

engine view of a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

It was at that point that Ed had to decide whether to keep his C4 all original for the national Corvette show circuit or add some custom touches to make it suitable for the Summit Racing Show Car series. “You can’t take one car and do both,” he quips.

So over a span of several years, Ed took the Corvette completely apart and, with the guidance from some show car mentors, he made some tactful modifications.

“I came back and I won last year, in my class,” Ed smiles.

Chassis view from mirrors under a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

The engine and driveline of Ed’s car are all stock, as are the wheels and the much of the interior and exterior, but it’s got a few subtle tweaks to bump it into the custom car realm. Look closely and you’ll see fins in the fender vents, highly-polished aluminum pieces, painted parts, a hood decal, and other unique elements that delight a customizer, but might ruffle someone who’s a stickler for originality.

That said, Ed kept his modifications both tactful and strategic.

“Don’t touch the serial numbers,” he laughs, as he alludes to the fact that his ‘Vette still carries all original parts. “Judges have checked me before too. They got out that big book and started hollering serial numbers.”

hood sticker on a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

Despite a trophy case full of awards and recognition, Ed stresses that the car’s connection with his late father is what’s most important. “Oh yeah, I’m keeping it forever,” he says solemnly. “I’m passing it down through the family, to my daughter.”

Regardless of whether you’re a restoration purist or a wild customizer, we’re sure you agree with that sentiment.

rear view of a custom c4 1988 corvette show car

As for the 2024 show in Cincinnati, Ohio where we met him, Ed reports that his ‘Vette ended up getting Second in his Class and grabbed “Outstanding Display” honors too. So it looks like that trophy case is getting a little larger this year.

UPDATE: We had originally spoken with Ed in early January 2024. Though we didn’t know it at the time—Ed ended up receiving a 2023 Class Champion award later that month in the #7150 – Domestic Sports category!

Congratulations to Ed and all the other participants in the Summit Racing Show Car Series!

(Image/Ed Wheeler)

If you’re into ‘Vettes, you may enjoy our ever-expanding series on the History of the Corvette.

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.