“Anyone that knows me well knows I’m a lunatic,” stated Howard Tanner. He is indeed an intense individual. His energy is apparent the moment you walk into a room with him. My first encounter with Howard was in 2009, covering the installation of an APS twin-turbo kit on his 2006 Corvette Z06. By that point it had sported a cam and bolt-ons for some time, then a ProCharger. And then came a built motor and twin-turbo kit. With race gas this combo eventually made 950-rear-wheel horsepower. At our track test, the car pulled immediately towards the wall right off the starting line. It was a handful. Many would say the same about Howard.
“I’m originally from New York where the insanity started – a car nut since 15 and a maniac when they gave me a driver’s license. I started with ’67 Camaros, a ’70 Nova, and various other old-school muscle cars … building and modifying them. When I was 8-10 years old my grandfather had exposed me to electronics as his background was engineering … my grandfather was good friends with Zora Arkus-Duntov in which I had the pleasure of meeting a few times.” Combine a background in electronics, a love of modifying muscle cars, and the influence of a legendary Corvette Chief Engineer – that is the recipe for Howard Tanner, owner of Redline Motorsports.
In the mid-to-early ’80s Howard began messing with Cross-Fire and Tuned Port Injection, modifying cars out of his mother’s garage, where Redline Motorsports was born. After completing Hudson Valley Community College’s automotive program, Howard longed to work on the Corvette engineering team. However, he thought it best to get his hands dirty at a dealership first. Nearly two years later, he was involved in a bad car accident. The injuries weren’t life threatening, but in the process of evaluation it was discovered that he had cancer. “And here’s where the world divided.”
“After a good year of recovery I had put the whole car experience aside. I had stumbled into the commercial glass industry. After about a year I realized that I was very strong at management and understood the dollars and cents as well as the construction side. The company was not interested in growing and the ‘lunatic to succeed’ was coming out. I left that company and started my own business. In 1994, the itch was getting very strong to get back in my passion – cars. Redline Motorsports was starting to wake up from its hibernation. Both companies were running at the same time, although the glass company was the primary operation. Nineteen years later, after building a multi-million dollar operation with over 40 people employed, I had enough of that and living in New York. I was at a point in my life to jump and I did – 1,500 miles to south Florida.”
As Redline Motorsports evolved from a side operation to Howard’s full-time gig, so, too, did his beloved 2006 Z06 that he actually had a hand in building at the Bowling Green plant thanks to one of his connections. “They actually allowed me to install the seats and exhaust system!” Howard was also the first to fire up the LS7 for the first time. No one involved, not even Howard, would realize that the magnificent 427, leather seats and exhaust would all be shelved, sold, or otherwise discarded in his quest for the ultimate street car. The Z06 served as a mule for learning the new E38 ECM, as he refined his craft as an engine calibrator. No matter how radical the Z06 became, the E38 ECM remained intact.
After the move to Pompano Beach, Florida, it was decided that the stock T-56 would have to go. “The car sat in the corner of the shop while we jump-started the new operation. Occasionally we would take it to the track, which was always a disappointment with that kind of power and a stick.” As Redline had done on many customer cars, Howard made the jump to an RPM Transmissions 4L80E swap. With no other changes, the Z06 was running 8.8 at 164 mph with Mickey Thompson drag radials mounted on 18-inch wheels. The stock block and turbos were beyond their capacity, which gave way to the next iteration that proved capable of 8.40 at 171 mph. That’s when the true potential came into view, and Howard set his sights on 7-second timeslips – still street legal with a full interior, A/C, and all the amenities.
Redline put together a new 432 cubic-inch bullet using an LSX block, Diamond 4.135-inch custom pistons, Oliver billet 6.125-inch rods, and a Callies Magnum crank. When combined with a set of Mast Motorsports 285cc LS7 heads, chock full of Ferrea titanium and inconel valves, the bullet has a fairly tame 9.5:1 compression. The cam is still a hydraulic roller, ground by COMP Cams and spec’ing a reasonable 242/248 duration with 0.665-inch lift. The rockers are stock with a COMP Cams trunnion upgrade. The dry-sump oiling system is upgraded with a Katech dual-stage pump, but otherwise stock. And the intake manifold and throttle body are stock. Injector Dynamics 1,300cc injectors and triple in-tank Walbros supply the race fuel. This is probably one of the tamest 7-second combinations around.
On the turbo side, what started life as an APS kit has also evolved with Redline’s modifications. Precision 66/62 turbochargers now do the spooling, replete with billet wheels and ball bearings. TiAL wastegates work with an AMS-2000 boost controller to maintain 20-28 psi. A custom 3.5-inch thick air-to-air intercooler sits behind the front fascia, rather than a racy air-to-water unit. Three-inch tubing is used throughout on the hot and cold side.
The factory Z06 differential and previous 4L80E were traded for a 9-inch conversion and an RPM Powerglide to get the Z06 off the line quicker. An SFI-approved Reed case, transbrake, billet flexplate, and PTC 4,200-stall converter arrived on a pallet from Indiana at Redline’s shop along with the 9-inch rear stuffed with 3.20:1 gears and a spool. A B&M Stealth shifter operates the two-speed trans, powered by CO2 from the AMS-2000 boost controller. A driveshaft and axles from The Driveshaft Shop complete the drivetrain.
Turning their attention to the chassis, the suspension needed more drag friendly components. To transfer weight to the (still) independently suspended rearend, Redline spec’d a set of custom AFCO coilovers at all four corners. A Pfadt Drag Bar keeps the Z06 launching straight. The big factory brakes and custom wheels were traded for Strange drag brakes and Weld wheels – 17-inch Alumastars up front and 15-inch RT-S out back. Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pros (275/60/15) enable maximum traction for 1.21 short times. Norm Betout built a custom, NHRA-certified rollcage for the aluminum chassis. A Simpson window net, harnesses, HANS device, and Sparco race seats finished off the necessary safety equipment. With a completely new attitude and new mission in life, the Z06 was reborn with a pearl white satin wrap before making its debut.
Howard estimates that the twin-turbo 432ci LSX makes around 1,585 horsepower at the crank, still with the factory E38 ECM – albeit with a custom Speed Density operating system. The Z06 made its first 7-second pass earlier this year, 7.92 at 179.8 mph, and that’s just the beginning. But don’t get the impression that it ran this fast the first time off the trailer. Even for an experienced builder, it took many track passes to get a handle on the new combo – constantly manipulating the boost controller for track conditions. “Hard work was the key. We are confident going 7.6 at 185 are well within our sights with this car.” Not bad for a street car that still goes to car shows and meets around south Florida. My how this Z has evolved.