A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino’s Rod And Custom - story fullscreen Fullscreen

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino’s Rod And Custom

Dino’s Rod And Custom has created some of the most legendary Corvette conversions.

Regardless of the generation, the Chevrolet Corvette is often the go-to platform for epic conversions. Whether you want to recreate a classic design, like the Zagato IsoRivolta GTZ, on top of a modern chassis or create something entirely new, like the Ares Design S1, it seems the Corvette is able to take it. With this in mind, Dean “Dino” Arnold has been doing Corvette conversions for decades and has created some truly epic stuff. Moreover, he’s far from done, as he is working on three, high-performance builds, based on the C7 Corvette.

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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Dean “Dino” Arnold has been a master of aluminum and fiberglass fabrication, in the automotive scene, for decades. Some of his achievements include Hot Rod designer of the year, builder of the year, and others, with many of his cars being award-winning at Pebble Beach and SEMA, over the years. His work includes replicas of classic Corvettes, Cheetahs, 34 Ford Coupe, and even European exotics like the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Daytona. Here are some of the highlights and what we can expect in the future.

Chevroelt Corvette Avelate 53

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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The Avelate 53 is a retro-futuristic conversion, based on the C5. Initially, Dino made two of them, one of which belongs to Kit Kat – the pinstripe artist, responsible for the amazing graphics on many of Dino’s builds. He recently told us that there are about 30 Avelate 53 Corvettes, currently in existence. The Avelate 53 was actually built to commemorate Corvette’s 50th anniversary.

The Avelate 53 is, arguably, one of the most recognizable cars, made by Dino’s Rod And Custom. It was built on a stock C5 Corvette chassis and featured a stock 5.7-liter LS-1 V-8 engine with 345 horsepower and 350 pound-feet (475 Nm). Inside the Avelate 53 was basically a stock C5, but on the outside, it featured an all-new fiberglass body that resembled early C1 Corvettes, from 1953, hence the name.

Chevrolet Corvette Avelate Speedster

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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Whereas the Avelate was more of a throwback to the 1950s Corvettes, the Avelate Speedster was all about performance. The car still looked gorgeous, featuring a low windshield and a curvaceous new, fiberglass body that was inspired by the “Coca Cola” C3 Corvette, with a bit of C2 Corvette Stingray. This particular one was plenty quick too, thanks to a built engine with a Carrol supercharger on top. GM stylist, Don Johnson, who worked closely with Dean, over the years, was responsible for the Speedster’s design. Dino told us that his purple Speedster, which si also equipped with a six-speed manual, is capable of 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 229 mph (368 km/h).

Chevrolet Corvette Avelate Split-Window Coupe

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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The Avelate Speedster is a direct throwback to the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette. Only the 1963 model year of the C2 Corvette Stingray has the split rear window, which is why these are the most sought-after, by collectors. Dino tells us he is the first to replicate the iconic design on a newer Corvette. Once again, the back then new C5 generation was chosen for the build. Only a handful of these split-window C5 conversions are believed to exist, with some sources claiming the number to be 11.

Most of the Avelate Split-Window cars are believed to have a stock LS-1 engine, but at least one is believed to have received a Magnuson supercharger. There was also a convertible version, which looks similar to the Speedster, but with a full-size windshield, like on the coupes. According to a listing on Mecumi Auctions’ website, a C5 Split-Window conversion was sold in 2019, for the modest sum of $27,500.

Mako Shark

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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Throughout Corvette’s history, many iconic concepts came to life. The Manta Ray and Mako Shark are some of the most radical and memorable among them and Dino’s Rod and Custom (DRC) is able to perfectly recreate those as well. In fact, they are currently working on a fiberglass molding, which would result in a replica of the iconic Mako Shark, of which only two exist – Mako Shark I that inspired the C2 Corvette Stingray and Mako Shark II, which was followed by the production C3 Corvette. The one built by DRC features a 454 cubic-inch V-8, under a clamshell front end.

Ford Thunderflite

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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Although Dean “Dino” Arnold has a long-lasting partnership with GM, his projects are not limited to Chevrolet Corvette conversions. One of his most unique projects, to this day, is the bubble top Thunderflite – a bright silver, space-age-looking speed machine, based on the third-generation Ford Thunderbird, produced between 1961 and 1963.

Post World War II America was looking towards the future and many car manufacturers attempted to imagine the car of the future. Among them were the Cadillac Cyclone, Lincoln Futura, Chrysler Turbine Car, and others. Like-wise, that’s where Dino’s vision for a Ford of the future came from.

The roof is, by far, the most unique design element of Thunderflite. Dean says he took inspiration from “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” and Captain Nemo’s submarine – Nautilus. While we don’t recommend you drive it underwater, the Thunderflite certainly looks amazing.

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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One of the more unusual decisions was to swap the factory 390 cubic-inch V-8 for a smaller 302 Windsor, with a Holley 650 carburetor, GM HEI ignition, and other mild modifications. The Thunderflite also featured a modified gearbox, as well as rear differential and independent rear suspension (IRS) from a 1994 Thunderbird SHO. Interestingly enough, the Thunderflite has drum brakes at the front and disc brakes at the rear. The car rode on a computerized Air Suspension, from Ride Tech.

Like other of Dino’s creations, Thunderflite was featured in many car magazines, including SEMA magazine, Street Rodder Magazine, Rod & Kulture magazine, and others. It even won Best-in-Show, at the 2008 SEMA Show. According to Mecum Auctions, Thunderflite was auctioned off, in 2012, for $140,000.

Con Air Corvette

A Deep Look At Legendary Corvette Builder Dino's Rod And Custom
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Remember the 1967 Chevrolet Corvette C2 Stingray Convertible from the 1997 Con Air, starring Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, and John Cusack? Dino made the cars that were used in the movies. Luckily some survived (we don’t know how many), but one of them was auctioned off in 2012.

This particular one had a 427 cubic-inch Big—block V-8 that puts out 435 horsepower and is mated to a four-speed manual. According to the Barret Jackson website, it’s completely restored, goes with full documentation, and matching numbers. The car even includes memorabilia from the movie. Luckily, this one was not attached to a plane.

What’s next?

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In addition to still making various replicas, like the Bill Thomas Cheetah, Dino has now turned his attention to the C7 platform. In fact, he is planning a new line of Avelate builds. He told us that like before, there will be an Avelate 53, a coupe version with a split rear window, a convertible, and a speedster. With the latter, he is planning to tackle 250 mph (402 km/h).

More importantly, Dino has GM’s endorsement and all his builds come with a warranty. As for the C7 platform, we can safely say it’s the pinnacle of front-engine Corvettes, which makes it a capable platform. Dino only told us work is underway, but once DRC’s C7-based builds are ready, we expect them to be something truly exciting.

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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