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“Not Quite” Corvettes - Creative Uses for Spare Parts

Wherein we explore several creative uses for all those spare parts

Steve Temple Mar 19, 2014
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More is better when it comes to Corvettes. Not only do many Corvette owners have more than one example of Chevy's sports car in their garage, they've accumulated an assortment of parts as well. Noting this odd habit of collecting components, we came up with a few suggestions for what to do with them.

While recombining these parts into a startling new creation is hardly the stuff of Mary Shelley's gothic tome (nor even Mel Brooks' delirious satire, Young Frankenstein), we find this approach to be a compelling form of experimentation. Each of these revivified Vettes could be duplicated in your own lab, er, garage. So once you're done wrenching on those neck bolts, you too could exclaim with a wild-eyed stare of amazement, "It's alive, it's alive!"

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Having chased down these intriguing specimens with a flaming torch in hand to check their nerve reactions, we hope you'll let us know if you happen across any other curious Corvette-based conveyances. We'd like to find some suitable companions for a "Bride of...." sequel, since at heart we're just like mad scientists looking for ways to bring those old body parts back to life.

Factory Five Twin-Turbo GTM

Supercar performance for the masses

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No other company has elevated automotive recycling to the heights of Factory Five Racing (FFR). The company was founded around 16 years ago by brothers Dave and Mark Smith, who found a way to scavenge 70-odd parts off a wrecked 5.0 Mustang to create a lower-cost, everyman's Cobra replica. This trash-into-treasure formula proved to be enormously successful for several other FFR component vehicles as well, including the mid-engine GTM exotic. This was the company's first original design, not a replica of any previous model. Even so, the GTM's low-slung lines are somewhat reminiscent of a GT40, while manifesting its own distinctive and exotic persona.

This model's custom space frame is designed for an LS1 or LS6, but any LS engine can be bolted in behind the cockpit. Of course, a transaxle with adaptor plate must be used in place of the standard transmission, usually a Porsche 911's G50 or a ZF or Mendeola unit. In general, FFR recommends using Corvette C5 components, but some customers have found a way to use various C6 parts as well. These include the control arms, spindles, hubs, outer CV joints, and brakes. Aftermarket upgrades for those Corvette models are acceptable as well.

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Since it's an enclosed car, having air conditioning is a good idea, so the condenser, compressor, and dryer from a factory A/C system are recommended. Other recycled cockpit parts include the steering column (sans the FFR-supplied wheel), and assorted handles, hardware, switches, seatbelts, and the like. Up front, the radiator-and-fan setup fits in nicely, along with the fuel tanks.

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Once completed, a GTM outfitted with even a stock LS engine can achieve supercar performance. FFR touts one LS7-powered version that scorched 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, blazed from 0 to 100 in 6.6, and clocked a quarter-mile time of 11.0 seconds at 132 mph! That means a GTM can be built to accelerate quicker than a Ferrari Enzo, a Porsche Carrera GT, a Saleen Twin Turbo S7, a Ford GT, or a Lamborghini Murcielago.

All of which brings us to the twin-turbo version shown here, built by SKJ Customs for Bill Farber, using a hot mill from Nelson Racing Engines. Consider the car's curb weight of less than 2,500 pounds (about 700 pounds fewer than a Corvette C6), then imagine running a custom-built 427ci LSX with twin 72mm puffers between the framerails. Shoveling this much air through the intakes mandated huge volumes of fuel from two separate systems (four rails and 16 injectors, fed by two electric fuel pumps). At 11 psi boost, it boasts an output of 1,200 horses—and that's just the beginning, as it can be dialed up to 39 psi with the twist of a knob.

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Even without running higher levels of boost on race gas, the power-to-weight ratio is skewed toward the extreme. Funneling this flood of power to the rear wheels is a custom-built Porsche 997 GT2 transaxle. This unit has to be mounted upside down, since the Porsche uses a rear-engine layout and the GTM is a mid-engine missile.

All the custom details are too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say, this twin-turbo GTM takes bespoke performance to the limit, and then some.


Corvette Grand Sport by Superformance

Reviving—and revising—a Corvette racing legend

Most longtime Corvette enthusiasts know the story of Zora Arkus-Duntov's over-achieving '63 Grand Sports, how they handily bested Shelby's Cobras, only to disappear from the racing scene and become the absolute pinnacle of collectible Corvettes.

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Unlike Shelby's Cobras, however, Grand Sports have not inspired a surfeit of replicas. But of the handful of offerings that have surfaced over the years, the Superformance version shown here boasts a singular distinction: GM's blessing as a licensed reproduction.

You'd think the General's legal sanction would foster immediate and wider acceptance, but that hasn't been the case, even though this prototype has been making the rounds on the car-show circuit for the past couple of years. Part of the problem has stemmed from delays in delivering a production version from the factory in South Africa. That might change soon (we hope), with a coupe due stateside by the time you read this, and a roadster about a year after that.

In the meantime, we corralled the proto for a shoot and brief drive, to whet your appetite. Given that it needed a bit more time in the oven, and was not presented to us in its final disposition, we won't nitpick some obvious preproduction issues that are still being sorted out.

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Instead, we'll focus on what's included, and what's required to complete the vehicle. As with other Superformance replicas, it comes in "turnkey minus" form, meaning that it has all the parts, prep, and paint done for you, sans drivetrain. So don't expect to be able to reuse all those midyear components gathering dust on the shelves of your garage.

Prices start at slightly less than $90,000, and two versions are available: Traditional and Touring. The former is as close as possible to the original bare-bones racer, yet with a few modern options such as A/C, power steering, and electric windows.

The Touring model is more plush, with the creature-comfort options noted above, along with a few others to be determined, plus padded door panels and bucket seats.

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Getting back to the components you'll need to supply for completing the car, three basic engine options are possible: small-block Chevy, big-block Chevy, or selected LS-series engines. Usable transmissions include four-, five-, and six-speed manuals. Brakes may be upgraded with aftermarket units, as long as they are engineered for a Corvette suspension. The car we drove had a supercharged, 556hp LSA crate engine, which sidesteps potential DMV-registration issues, yet has plenty of beans to skin a Cobra.

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Somewhere, Duntov is smiling in eager anticipation.


Dragon's Tale

A totaled '93 Corvette takes wing

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Sometimes a dragon is actually a phoenix. Just ask Craig Bowers. Back in 2003, he was tooling along in his '93 Corvette through the Gold Country hills of Northern California, when he nearly duplicated the demise of actor James Dean in a Porsche 550. A Ford van crossed the double-yellow right in front of him, and he narrowly escaped a head-on collision by piling into the hillside.

Thanks to the Corvette's airbag system, Bowers was not seriously hurt, but the car was a total loss. While recovering from the accident and picking through the remains of his Vette, Bowers came across an ad for the Dragon, a DIY roadster that uses C4 components (and now C5 or C6 bits as well).

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Even though Bowers' line of work involves supplying the mortuary business, he realized he didn't have to bury his beloved Corvette. In his spare time, he's worked on a number of muscle-car and hot-rod restorations, and his spirits rose at the thought of a new project.

After seeing a Dragon in action on the track and driving one, he decided to purchase his wrecked car from his insurance company and begin stripping off all the parts. Fortunately only one trailing arm had to be replaced. Even the radiator was still intact. But he wanted to improve on the drivetrain, so he sold the LT1 engine and automatic transmission for $3,500 to finance the purchase of a '96 LT4 and a Tremec six-speed. They fit into the Dragon's 4-inch, round-tube frame in short order, as did numerous other components from the Corvette.

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Up until Bowers' buildup, most Dragons had been fitted with carburetors (which the tall hood bulge allows), but he opted for EFI instead since he drives at higher elevations. That change required installing a fuel tank from a '97 Camaro on a custom-fabricated cradle made of wood and fiberglass, rather than bolting in the fuel cell typically used. Another change he made was in the crossmember for the six-speed, instead of the recommended five-speed. Lastly, he went with custom Dragon Motorcars headers, along with the upholstery package. (He sold the Corvette's interior and stereo to defray many of his expenses.)

For bodywork and paint, Bowers chose local drag racer/painter Craig Wallace, who squirted on an appropriate shade of PPG Dragon Fire Red and gunmetal-silver stripes. While Wallace was working on the body, Bowers got busy bolting on the suspension. Rather than using the Corvette's traditional transverse-leaf setup, he went with QA1 adjustable coilovers. The slotted brake rotors were surrounded by Team III's Trans-Am–type "banana wheels," skinned with 17-inch Sumitomo front and rear.

Inside the cockpit, Bowers chose silver-bezel Autometer gauges, along with a machine-turned center console for the toggle switches. While the basic approach is function-over-form utilitarian, a set of custom-made Dragon-logo decals for the wheel hubs and horn button lend the car a more finished look. Since there's no top on the cockpit, there's not much need for A/C when running in the foothills of Northern California.

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Bowers finds the LT4 to be the ideal powerplant, thanks to its reliability, 28-mpg efficiency on the freeway, and exhilarating performance. And the Corvette suspension on two-lane twisty roads is great fun as this low-slung sports car carves the roads with comfort and ease. He left off the power steering and power brakes because the feeling of being connected to the road suits his taste. And besides, piloting this Dragon requires only a light touch on the reins.

While he admits to missing his Corvette at times, in a sense it's still with him.

Sources

Factory Five Racing
(508) 291-3443
www.factoryfive.com
Nelson Racing Engines
Chattsworth, CA 91311
818-998-5593
http://www.nelsonracingengines.com
DRAGON MOTOR CARS
Grantham, NH 03753
(603) 863-5272
www.dragonmotorcars.com
Superformance Complete Replicars
Newport News, VA 23606
www.Superformance.com
SKJ Customs
Washington , UT 84780
801-810-7637
http://www.skjcustoms.com

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