Like many red-blooded car nuts throughout the world, Ron Ross of McKinney, Texas, had always wanted a red Corvette. Sure, he'd owned some serious street machines in the past, (like the "beefed up" '70 Nova, complete with an LT-1, Mr. Gasket shifter, and steel wheels, that he drove as a teenager) and later found his way into a pair of late-model SS Camaros (that's after a marriage and family induced penance in economy car hell.) But as anyone with a beating heart well knows, there's nothing like a red Corvette to increase one's pulse rate and get the blood flowing.
In Ross' case, a convergence of two fortuitous events made it happen. The first is that Ron had spent a decade building up his business, Cameron-Ashley Building Products, and was in a position to buy a Corvette. The second was the introduction of the fifth-generation Corvette. Even then, there was a hitch; the local Chevy dealer was sold out, and all he could do was put Ron's name on the waiting list. The Fates were smiling, though, and the dealer called in early July. Someone had decided not to buy a red six-speed Coupe, and Ron didn't have to be asked twice if he wanted it. He gave up his '97 SS in trade, but he had his red Corvette.
For awhile, that was enough. "I had it about a year before modifying it," Ron remembers. "it was my daily driver, and a lot of fun." After awhile, he stopped driving the C5 regularly, wanting to keep the miles down and the car in nice shape. That, however, didn't mean that Ron was satisfied with the Vette as is. When asked why he began modifying his Coupe, the answer is simple, yet compelling: "The need for speed, I guess." That being "why" enough, Ron quickly discovered "how." While taking a ride with the chief financial officer of his company, Gary Swan, Ron mentioned that wanted to "boost the car a bit," and did he know of anyone who could do this?
Gary, who had been into Corvettes for a number of years, knew just the place: LG Motorsports. When Ron found out the LG's motto is "Where Money Buys Speed," the first thought through his head was, "I'm gonna like this."
Ron struck up a friendship with LG founder and namesake Lou Gigliotti, and it didn't take long for the pair to end up on the same page as far as the desire to go fast. Which shouldn't be much of a surprise. Gigliotti, after all, races a Corvette-bodied car (built by LG) in the BFGoodrich Trans-Am series. Lou hasn't done too bad, either, winning the event at Long Beach, California, en route to a sixth-place finish in the 2001 series.
Right off the bat, Ross gave Gigliotti and crew a very specific power goal. The fact that this goal was 600 horsepower (on nitrous) might have made some builders blanch, LG didn't even blink. Ross' power lust was satisfied by substantially improving the stock LS1's breathing capabilities. LG slid in a more-aggressive-than-stock Comp Cams camshaft, sporting .528-inch lift and 218 degrees of duration on the intake, along with .535-inch and 224 degree specs on the exhaust side. Comp Cams chrome-moly pushrods run up to the small-block's ported and polished heads, where the stock 1.7-ratio rockers activate new stainless steel valves (2 inches on the intakes and 1.57 inches on the exhausts) fitted with Comp Cams springs.
A C5 Pro Cold intake system allows the hopped-up Gen III to take advantage of its improved breathing ability, though, of course, the really big breaths are taken when this red rocket gets a 100-115 horsepower shot of laughing gas from an NOS nitrous system. The stock coil-on-plus ignition system lights the fires, while the spent gasses are evacuated via TPIS 1-3/4-inch long-tube headers, an LG Motorsports crossover pipe, and a Borla cat-back.
To handle the anticipated pavement-shredding power, LG beefed up the stock T56 transaxle and added a B&M shifter. The beast also needed new computer programming to take full advantage of the modifications. The C5's brain was sent off to GM's Racing Lab in Detroit, and a few weeks later Ross and Gigliotti received a new unit back, complete with new and better instructions for the extra-muscular LS1.
In this case, Ross got more than he bargained for. His red Vette did make 600 horsepower; at this level, however, the car tried to "rip the rearend off." And though we're sure Ron hated to give back any of that power, some slight detuning was in order. Smaller jets in the nitrous system brought things down to a slightly more reasonable level (if you can call 440 normally aspirated horsepower with a jump to 540 while on the bottle "reasonable").
"It's got huge traction," Ross says, and all that grip comes courtesy of LG's G2 Coilover System. To make sure all that power gets to the road, and that Ross' C5 can be adjusted for any conditions (read, set up for racing), LG replaced the stock Corvette suspenders with Bilstein shocks sporting Eibach coil springs at all four corners. The results are impressive. In Ross' words, Gigliotti "made it a racing car. It handles unbelievably...you can take corners at ungodly speeds. It just revs and goes."
And given the fact that Ross has timed his red racer (with a stopwatch) at 2.9-3.0 seconds from 0-60, the Vette's stopping power was also upgraded. Brembo brakes with 14-inch rotors were mounted up front, and the stock Corvette front binders were moved to the rear of the car. "It stops on a dime," Ross reports. The new front brakes necessitated a set of custom wheels to fit over them, and Forgeline filled the bill with a set of three-piece WC3 wheels: 18x9.5-inch up front, 18x11-inch out back, and shod with Michelin MX3 rubber, including monster 325/30-18s on the aft end.
Befitting this red Corvette's new nastier attitude, LG also performed a cosmetic makeover, adding their G2 raised hood, front and rear spoilers, and enough stickers to let other drivers know what they're messing with. The Vette was also fitted with a G2 rollbar and Simpson harnesses. All of this, of course, begs the question, "Just what are you going to do with this thing?"
"It's a toy," Ron tells us. "I was gonna race it (Ross has attended several driving schools, including a NASCAR course and a sports car course at RoadAtlanta). I had a suite at Texas Motor Speedway and could've run it there. I still might do it, but I start doing other things. I'd like to do it at least once, though." And then, no doubt considering what his creation could do on the track, Ron declares that, "I have more money than brains." We won't comment on whether or not that's true; in fact we prefer to think of Ron Ross and his red '97 as well-prepared--for just about anything.