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Doug Plette's '97 Corvette


Ronnie Hartman Jun 1, 2002

Step By Step

Doug Plette doesn’t mess around. And you don’t want to mess around with Doug Plette’s ’97. Almost nothing is stock—the sky is the limit for mods on this one.

Doug had owned several Corvettes before the ’97, but got caught up in raising his family and went without for about 18 years. Then, on New Year’s Eve 1999, Doug pronounced the drought over, and bought this bone-stock, white ’97 from a used car lot near his Atlanta home. Hanging out on the Corvette Forum, he got some ideas about what he’d like to do to it. A month after the purchase, he began his improvement odyssey with Xtreme Motorsports in Lubbock, Texas, driving through a blizzard to get there (hence the nickname “Snowman”). In April, it was back to Texas for a heads and cam package. He set off for heads and a cam, and a Doug Rippie Motorsports (DRM) hood. Nate Caro at Xtreme gave him a tremendous amount of help as Doug began building the perfect beast, even taking parts off his own C5 to do it.

After the Forum’s first Cruise-In at the Museum, he was inspired to do a 383 stroker motor. That didn’t work out so well—the motor tanked after about 2,000 miles. Then Doug met tuner Nick Agostino from Pickering, Ontario. Nick proposed building a steel-block stroker 427 with a 200 shot of nitrous. As they went, they added custom headers, a full rollcage and fire system, tubbed out the car for wider wheels, and moved the battery to the back to move weight from the front of the car. Doug decided that the design guide he’d use was to do everything right—as his brick at the Museum says, “Never settle.” The motor they were building, at the time, was right on the edge and unheard of in the 2000-’01 season. There would be many hurdles to overcome. Of that effort Doug relates, “We built a real firebreather, but we had a problem we couldn’t fix with oil burning, then fouling the O2 sensors, causing the engine to run too rich. It turned out that the custom piston and ring setup we were using was the source of it. Nick offered to build me any motor I wanted as a replacement, at no charge to me. That is a class act. I picked a 427 aluminum-block motor with a milder cam as a replacement. The motor has been running strong since it was installed late last summer. The car has run in the high 11s on the motor, with trap speeds in the 120s. We haven’t run it on nitrous yet at the track. We’ve been sorting out some clutch problems, but when it comes together, it should do in the 10s. We went through several brands of clutches and ended up with a Cartek. The Cartek is holding just fine without juice.

It slipped on the dyno over 700 rear-wheel horsepower and 725 rear-wheel torque...we think the motor will do mid to high 700 hp on juice, but the clutch isn’t designed to hold with that load. If the Cartek doesn’t hold this coming spring at the track on slicks, I guess I’ll try a fresh McLeod again. For now, this is a very powerful road car that can light ’em up at will.” Continuing his rounds, Doug went to Jeff Nowicki and the people at Specter Werkes in Troy, Michigan, to ask about installing their rear fascia. He ended up getting an entire custom body kit. The back is from its GTR car; the front is taken from the Group V package. He would have done the entire GTR kit, but the front of the GTR kit would make the car too wide to go under the tire carrier of his new trailer. Specter Werkes designed and built custom-made doors, which start at the standard-width car and swell out aft of the mirrors to mate up with the GTR rear. Doug’s idea was to make a C5 that had the stance and spirit of the ZR-1. The rears are tubbed out 2 inches on the inside, with 3 inches added on the outside. He’s very pleased with the job Specter Werkes did on the bodywork, paint, and striping.

Doug changed the interior color from Firethorne to Black, and added white-faced gauges, as well as a strobe kit and underhood chrome from Design Specialties. He wanted as much light on the road at night as possible, so he installed front floodlights and headlights from Breathless Performance. He chose HRE wheels (18- and 19-inch), and Michelin Pilot Sports—295 front/345 rear. For drag racing, he uses Complete Custom Wheel drag wheels and E-T streets with skinnies on the front. Finishing touches include Euro taillights and the Wet Okole seat covers with Simpson harnesses. Check the sidebar for more specifics on engine and suspension mods.

In addition to this incredibly bad ’97, Doug has a number of other cars in his collection, including a completely stock ’67 four-speed, small-block convertible and a ’90 coupe prepared as a track car—and a 1,000hp ’69 Camaro dragster! His big project for the coming year is to build a second garage so he doesn’t have to stop. Go for it, Doug!



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