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SPECIAL REPORT: DREAM MACHINES

Reinventing the Wheel

Daryl Gisser: Improving a Classic

October 29, 1998|JOHN O'DELL

Like Callaway and hordes of other car builders and tuners, the Gisser brothers selected the Chevrolet Corvette as the base for their dream. But designer Daryl Gisser, 35, didn't want to merely improve the 'Vette, so he threw out most of what Chevy had done and rearranged the rest.

The Gisser, which is not yet in production, keeps the Corvette cockpit but cradles it in a new tubular alloy-steel frame that Gisser says makes for a stronger, stiffer car. The Gisser frame also places the two-seater's 467-horsepower GM engine behind the driver. A Porsche racing transaxle transfers the ponies to the pavement. The projected result of all this power: 0 to 60 in four seconds and a top speed of 200 mph.

The genesis of the Gisser follows a familiar path, says Nolan Gisser, 38, who handles sales and publicity chores for Gisser Automotive Concepts in upstate New York.

All six of the Gisser brothers, he says, grew up in a family environment that encouraged creativity, and though not all were car nuts from the start, they enjoyed going to auto shows and followed design trends.

"We got tired of seeing all the neat concept cars at the shows that looked great but never made it into production," Daryl says. "So I thought we could take it the next step and make a real car for people who are seeking something special, like the concepts always promise."

Gisser Automotive Concepts started developing the MEC4 ("ME" for "mid-engine" and "C4" for the 1984-96 'Vette C-4 platform the car uses) about five years and $1 million ago, Nolan says, the project having moved gradually from the Gissers' garage into a succession of larger shops. A deal with redevelopment authorities in White Lake, N.Y., now has the company in a 15,000-square-foot industrial building near the county airport, where the first production MEC4 "is about 85% completed."

Pricing is in the $118,000 to $120,000 range for a car equipped with the high-power Lingenfelter engine, and Gisser says it will build cars with other, less powerful Corvette engines if customers want. The company will also convert a customer's existing C-4 platform Corvette into a Gisser for under $90,000.

And because car dreamers never sleep, the Gissers are already at work designing the MEC5, which will use components of the current Corvette platform introduced in 1997.

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