Besides the fact that getting run over by a fiberglass-bodied vehicle would be a tiny bit softer than an all-steel car, nothing about Chris Jacobs’ ’01 Corvette Z06 is actually fluffy. In reality, it’s a lightweight, corner-carving, 500 lb-ft-of-torque-to-the-wheels autocrossing beast. So yeah, not all that fluffy after all.
Jacobs came up with the name when his buddy Mark Stielow (who you might have heard of) was thinking up a name for another one of Stielow’s ’69 Camaros. “He always names his cars things mean and ugly,” Jacobs told us. He suggested Stielow change things up. The car was supposed to be painted white so he, somewhat jokingly, told Stielow to name the car Fluffy. As it turned out, he wasn’t sold and instead painted the Camaro red and called it Hellfire. Typical. So when Jacobs picked up a Speedway White ’01 Corvette Z06, he thought the least he could do was poke a little fun at Stielow by naming his new Vette Fluffy.
Jacobs and his wife, Lynda, always had an affinity for Corvettes, owning two others prior to Fluffy. Their last was a yellow C5 convertible that got the couple started in the autocross scene but soon realized the open-top nature of the car didn’t lend nicely to competition. Not only did it lose precious rigidity but, as Jacobs’ desire for entering the Optima field grew, so did the realization that their little yellow convertible wouldn’t cut it. Safety first meant a rollcage and a rollcage meant Jacobs’ tall frame would no longer fit in the driver’s seat.
That’s when the search for a new, reasonably priced yet competitive autocross toy began. Since C5s are such a competitive platform to begin with, that’s where he started looking. This time, though, one with a roof. What he came across was a lackluster eBay ad for an ’01 Corvette Z06 that was pre-modified. He called up the salesman to inquire further who then emailed over some of the vehicle’s paperwork. Jacobs was sold after seeing the first page: a Katech receipt dated May 2001 for $26,000. “It was at that moment I became more than mildly interested,” recalled Jacobs. “A friend local to the dealer did a quick recon mission to confirm that it was a clean car then a Wednesday flight to and from Dallas sealed the deal and Fluffy was now on its way north.” The $26,000 Katech receipt went to a slew of performance parts, including a fully built C5R 427ci engine with ported heads, LG headers, Penske shocks, T-1 springs and antisway bars, AP Racing brakes, Fikse wheels and Doug Rippie Motorsports hood. Inside the cabin, the Corvette was fitted with Sparco Evo racing seats and Sparco harnesses. As far as 2001 goes, this C5 Z was at the top of its game. By 2015 though, the car was ready for a refresh.
Jacobs knew that the Vette would need some upgrades before it was ready for competition again, with an upgraded oil pump first on the list. He sent the car over to Finish Line Performance in Naperville, Illinois, to throw in a high-performance Melling pump and give the engine a once-over. Next in line were those AP brakes. Again, great for 2001 but not so great for 2015 so Jacobs had Randy Johnson of D&Z Customs throw on a new set of Wilwoods. The front got a pair of Aero6 six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors while the rear got Superlite four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors. But what good do fancy new brakes do without sufficient grip on the road? Jacobs took the Vette’s Fikse wheels and moved the rear 18x11s to the front of the car and then had the front 18x10s re-hooped to turn them into 18x12s to go out back. The updated wheels were then wrapped in BFGoodrich Rival S tires measuring 315/30R18 front and 335/30R18 rear. At this point the Jacobs were ready to race—or so they thought.
They took the C5 out for its first test ’n’ tune session but quickly found out the new brakes weren’t playing nicely with the old master cylinder. They stuck it back on the trailer and got it worked out before their next event, The Motor State Challenge in Michigan a few weeks later. While at that event, something else happened. “Once at the hotel I went to unload the car off our open trailer and nearly killed myself. Blown right rear shock had spewed oil all over the deck.” Jacobs told us. Luckily for him, a couple of guys from RideTech were there and hooked him up with a set of their HQ triple-adjustable coilover shocks.
The rest of the 2015 season went well for Jacobs and Fluffy with no other major problems. But, by the time the competition season was over, he already had some ideas of how he’d like to continue modernizing the Corvette. Jacobs promptly dropped the Corvette back off at Finish Line Performance and had the guys at LandSpeed Development do some work on the old 243 heads. They beefed ’em up with new Xceldyne valves and Brian Tooley Racing valvesprings to get them ready for a custom-grind camshaft from Custom Machine Performance. On top of the valvetrain upgrades, Finish Line Performance also threw on a FAST intake manifold, Lingenfelter throttle body and an Airaid cone filter. When it was all said and done, Fluffy saw an increase of 50 horsepower; now making 521 horses to the wheels. Torque also increase significantly, up about 40 lb-ft to 507.
After another successful season in 2016, the only major change Jacobs decided to make was swapping out the stock transmission since it was bound to go eventually. In its place went a Tranzilla TR6060 from Rockland Standard Gear paired with a Centerforce Triad clutch.
As far as the 2017 season goes, Jacobs claimed the car was “dead nuts reliable.” Well, that was until the original timing chain went out while he was wide open at 6,500 rpm and burnt nine valves. Dead nuts reliable, huh?
All jokes aside, Fluffy has proved to be a trusty and potent competitor for Jacobs, winning him numerous class championships in his local autocross division. It also gave him the competitive edge he needed for some impressive finishes in Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car competitions and Motor State challenges. So, the moral of the story? Don’t judge a book by its cover—er title. Because if you ever get thrown into competition against this fluffy little white Corvette you might not be let down too softly. Vette
Photos by Robert McGaffin