Creative Custom BuilderJul 21, 2023 11:44AM ● By Joel Stevens
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Bob Grinnell's Corvette [8 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Bob Grinnell wanted a car that was truly his own design. A vehicle combining modern performance and comfort, wrapped in a classic car shell.
Grinnell got his wish when he discovered “restomods”—a car restoration and modification method utilizing modern parts and technology.
“You take an older car, and you take the body off the frame, you throw everything away: the interior, the drive train, the frame, the engine…and you put back in everything brand-new,” Grinnell said.
“It’s like building a new car from scratch that looks like an old car.”
Grinnell was bitten by the restomod bug five years and a handful of cars ago.
His current obsession: a glistening, metallic silver C2 Sting Ray Corvette that is a 1967 model on the outside and a 2022 version on the inside. At last year’s World of Wheels event, held at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Grinnell’s Corvette won Best Custom and the prestigious Heartland Award, presented to the vehicle deemed “Best in Show.”
“It was great,” Grinnell said of winning the award. “You rarely win two awards. But they thought enough of my car to give me two awards. I was very honored.”
Grinnell, a 65-year-old Omaha native, didn’t grow up a “gear head,” or “car guy,” but he’s loved classic American muscle cars since the day his dad brought home a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner.
Since 1975, Grinnell has owned and operated Surplus Sales of Nebraska, a specialty wholesaler of vintage and modern electronic parts. When not running the company’s day-to-day operations or dabbling in real estate—he bought and later sold the 140,000-square-foot Mastercraft building at 13th and Nicholas in 2018—he’s showing his 1967 C2 or plotting his next restomod project.
The hobby he considers as much art as engineering began with a 1958 C1 Corvette. His other restomods include a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle and a 1955 Chevrolet Nomad. He also owns a 2005 Dodge Viper, a 1956 Ford Thunderbird, and a 2023 CR8 Corvette Collector’s Edition.
But it’s his 1967 Corvette that’s his crown jewel—one he rarely drives.
“You don’t want it chipped up. You have a car like this and you show it…it’s a commitment to keeping it pristine.”
Grinnell considers himself a “general contractor” on his restomods. Each mod entails hundreds of decisions: interior color and fabrics, paint color and number of coats, and engine specs among them.
Those decisions can be cheap or expensive. Grinnell has seen show cars with $1 million in modifications. Typically, he said, restomod budgets range from $150,000 to $400,000 for a classic car.
“You can be more exotic or you can be more frugal,” he said. “You can use used parts or a used, salvaged engine or new engine. It’s custom, and you can go anyway you want with it.”
There’s nothing he likes more than seeing the look on people’s faces when they approach his 1967 C2 expecting to see the classic factory engine and interior only to find a modern, 660-horsepower LT4 engine and dashboard for the 21st century.
Grinnell admits some cars are better off simply being restored to their original.
“Buying an original 1953 Corvette and restomodding it would be thought of as not a good idea. There’s just so few of them. Leave them alone. Keep them original,” he urged.
That’s exactly why Grinnell talks through every modification and documents each and every step of the mod. It’s a painstaking process, like a work of art materializing on a steel canvas.
“I’ll keep going with it,” he said. “I’ve just hit retirement age, but I’ve taken on a lot of projects I’ve put off for a long time so I’m busy. But I would like to travel around the country with it [the 1967 Corvette] and do the World of Wheels tour. I hope to do it next year. There’s lots of things on my bucket list. Cars is just one big part of it.”
Visit surplussales.com for more information on Grinnell and Surplus Sales of Nebraska. For more