Black Thunder: Kurt Roth’s Big-Block 1966 Corvette

Second-generation Corvettes are highly sought-after vehicles thanks to their place in sports car history. You can find examples of these cars that have been restored to showroom new condition, as well as highly customized pieces of art. Kurt Roth’s “Black Thunder” Corvette is a 1966 model year build that now wears a 1963 split window Corvette suit and is rocking a massive big-block Chevy for power.

Kurt was originally drawn into the automotive world by his father. However, his first adventure in being an adult started with a computer science degree and employment in that field. After 20 years in corporate America, Kurt had enough and decided to jump into the automotive trade. Now, Kurt runs his own shop, First Place FAB, and cranks out high-end custom cars like Black Thunder for his customers.

Black Thunder wasn’t always a gorgeous vehicle, it was actually given a death sentence and was ready to be sent to the landfill. Thankfully, Kurt stepped in and brought the car back to life.

“I had completed a couple of projects for a customer and I told him if he ever came across a C2 that wasn’t in great shape to let me know. Well, a few years later he called me and said he found a car that was right in the ballpark of what I was looking for. The body of the car was pretty much shot, and the owner had taken it to a few shops to get some quotes on what it would take to restore it. They all told him the restoration costs were greater than the value of the car, so I got it for next to nothing,” Kurt says.

Kurt dragged what would become Black Thunder back to his shop, came up with a plan, and started to work the car over front to rear. Before the bodywork started on the car, Kurt wanted to make sure the chassis was squared away. A custom Art Morrison chassis was ordered for the car and was stretched two inches. A four-link suspension was added to the car with a 9-inch rearend and Strange Engineering coilover shocks. Wilwood disc brakes can be found at each corner of the Corvette. Finally, Kurt added a 10-point roll cage to Black Thunder for good measure.

The Corvette is powered by a massive 632 cubic-inch big-block Chevy mill that uses a Merlin block as its foundation. On top of the rat motor there’s a set of Brodix BB3 CNC cylinder heads, along with Hilborn stacks that are part of the Holley EFI system. The engine is backed by a TREMEC T56 six-speed transmission.

Inside the car, you’ll find a custom interior that Kurt had a big part in creating. Kurt fabricated all the metalwork for the interior before the custom coverings were made for everything. The seats were sourced from TMI.

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Kurt really put a lot of effort into the body of his Corvette. The deep black paint is draped over some outstanding bodywork that transformed Kurt’s car into a work of art.

“I wanted a split window car, but this was a 1966 model which was a non-split window car. So, I bought a split window conversion for it. I changed it over to flush mount glass and then I also put a ‘63 front end on because I wanted it to still look like a ’63. The hood is a ’67 stinger-style hood. When I lengthened the wheelbase that moved the rear wheel openings back. To accommodate that change, I had to make some molds and change other body panels as well. Since I went with a larger radiator for the big engine, the front valance needed to be cut and dropped as well,” Kurt explains.

Kurt Roth took a car that was considered trash by many people and turned it into a real treasure. The elevated level of craftsmanship that was infused into Black Thunder is outstanding. This is the kind of car you could stop and look at for an extended period of time and still miss all the details that have been woven into the build.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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