789s are best of past, present

06/25/08 - The New Detroit News

By Larry Edsall


Cars use elements from 1957, '58, '59 Chevrolets and transplants them on modern Corvette chassis.

Take the most distinctive elements of the 1957, 1958 and 1959 Chevrolets, put them together around a new Corvette chassis and what do you have? You have the spectacular 789 from Kanter Concepts and n2a Motors.

Like so many creations, "it started on a napkin," says Gene Langmesser, a Fraser native and president and COO of Kanter Concepts and n2a Motors, both based in Santa Ana, Calif.

Rough sketches on the napkin resulted from a conversation about the highlights of the late-'50s Chevrolet models. "We did a real sketch and a year and a couple months later we got enough guts to put a clay (model) together," Langmesser adds. "We bought a C6 (late-model Chevrolet Corvette) and ripped the body panels off," bolted on wood forms and then covered the chassis with 1,500 pounds of automotive modeling clay.

After the sculpting was done -- sculpting that provided the car with a nose much like that of the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, body sides inspired by the '58 Impala and fins and tail lamps very reminiscent of those on the '59 Chevy -- the body was laser scanned into a design computer, where it was cleaned up so that forms to create body panels could be milled.

The resulting vehicle, the 789, the name based on the last digits of 1957, 1958 and 1959, was displayed at automotive shows in Las Vegas (November 2007) and New York City (April 2008). The goal is to sell as many as 100 copies. Nos. 15, 16 and 17 are under construction with sales contracts just in for Nos. 18 and 19, Langmesser said.

Conversion of a new Corvette into a 789 costs $75,000. The interior is left pretty much alone, except for seats that get a tri-color treatment similar to those used in some 1958 Chevys.

Kanter Concepts and n2a Motors (n2a stands for 'no two alike," a result of its hand-craftsmanship) has two other vehicles in the works. It will produce coupe and convertible models of the Anteros concept in a joint venture and is working on its own Stinger, another reskinned 'Vette, but this time using a front end inspired by the '67 'Vette, body sides much like those from the '65 Corvette and a greenhouse like that on the famed '63 Split Window.

The Kanter in Kanter Concepts is Fred Kanter, who, with his brother, started a company to find and sell and then to reproduce parts for Packards and other old cars.

Kanter bought MSX International's Michigan-based concept car building operation and moved it to California as Kanter Concepts.

Langmesser studied mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and worked for General Motors Corp. and Fisher Body, then at Porsche and Opel in Europe before joining Kanter's operation.

For information, visit www.n2amotors.com