Growing up I was a religious reader of car magazines — first Motor Trend, then Hot Rod, then Car and Craft. The former rarely had anything bad to say about cars it reviewed (and was rumored to have based its Car of the Year picks on advertising money spent); the other two were about modified cars.
One of those modified cars that caught my eye was this …
… explained by Corvette Blogger:
“The Big Banana” is ready to peel off again.
This heavily modified 1968 Corvette convertible was featured in a series of build articles in Car Craft Magazine from November 1975 through August 1976 and definitely stands out in a crowd with its IMSA-style widened fenders and adjustable rear deck spoiler.
Now after three years of extensive refurbishing by the current owner, it’s being offered on Bring a Trailer …
Since the new owner acquired it in 2018, this custom Stingray has been repainted in a bright shade of yellow with orange and brown stripes by Butch Brinza of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the 383 stroker V8 engine with a Holley carburetor and Edelbrock intake manifold was rebuilt last year.
The seller also has rebuilt the power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and three-speed TH400 automatic transmission, replaced the shocks, wiring harness, radiator, various belts and hoses, windshield wiper motor, and exhaust, recharged the air conditioning, and changed the oil in July.
Other features of the car include a black soft top, front and rear independent suspension, 3.08:1 differential, 15-inch American Racing wheels, power steering, and vintage-look AM/FM stereo.
Proof that this is indeed “The Big Banana” is provided by a plaque still present in the engine bay, along with magazine articles spotlighting this one-of-a-kind Corvette and how it was built. The new owner will also get two replica Hot Wheels toys and refurbishment records.
Bring a Trailer added before it sold for apparently $28,000:
This 1968 Chevrolet Corvette convertible is finished in yellow with brown and orange striping and was modified with widened bodywork as part of a build series featured in consecutive Car Craft Magazine issues between November 1975 and August 1976. Nicknamed “The Big Banana”, the car was acquired by the seller in October 2018 and refurbished over the following three years with work including repainting the body, rebuilding the 383ci stroker V8 and three-speed automatic transmission, and refreshing the brakes, suspension, and air conditioning. Additional equipment includes a black soft top, a 3.08:1 differential, 15″ American Racing wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, an adjustable rear deck spoiler, fender vents, air conditioning, power windows, and a vintage-look AM/FM stereo. This modified C3 Corvette is now offered in California with magazine articles featuring the car and build process, spare keys, refurbishment records, spare parts, two replica Hot Wheels toys, and an Arizona title in the seller’s name.
The fiberglass bodywork was modified with IMSA-style widened fenders and an adjustable rear deck spoiler as part of a build featured in Car Craft Magazine in the late 1970s. The car was repainted in yellow with orange and brown stripes by Butch Brinza of Milwaukee, Wisconsin as part of a refurbishment completed in 2021. Exterior equipment includes a black soft top, cowl-induction hood, driver-side mirror, concealed headlights, fender vents, and a dual exhaust system. The seller states that the windshield wiper motor was replaced under current ownership.
The 15″ American Racing 200S wheels measure 10″ wide up front, 12″ wide out back, and wear Hankook Ventus tires measuring 265/50 and 295/50, respectively. The car is equipped with front and rear independent suspension along with power steering. Work completed as part of the refurbishment reportedly included rebuilding the power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and replacing the shocks.
The cabin is trimmed in black vinyl upholstery and features lap belts, air conditioning, a console-mounted gear selector, power windows, sun visors, and a Corvette-branded vintage-look AM/FM radio with an auxiliary input. Replacement air conditioning components were installed as part of the refurbishment, and the air conditioning was recharged in July 2022.
The three-spoke steering wheel is mounted to a tilting column and fronts a 160-mph speedometer and a 7k-rpm tachometer along with an analog clock and auxiliary gauges in the center stack. The clock does not work. The five-digit odometer shows under 45k miles, approximately 2,500 of which were added under current ownership. Total mileage is unknown.
The 383ci stroker V8 was rebuilt in 2021 and is equipped with a Holley carburetor and Edelbrock intake manifold. Additional work completed at that time is said to have consisted of replacing the wiring harness and radiator along with various belts and hoses. The oil was changed in July 2022.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through a three-speed TH400 automatic transmission and a 3.08:1 differential. The transmission was rebuilt, and the exhaust was replaced under current ownership. …
Various magazines featuring the car and build process are included in the sale and shown in the gallery along with included spare parts and memorabilia.
Among the numerous modifications is the 1974–77-style rear end (with the 5-mph bumpers, which scandalized the owner of the first Corvette I remember seeing, a neighbor down the street) and a later-than-’68 steering column. How do I know that?
The 1968 Corvette was the only C3 to have its ignition switch on the instrument panel. In 1969 GM moved all car ignition switches (except for the Corvair, which was about to die) to the new locking steering column, one year ahead of the federal mandate. Notice through the steering column where the ignition switch is.
The Car Craft story I saw also noted that the sound system had a PA microphone added, which fascinated me for some reason.
This is the sort of thing I thought was really cool when I read it, even though I had no concept of (1) how much these mods cost and (2) how what you spend on modding a car you never get back in its resale.
Motor Trend Online adds:
Petersen magazines got a lot of mileage (so to speak) out of this widebody Vette in 1976. “It’s big, yellow, goes like the devil and attracts oglers of both sexes and every age group,” wrote Chuck Nerpel in a feature Motor Trend published in the December 1976 issue. This story capped a year in which Car Craft magazine devoted nine issues to the buildup of the “CC Vett,” taking it from an auto theft victim to the “only Corvette of its kind in the world.”
The car belonged to CC publisher Steve Green, who spent years sketching and planning the dream machine he wanted to build. Once his ideas gelled, he sought a subject car and found what Nerpel described as “a stripped 1968 Vette that had found its way into a small junkyard as the result of a car theft insurance settlement.”
There wasn’t much to the wreck, apparently, but that was fine with Green, as he would completely rebuild the car. He was fortunate that the Vette came with a heavy-duty suspension, as that gave Dick Guldstrand a solid starting point to “work his magic” on the chassis. Along with heavy-duty shocks and a rear camber kit, the suspension required “special tuning to handle the extra-wide Firestone Parnelli Jones G50x15 front tires on 8-1/2-in. rims and N50x15 rear tires on 10-in. rims.”
The wide rear meats also posed a challenge when it came time to mount the IMSA-style fenders. “New Chevy IMSA wheel coverings were cast of fiberglass; then, with lots of grinding, cutting and fitting, they were blended into the body shell. The end result was a very smooth-looking treatment combining both function and distinctive styling without that added-on look,” wrote Nerpel.
The bulging hood covered a 350ci V-8 that was modified “to achieve the best performance possible and still have an engine flexible enough to drive comfortably in traffic or on the highway,” said Nerpel. After trying out a variety of induction systems, Green settled on an Edelbrock Torker intake manifold topped by a Carter Thermoquad 9800 carburetor, “which seems to be just the right combination. On a recent 1,200-mile vacation trip, cruising at near-legal speeds, Steve logged 15.5 to 16 mpg, not bad for a 3,600-lb roadster that does a 100-mph quarter mile in 14 sec.”
Inside, Green rode in Scheel bucket seats fitted with Simpson competition belts. Stewart-Warner gauges replaced all the stock instruments, while tunes (we wonder if Green was into K.C. and the Sunshine Band, or more of a Steve Miller guy) played through a Blaupunkt AM/FM/cassette system. A radar detector was mounted near the windshield; there’s an early mobile phone tucked between the seats; and, this being the 1970s, there’s a CB radio in there, too. Given the value of all these onboard electronics, Green invested in a “very sophisticated” alarm system that had its own power supply and was “hooked to a transmitter that signals a small beeper unit Steve carries with him whenever the car is left unattended.”
The Big Banana was an attention-grabber for sure, “truly a one-of-a-kind Corvette,” as Nerpel put it. Even in car-crazy Los Angeles, during the height of the bell-bottoms-and-polyester era, it would stand out wherever Green took it.