1976 Chevy Corvette Survivor With Crazy Graphics Is Back on the Road!

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This time capsule Chevy Corvette show car is a look back at the crazy customs of the early 1980s.



a car parked on a beach: 001-1976-Corvette-ISCA-Cosmic-Racer-1980s-show-car-custom-murals-babarian-retro


© Hot Rod Network Staff
001-1976-Corvette-ISCA-Cosmic-Racer-1980s-show-car-custom-murals-babarian-retro

Back in the day, in this case the early ’80s, the car show culture was quite a bit different than today. Back then it was less about performance and more about crazy customizations. It was wild, and the rides that were shown off through organizations such as the International Show Car Association (ISCA) were often pretty outlandish by today’s standards. Formed in 1962, the ISCA became a sanctioning body for high-end indoor car shows. It didn’t put on the events but instead managed the judging and other aspects, including a series championship.

Related: 10 Best 1980s Cars to Restore

This points-based championship inspired hot rodders to build crazier customs in hopes of one-upping the other competitors. Not many of the cars from these early ’80s shows are still around, but Michael Nelson found this very cool 1976 Corvette show car survivor with crazy ’80s graphics!



a close up of a car: 1976 Chevy Corvette


© Hot Rod Network Staff
1976 Chevy Corvette

Nelson picked up the ’76 ISCA show-winning Chevy Corvette about three years ago. It had been stored away since the late 1980s and was pretty much unchanged since its early show days. About all Nelson has done is clean it up (a job that’s still in progress), and he had the Corvette clearcoated to preserve the 41-year-old paint job.

’80s car graphics and more



a bag of luggage: 1976 Chevy Corvette interior


© Hot Rod Network Staff
1976 Chevy Corvette interior

The interior is everything you would expect for a vintage show car: crazy upholstery with over-the-top additions like a TV in the dash. Nelson was also able to give us some history on the car. As he told us: “Michael H. Nelson had the ‘Vette modified and painted this way in November 1980 for the ISCA show at Place Bonaventure in Montreal, Canada. It won Best Interior, Best Paint, 1st in Class, and, most surprisingly, the People’s Choice award. It was his first exhibition, so the Corvette, aptly named Cosmic Racer, did very well. The body and the paint were done in Saint-Hyacinthe, Canada. The interior was also done in Saint-Hyacinthe, but at another shop. Subsequently, the Corvette did exhibitions for three years all over Canada and the United States, where it won quite a few awards. The ‘Vette also won the first Corvette Challenge on August 19, 1979, at the drag races. “



1976 Chevy Corvette engine


© Hot Rod Network Staff
1976 Chevy Corvette engine

After decades of storage, the engine bay is a bit of a mess, but Nelson plans to clean it up to be more in line with how it looked in its heyday. As mentioned, the candy red paint had broken down and faded over the years, which gives the car a unique look, but the insane graphics still look awesome in all their retro glory. And yes, the 350 small-block with the huge cam still runs, and the car drives well. For some strange reason we have the urge to go watch Conan the Barbarian now.

As Nelson recalled: “I always wanted to have an early 1980s show car in my collection, so when I saw this Corvette, I had to have it. The previous owner lived in Thailand, but everything came together for the purchase. I chose to leave the custom plush interior complete with old-school black and white TV as it was shown in the ’80s to show the younger generation what was cool back then. I had the old custom paint protected with five coats of clear to preserve the original paint the best I could. I consider it a piece of automotive history keeping the culture alive. Driving it is like driving a time machine. “

— Images courtesy ofMichael Nelson

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