Corvette Fame is an annual car show held every year at the Holland Casino in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The show started in 2003 and given Valkenburg’s proximity to Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands, attracts Corvette owners from all over Europe. There is also a large group of UK Corvette owners who attend each year and this year included a member from Scotland in his C3 and another with a C7 ZR1 who lives in France. At the 2019 edition of Corvette Fame, German Frank Tatas from Aachen, Germany –only 20 minutes from Valkenburg despite being in a neighboring country — bought along a custom C2 split screen coupe. The C2 started life as a 1963 Split Window Coupe (pretty cool) – 199 people ordered a Z06 (very cool), and of these appropriately – ’63 people ticked the option box N03 (ultra cool) for the 36-gallon fuel tank. The car Frank owns is one of these ’63s.
Frank Tatas’ family owned a shopping center based around a furniture retail company and a number of smaller independent businesses, and a few years ago, the family sold up, allowing Frank to follow his passion, full time, for custom car building. Frank started building custom cars about 20 years ago as a part-time hobby, but this became his full-time passion once he had sold the shopping center. His son Lauritz, who has just completed a Master’s in Automotive Design and Engineering, cut his teeth working with Frank on a 1968 C3 at the age of about 15.
The 1963 C2 Split Screen tanker Z06 was in a particularly sorry state when Frank bought it in about 2011. He got wind of the car from a friend of a friend and found out that it was sitting in a garage. It was parked after it mysteriously caught fire on a street in Cologne, Germany. The word was that whilst the owner was away on vacation — possibly without his wife — somebody (possibly at the direction of his wife) poured a tank of fuel over the car and set fire to it. Frank bought the remains of the tragedy and decided to rebuild it as a custom C2 Split screen called C2ZR1, inspired by the Heartland Customs 1964 C2ZR1.
The car is built using the original C2 birdcage chassis, and the reason for this is that the TÜV — short for Technischer Überwachungsverein — which means Technical Inspection Association in Germany, must inspect all cars before they are registered in the country. The VIN must match the chassis to pass registration requirements. Frank kept what he could of the original 1963, including the roof, rear window section, and the left front fender. The rest of the car (more than 60-percent) was burnt beyond recognition.
Frank decided to build the car with an LS9 crate engine and use the stock C6 ZR1 brakes and suspension components. The C6 ZR1 suspension allowed Frank to position the suspension-mounting pickup points onto the original C2 chassis. The LS9 is mated to a six-speed auto 6L85-E mounted directly behind the engine. This is because a C6 style transaxle was not an option with the C2 body. Frank built all of the dashboard and interior using sheetmetal which was then wrapped in leather. The custom-built seats are upholstered in grey leather to compliment the Cyber Grey paint scheme of the car. The body actually features an exposed carbon roof that, when clear coated, closely matches the Cyber Grey paint of the rest of the car. To transmit all of the power of the LS9 to the road, Frank fitted 325/25/ZR21 Continental tires mounted on the custom center lock Innovative Wheel Engineering wheels supplied by WheelsAndMore to the rears, with complimentary 225/30ZR20 on the fronts.
Frank started the C2ZR1 project in about 2012 and completed the car in 2016.
Having completed the C2, Frank decided to build a C3ZR1 to partner with the C2ZR1, and this debuted at the 2022 edition of Corvette Fame. Using a similar process, he sourced a 1974 C3 chassis in 2017 and began the build in 2018. Again, with all of the stock suspension and brake components for a C6 ZR1 and another LS9 crate motor. But this time. it was mounted to a TREMEC T56 six-speed. Drive to the rear wheels is achieved through the differential from a Dodge Viper. The instrumentation for the custom dashboard is supplied by Dakota Digital, and a beautiful Hurst pistol grip shifter protrudes from the immaculate grey leather center console. The C3ZR1 rides on Pirelli P-Zero 265/30ZR20 front tires and 335/25/Zr21 on the rear-mounted to (of course) custom wheels, but this time a traditional five-lug pattern.
Frank employs an ex-Brabus engineer to build all of the body panel molds. These are then used to create Vacuum Infusion Process (VIP) carbon fiber panels — the creation of the panels is done by a third-party business using Frank’s molds. Frank does everything in-house apart from paint and upholstery, which he outsources to trusted local businesses.
Frank set up his own MUSCLE-CARS PRO-TOURING & CUSTOM GmbH business in Aachen, but he doesn’t build custom vehicles for anyone, only for Frank Tatas.
Should you be lucky enough to meet Frank at a local car show, Frank — who, of course, speaks perfect English — is happy to answer any questions regarding his car builds, which are not just limited to Corvettes. Frank has built more than 20 cars over the last 20 years, and those include:
- 1968 Dodge Charger running an 8.0-liter V10 sourced from a Dodge Viper
- Lamborghini Espada
- ISO Grifo running an LS6 engine
- 1968 Chevelle, a couple of Ford GT40
- 1958 Apache truck
- Carbon-fiber Cobra running a Corvette C5-R engine