One thing you'll quickly learn about Michael Bayley, who owns this gorgeous 2010 ZR1, is that he doesn't much care what anyone else thinks about the car. Bayley built this Corvette for himself and uses it for whatever he wants, be it track days, car shows, or street driving in either sunny South Florida or in his hometown of Selkirk, New York.
It's got an automatic transmission, which we'll get to in a minute, and a 760-rwhp powerplant under the hood, but Bayley doesn't really mind if you think that's cool or not. In fact, he didn't seem to care much about our interest in the Z, either, as most of his feature-car tech sheet was left blank or without explanation. This truly is a project for him and him alone. But when you own the world's only automatic-equipped ZR1—one that also happens to run 9.69 at 145-mph with a stock-bottom- end LS9—well, you're going to have to deal with the press that comes along with it.
Unfortunately for Bayley (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), we know his builder, Howard Tanner of Redline Motorsports, who was more than happy to divulge all the juicy details of the killer ZR1.
"I met Mike some 20 years ago, when he brought a 1994 LT1 car to my shop," says Tanner. Back then, Bayley was just getting into the high-performance car scene, and while he has certainly come a long way since, he did stray from the GM pack for quite some time. Yep, Bayley was actually a "Viper guy" for a spell, driving a twin-turbo Dodge Viper to track days and the gym (if you saw him, you'd understand) without a care in the world—until he laid eyes on the new-for-2009 Corvette ZR1.
Within no time at all, Bayley had sold the Viper and picked out his ZR1, a pristine, white, factory-stock 2010 with just under 2,000 miles on the odometer. Finally, a Corvette with enough power from the factory to satisfy Bayley's needs…right?
Of course, the ZR1 didn't stay stock for long, although the supercharged 638hp LS9 engine did tide over Bayley's need for speed for a little while. What happened next is typical for Redline customers, with a pulley swap, some custom calibration, and a cold-air intake kicking up the power and amusement level substantially. At 16 pounds of boost, the ZR1 was an animal on the streets, but it wasn't until Bayley hit the dragstrip that it all began to snowball out of control.
If you've ever had the good fortune to pilot a ZR1—even a stocker—down the 1320, you'll appreciate just how difficult it is to get off the starting line without turning the tires into a smoke show. While Bayley was able to eke out several 10-second passes, clutch issues, aborted runs, restrained launches, and missed opportunities eventually pushed him over the edge. It was time to get serious about drag racing—and for this longtime stick aficionado, that meant one thing.
"I wanted a 9-second drag car for years, and I wanted it to be consistent. After years of [owning] many 10-second manual cars, I decided it was time to do a custom auto conversion, and the ZR1 was the perfect fit for the job," Bayley says.
And so it was…well, kind of. You see, no one had ever done an auto swap into a ZR1 before, which meant it wasn't as simple as just calling up the dealer and ordering some factory parts. No, converting this beast meant pulling the entire ZR1 drivetrain, measuring twice, cutting once, and fabricating a one-off swap while keeping all of the Corvette's systems in full working order.
Under Redline's direction, the entire drivetrain was removed from Bayley's low-mileage ZR1, and the changeover began. RPM Transmissions of Anderson, Indiana, would play a critical role in the conversion process, supplying all the parts necessary to complete the swap. Up front, a custom, SFI-approved 9-bolt flexplate was engineered, then attached to the factory LS9 crankshaft and a carbon-fiber driveshaft held inside a custom torque tube. You see, the ZR1's stock torque tube is too long to work with the six-speed automatic transmission, which meant RPM had to cut and modify an earlier-model unit to work with the conversion. Once built, RPM machined two adapter plates—one for the front of the torque tube and one for the rear of the transmission—that would allow the assembly to bolt up to the factory ZR1 rearend housing while maintaining the correct spacing.
Finally, it was time to spec out the transmission itself. The end result was a Level 7 4L65E capable of handling over 800 rwhp, thanks to a plethora of heavy-duty RPM parts.
Since the drivetrain was already out of the Corvette, Bayley and the Redline crew took the opportunity to upgrade a couple of other things while they were at it. First up was the LS9 engine, whose stock cylinder heads and camshaft were replaced with a custom hydraulic roller cam and a set of Mast Motorsports 285cc heads.
While the supercharger was off, Redline meticulously ported the housing before pairing the assembly with a ported Lingenfelter intake snout and a TPIS 102mm throttle body. The ported, smoothed, and matched combination would help pull air through the intake and into the blower with less restriction, upping overall boost and increasing power in the process. Finally, a set of American Racing long-tube headers and an X-style crossover were bolted up to feed the ZR1's stock NPP Dual Mode mufflers.
With that done, it was time to reassemble Bayley's ZR1, although it wasn't as simple as bolting the newly improved drivetrain in place. First up, Redline needed to engineer a way to control the automatic and keep the factory ECU happy. This required wiring in a PCS trans controller and integrating it into the stock harness. Next, there was the issue of the interior. Since the ZR1 is only available in manual form, the entire center console had to be converted over to an auto-spec piece from a base C6. So seamless is the transformation that a casual observer could easily mistake this ZR1 for a factory-built self-shifter.
Finally, it was time to fire up Bayley's ZR1 and hit the track—though not before converting it to run on E85 ethanol instead of pump gas, and tuning the transmission to shift perfectly through all of the gears. After days of custom calibration on the dyno, Bayley's ride pumped out more than 760 rwhp and 720 lb-ft of torque.
Remember when this ZR1 was just a 10-second bolt-on car? Well, with the new transmission in place, a set of sticky tires out back, and the upgraded engine package, the car laid down an amazing 9.69-second quarter- mile pass at over 145 mph after just a couple of track outings.
Thanks to the folks at Redline and RPM, Bayley finally has the 9-second 'strip slayer he's always wanted. As for what anyone else thinks of the car, we're guessing he's not too concerned.
|Owner||Michael Bayley; Selkirk, NY|
|Block||Stock LS9 aluminum|
|Heads||Mast Motorsports Black Label aluminum (12-degree, 6-bolt)|
|Valves||Mast Motorsports 2.200-/1.600-in|
|Camshaft||Redline Motorsports custom hydraulic roller|
|Pistons||Stock forged aluminum|
|Crankshaft||Stock forged steel|
|Rods||Stock forged titanium|
|Oil System||Stock dry-sump|
|Fuel Pump||Stock in-tank|
|Fuel Injectors||Injector Dynamics 1000cc|
|Power Adder||Ported stock TVS2300 supercharger|
|Engine Management||EFI Live, tuned by Redline Motorsports|
|Exhaust||American Racing 2-in headers and "X" crossover, ZR1 mufflers|
|Transmission||RPM Transmissions Level 7 4L65E automatic|
|Converter||Coan, 2800-rpm stall speed|
|Driveshaft||RPM Transmissions custom|
|Rearend||Stock with 3.42 gears|
|Suspension||Stock with Selective Magnetic Ride Control|
|Brakes||Stock carbon ceramic discs with six-/four-piston calipers (front/rear)|
|Wheels||Stock ZR1; 19x10 (front), 20x12 (rear)|
|Tires||Stock Michelin Pilot Sport 2; 285/30ZR19 (front), 335/25ZR20 (rear)|
|Best 60-FT. Time||1.41|