Drag-and-drive events are no doubt on the rise, and there are more of them held throughout the year than ever before. Ft. Collins, Colorado’s Kelly Harvey has spent plenty of time on the dragstrip, but saw the drag-and-drive style events as a new challenge. Needing a suitable platform for his first drag-and-drive build, Harvey opted for something a little different and purchased this 1965 Corvette as his foundation.
Harvey has had quite an interesting and diverse history in drag racing, to be sure. Like many teenagers, he started out street racing, but later moved into bracket racing with a small-block-powered dragster. Ready for his next challenge, he stepped up to a blown alcohol combination and raced in the 7.0-second Nostalgia class. From that, he raced a ’41 Willys with a blown Brad Anderson Hemi engine and did some A/Gas racing before moving into the heads-up realm and racing in Outlaw 10.5 competition.
“I raced with the PSCA and eventually won an Outlaw championship in 2016 with a perfect season,” Harvey said of his exploits. “We qualified number one and won every race in the Rocky Mountain Summer Series that year.”
During the 2015 and 2016 racing seasons, Harvey decided to try out the drag-and-drive format and entered a 1955 Chevy at Rocky Mountain Race Week. The shoebox was a solid 9-second performer.
“It was awesome — the people, the places, and the cars were very cool,” Harvey said of the experience. “I was hooked on that style of racing, but I wanted to do it on a higher level.”
After that, Harvey decided to build another race car, and picked up a basket case Tim McAmis-built Chevy Nova that was partially finished. He spent the next two years building it and then went out and collected two more outlaw championships in 2019 and 2020.
“I also tried my hand at some street racing during 2019 and raced with Team Wyoming on “Street Outlaws Fastest In America” with JJ Da Boss — that was fun,” he said of his time on the Discovery Channel reality show.
When Covid hit in 2020, Harvey doubled down on his towing business and sold the Nova to make sure he was able to get through whatever was coming. Once the pandemic was behind him, he decided to get back in the driver’s seat and focus his efforts on the drag-and-drive events.
He then purchased this 1965 Corvette to build specifically for drag-and-drive events, and he was planning on collecting far quicker time slips than 9 seconds at a hit.
“It’s an old NMCA nitrous car that had a turbo small-block Chevy in it for the last two years,” Harvey said of the C2 Corvette that was a complete car, unlike the Nova when he bought that.
“I redid everything on it. I changed the drivetrain, color, interior, updated it to my specification. I upgraded it to the LS drivetrain and brought it into the 21st century,” Harvey explained. “I pretty much tore into it right away, disassembled it, grabbed what I could use. It was a 7.50-certified chassis and I updated it to a 6.50. It was nice looking, but had no detail inside or underneath.”
The detail-oriented renovation began with the wiring, as Harvey re-wired the car with help from Drag Week alumnus Shawn Fink and Prodigy Motorsports. A Big Stuff 3 digital dash provides the driver with the necessary engine information, and a set of Kirkey low-back aluminum racing seats hold the occupants firmly in place. In general, it’s a pretty tight cabin, especially with the 6.50-specified amount of roll cage tubing inside.
On the outside, Harvey kept the original 4-link-suspended Ford 9-inch rearend in it, which is stuffed with Mark Williams 3.89 gears and 40-spline axles. He then updated the front suspension with aftermarket control arms, switched the steering linkage to manual rack-and-pinion steering setup (yes, the entire front end was still stock Corvette) and fitted Strange Engineering disc brakes to all four corners.
For the powertrain, Harvey continued with the modernization theme and chose an LSX-based engine.
“I wanted to do drag-and-drive, and the LS reliability is so much better,” Harvey said. “It’s so easy to find parts because they are so popular. The bang for the buck is hard to beat.” But Harvey didn’t settle for just any LSX build — he located a stunning and capable piece on the used market that was coming out of a late-model, drag-and-drive Corvette.
The foundation for the new engine a World Products Warhawk LS7 aluminum block, which is based on the 427 cubic-inch LS7 platform, but can be taken out to 454 cubic inches as needed. Said Warhawk has been stuffed with a Callies Performance Products crankshaft and GRP connecting rods, and topped with World Products’ Warhawk LS7 cylinder heads. He bought the 427 cubic-inch engine from drag-and-drive competitor Shawn Fink, who had Steve Morris Engines freshen it up before selling it to Harvey.
Of course, there is a power adder to boost the big engine’s performance, and it’s a 102mm turbocharger from Forced Inductions.
“The turbo was the plan for streetability. The ease of using them makes sense for that style of racing. It’s some learning curve, because I’m not a turbo guy. I’ve always been a blower guy,” Harvey said of the arguably preferred power adder of most drag-and-drive competitors.
Managing the engine’s operation is a Big Stuff 3 Gen 4 electronic fuel injection system, and Harvey had help from Big Stuff 3’s Ben Davidow and Bryan Metzenheim to get the tuneup just right. The engine management also operates a set of smart coils that light the air from the turbocharger and the fuel that is pumped reliably by an Aeromotive Spur Gear 18 gpm mechanical fuel pump. Harvey fabricated the 12 gallon fuel cell himself out of aluminum.
With an estimated 2,500 horsepower on tap, the Corvette needed a capable transmission, and Harvey decided to utilize the two-speed Powerglide that came with the car and was built by Aaron Ginn of Bubba Ginn Racing Transmissions. Because of all of the street miles that drag-and-drive cars log (usually between 500 and 1,000 over the course of an event), Harvey decided to add a Gear Vendors overdrive unit to wisely knock down the engine RPM on the highways.
With the mechanical and electrical upgrades completed, the only thing left for Harvey to do was to re-paint the car. As purchased, it was slathered in silver and white, so Harvey opted for something far more vibrant and bathed the Corvette in a metallic red and black combination. “It needed body work,” he told us. “Old Corvettes are usually cracked, and this one had bad bodywork the closer you looked at it.
With the build complete, Harvey entered the Corvette in a few Pacific Street Car Association small-tire races in Denver. Later, he had his oldest son, Chase, pilot the ride at the Street Car Super Nationals event in Las Vegas.
After that, it was time for Harvey to get his feet wet at his first drag-and-drive event, the inaugural Sick Week in 2022. Time wasn’t on his side, though, and he didn’t have any of it to dedicate to shaking the Corvette down on the street to make sure it was road-worthy. He did get to Bradenton Motorsports Park three weeks prior to the event, however, to sort out the car on the track, but things did not go as planned, or well, at all.
“The hood flew off 100 feet in the air and I had to find a new hood and do the body repair to the car,” Harvey explained. “Then I painted the hood and fenders in the pits. It wasn’t long after he had finished his repairs and the car was back on track, that the Corvette wheelied high enough to come crashing down and caused a bunch more damage in the process. This time, the Gear Vendors overdrive unit, transmission pan, and front A-arms were all busted up, not to mention the event caused even more body damage.
Once the event kicked off, Harvey clicked off a 7.90-second run, but things went further south once on the street, as the car overheated on day one.
Between then and Sick Week of 2023, Harvey made further repairs and upgrades, and completely repainted the car, taking it from the brilliant maroon shade back to a factory color.
“The gold is a much more forgiving color. I knew I was going to drive it, and this hides the dust much better.” We love the vintage look that the car has now, and its stance as it sits hunkered down over its American Racing wheels is perfect.
Once again, Harvey wasn’t able to road-test the car due to parts shipment delays, but he was confident the changes he made would resolve the overheating issues. On day one, he clocked a 7.80 at Orlando Speed World Dragway and then packed up and headed to the next stop, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He didn’t get a good run in there, and didn’t have another shot at improving his time due to his late arrival there, so he headed for South Georgia Motorsports Park.
While on I75 headed north, Harvey noticed flames flickering from between the fender and hood gaps. He quickly pulled over, but by the time he stopped, the flames were 8 feet tall.
“it was a big-boy fire,” he said. “There were firetrucks and all!” Thankfully he had equipped the Corvette with an on-board fire suppression system, and his son Cole had been following in his own Camaro and they used his extinguisher while waiting for the emergency services to show up.
“I think we saved the car. As bad as it is, it could have burnt all the way to the ground and it didn’t.” Harvey feels the dry sump oil system may have had a line fail or come loose, but the damage has really prevented him from knowing for sure.
Now, the plan is to rebuild once again and make it to Rocky Mountain Race Week later this year. The Corvette has run a best 1/4-mile time of 7.40, so the potential is there if Harvey can sort out the car’s many gremlins.
“We are just going to redo it. The whole car needs re-wired, re-plumbed, and repainted again, and I’ve got to body work on at least the front half of the car. There has certainly been a lot of hard work put into this build, and Harvey credits his son Chase as well as his entire family for being support before and during the race weekend. He would also like to thank Crossroads Towing, Big Stuff 3, Prodigy Motorsports and Metz Performance for all of their help.
“We will be back. We made the top 100 so we should get a first chance to re-enter.”
We hope to see the mid-year Corvette back as well, and running as good as it looks.