After 8 Years, This Teenager’s 1976 Corvette Restoration Won Him Several Awards

Two of our favorite things in the whole world….an at-home restoration and a Corvette! What you’re about to see is the complete transformation of an old, dilapidated, backyard-garage-bound 1976 Corvette; from rusted out and bound for the scrapyard, all the way into the rubber-burning, asphalt-gripping hunk of beauty that it is today. The finished product is award-winning, literally. You’re going to be surprised, to say the least.

There’s few things on this earth we love more than a good comeback story. And what better comeback story is there than a beat up, rusty old 1976 Corvette with little to no life left in its bones that is restored beyond its original beauty. Now that is a true comeback story. You’re about to read the story of that exact scenario. This Corvette was left to rust and rot. You’ve got to see how this plays out! Trust us, if you like restorations or Corvettes (or even if you just like a good success story) you’re going to want to follow along until you see the finished photos.

Initially, he was looking for something sporty, fun to drive, and not too much of a big project. But when he saw that old 1976 Corvette…he knew he had to have it. Jeremy Smith is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He wanted to restore a classic car so bad that he worked summers for years during high school in order to save up the money to purchase an old beater; something that would be perfect as a starter renovation project. But which one would he choose?

It cost $5,500 and needed a complete restoration. Smith did not want to do a simple repair job. He wanted something more ferocious, more intimidating, and something that he would be oh-so-proud of. But where do you even start with a crummy, 30-year old Corvette that barely runs?

The young man began the project in the summer of 2007. Smith said he was very grateful for his parents for letting him use their entire garage for the refurbishment. His dad even helped on the car project in key moments, such as participating with the differential.

Along with the garage, Smith stored parts and fiberglass in his bedroom as well as his parent’s storage room. Eventually, for additional space, he rented a storage facility. This build was getting much bigger than he anticipated. Whould he have enough room to complete the project?

Some people around Smith told him getting the car was a mistake and doubted the project would ever reach completion. He also mentioned that it was hurtful when family friends would say the car looked the same despite months of work. Smith did not let the negative comments affect him. Instead, he knew the hard work he put in. He knew how far along he had come. He couldn’t want to show them the finished product…

The exciting/scary part of this project is that when he started, Smith had little experience with cars. Not little experience with Corvettes….little experience with cars. But he always liked building things. Smith began with woodworks at the age of ten and moved to metal a few years later. But a Corvette? That’s a pretty big jump. How would he fare?

Smith knew he needed to acquire the proper knowledge for auto-body project. So where did he turn?

Initially, Smith went to a university, and after realizing it was not for him, Smith started looking for something more trade based. He did welding jobs for his uncle then worked briefly for Home Depot. Gaining industry knowledge while building his ’76 Vette. But he needed more.

After three years into the restoration project, Smith sought out an apprenticeship to work in the automotive industry, which would hopefully help him gain the skills needed to complete the project. He eventually landed a job washing cars. Close, right? It gets better, we promise.

In 2011, four years into the restoration, Byron Valcourt of Alternative Restoration hired Smith and taught him a great deal as an auto body technician and painter. This was the big break Smith needed in the timeline of his restoration. But…he had to experience a heartbreak before he could finish his Corvette.

He realized he did things wrong. He needed to redo a lot of previous work on Corvette. It was a frustrating, sad time in the rebuild; realizing that three-plus years of hard work were for nothing. But…at least he knew he would be on the right track with his new job as long as he was willing to go back nearly to the very beginning. Could he do it?

Do it he did. He went back into his project with the newfound enthusiasm that is only brought on by a surge of real confidence and optimism. 

For Smith to get the intimidating look he wanted for the Corvette’s body, he obtained fender flares. The flares he installed proved asymmetrical, so he spent two years reshaping them to get them the way he envisioned them to look. He filed a bumper kit into a custom part too. The flare proved to meet Smith’s high standards and it’s one of the accomplishments he’s most pleased about. But if you think that’ pleasing, you’ve got to see the next few photos. Real progress…

Paint also went through several iterations. Smith originally intended the car to have yellow body paint, but at the last minute he decided to change it to blue. Which blue you ask?

Smith calls the shade “alternative blue” honoring Valcourt’s restoration shop. He also added silver stripes. You’ll see the beautiful colors soon, don’t worry.

Smith cleared coated it and sanded it down as well as masked of the stripes for the silver paint. Following this process, he wet-sanded the vehicle and polished the whole surface.

Smith said witnessing the newly painted car was his favorite moment of the restoration. Once you see it, you’ll know why. It’s gorgeous!

As for the engine, after a failed attempt to send off the L48 small-block for renovation, Smith hired Rick Barnhart of Gout Racing. Not only did Barnhart get the V-8 functioning correctly, but he also made it go upwards of 500 horsepower. Perfect for a young adult, right?

Once Smith received the finished engine, he executed the detailing and appearance.

He also went with 18-inch wheels, rather than period correct 15 inches, a tough decision he had to make. But it would pay off, surely.

For the Corvette’s interior, Smith managed to obtain the correct dash pad and order parts from Willcox Corvette. As for the seats, he purchased them from Willcox Corvette as well.

First coat of “alternative blue”! Beyond that; along with the newly restored interior, Smith modernized the sound system by installing updated equipment. He put the new sound unit in the rear cargo area.

Overall, it took Smith 8 years to complete the project with redirection, revisiting sections, and handcrafting parts and body modifications. 8 years! Was it worth it? Find out…

Oh my…how beautiful. He is happy with the car and even ended up winning Rising Star, Best in Class (Full Sports), Outstanding Full/Radical Handbuilt Custom, Outstanding Paint, and Master Builder at the Calgary’s World of Wheels car show in 2015. Talk about being worth the wait!

Smith believes if you are a novice and want good results, you have to be willing to make mistakes and include that in the budget.

Here it is!! Smith said comments and support from hisCorvette forum thread were strong motivators along with pictures of other restorations. He also gives credit to his mentor Valcourt for his success.

What started as a hobby helped fuel Smith’s passion for nearly a decade, where he transformed his love into a fulfilling automotive career.

Today Smith drives his Corvette once a week. He says he continuously forgets how powerful it is behind the wheel. It was a crazy long, arduous 8 years filled with many heartbreaks and hopeful moments…but at long last, it most certainly paid off!