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Published 6/5/24

A C3 Beast: This 1969 Corvette is Powered by an LS376/480 Crate Engine

WORDS: DAN HODGDON 

PHOTOS: NATE LIGHT

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HOT ROD Power Tour is a trip like no other. Each June, thousands of hot rod brethren load up and visit a different city each day on a weeklong journey. Throughout the event, Chevrolet Performance maintains a significant presence.

As any performance enthusiast can attest, there are certain vehicles that you just wish you had back. For Don Milligan, that was a low-mileage, all-original 1969 Corvette with a removable hardtop. While that car is now part of history, today Milligan has a similar C3 Vette. The silver Stingray is built in a restomod style and powered by a Chevrolet Performance LS376/480 crate engine.*

Don Milligan’s 1969 Corvette Stingray is built in a restomod style.

Milligan is one of the owners of Raleigh Speed Shop, located on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, North Carolina.


“Our shop does a lot of restomods, so I decided I want to do that,” Milligan said in late April during the Goodguys Griot’s Garage North Carolina Nationals. “I wanted to do it with an LS of course.”


Added shop senior technician Greg Folino, “It’s got all the bells and the whistles. All the modern technology.”


With a variety of projects always going in and out of the shop, the build has taken several years to complete. However, the Raleigh Speed Shop team worked hard on the project over the last year to be sure it was ready for this spring’s Goodguys event in Raleigh.

A Chevrolet Performance LS376/480 crate engine* is under the hood of the Corvette.

Milligan found the Corvette in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was a base-model Stingray with a 350 cu.-in. Small-Block engine, making it a prime candidate for a restomod build. The car has been entirely stripped down, including removing the body, and underwent a complete restoration.

 

At the heart of the modern version of the car is the LS376/480 crate engine. The power plant is capable of 495 horsepower and 473 lb.-ft. of torque.

 

Milligan points to both the reliability and drivability of the LS engine as the reason for choosing the platform.

 

“We’ve had good experiences with them, we've done a number of custom builds here at RSS using the crate LS power plant,” he said.

The engine fills up the engine bay of the Corvette but still looks right at home.

The LS376/480 is based on the standard LS3,* but the 480 horsepower comes from an upgrade in the form of an LS Hot cam. Its duration allows the engine’s valves to stay open longer and draw in more air from the rectangular-port, L92-style aluminum cylinder heads.

 

For Milligan, the engine produces just the right amount of horsepower for a relatively small and lightweight vehicle.

 

“It’s a beast,” he said.

 

Milligan’s engine also incorporates a custom-fabricated exhaust system, and the power plant is mated to a TREMEC five-speed transmission.

The car is painted in an eighth-generation Corvette color.

Other vehicle upgrades include powder coating on the original chassis, a Van Steel performance suspension system, and Diamondback redline tires wrapped around custom Forgeline Grudge wheels with knockoffs. A Wilwood disc-brake system brings the Corvette to a stop.

 

The car was red when Milligan bought it, but it is now painted in a C8 Corvette color known as “Blade Silver.” The color is close to the famed Cortez Silver that was on the car that Milligan sold and regretted. Thus, the restomod theme even extends to the paint selection. In addition, the current incarnation of the car features both a removable hardtop and a cloth top. Other exterior updates include electric headlight buckets and an electric wiper door, both from Detroit Speed.

The interior includes many modern upgrades and creature comforts.

Inside, the Corvette sports a custom red leather interior by JB Auto Upholstery in Raleigh. Amenities come in the form of Dakota Digital gauges, a Vintage Air system, a RetroSound radio with Bluetooth capability and a custom center console. Additional modern upgrades include power windows, power locks, a hidden antenna, push-button start and a security system.

 

Milligan, who originally hails from Burlington, North Carolina, is a lifelong car enthusiast and owns a wide variety of vehicles. His first car in high school was a 1966 Pontiac GTO given to him by his grandmother. It was originally ordered by his grandfather specially for her. Milligan even still has the car. 

 

“I was always the kid that played with Hot Wheels and ever since I was old enough to walk, I’ve loved cars,” MIlligan said. “But having a ’66 GTO when you’re 16 years old kind of keeps that bug in you.” 

 

Milligan’s passion even extends to his business, which isn’t his full-time job. He is the chief commercial officer at CBX Global in Greensboro, North Carolina, and became an owner of Raleigh Speed Shop approximately a dozen years ago, when it was known as Eastern Rod and Customs.

Car owner and Raleigh Speed Shop proprietor Don Milligan (left) and senior shop technician Greg Folino.

The shop builds all kinds of projects, including many powered by LS engines. In fact, among its most memorable builds is a 1929 Cadillac LaSalle with an LS376/480 under the hood just like his Corvette. 

 

“Any customer with a GM that is looking for a performance upgrade, and particularly a restomod, comes to us and they see something like [the Corvette] or the Cadillac as opposed to a strict restoration,” Milligan said. “They say, ‘Man, that's an old car but it drives like a new one. And it has the reliability of a new one and performs much better.’”

 

At places like Raleigh Speed Shop, the versatility of the LS platform is on full display.

 

Be sure to keep watching The BLOCK for more Chevrolet Performance builds from Goodguys events across the nation.

 

*Because of their effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, these engines are intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles. These engines are designed and intended for use in vehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public roads, streets or highways. Installation or use of these engines on a vehicle operated on public roads, streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions.

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