In December 2000, Doug Johnson and his wife, Deb, set off from their Bristol, Connecticut, home down to New Jersey-a four-hour drive to, as Doug says, "just look at some Vettes."
When Doug was growing up, his father worked as a mechanic, and Doug quickly developed an interest in cars, Corvettes in particular. Doug harbored a determination to be a Corvette owner, but on this day, he was just looking.
However, as any good car salesman knows, looking is the first step toward buying, and when Doug and Deb entered the showroom, their plan went out the window. "A black 2000 hardtop screamed out our names," Doug says. "Soon after, our attitude changed from 'Just looking' to 'We have to have it!'"
That day, Doug and Deb drove their new Corvette home (four more hours), and they haven't stopped driving it since. When we shot these photographs, the car's odometer read 35,000 miles. The Johnsons use it as a driver to and from work, and they also drive it to shows and on caravans. In addition to their annual trip to Carlisle, they participated in the 50th anniversary caravan to Bowling Green, which Doug describes as, "A trip of a lifetime."
There were 2,090 black hardtops made in 2000, but with the modifications Doug has made, his C5 is one of a kind. When it came to customizing his Corvette, Doug began with the intake and exhaust system.
"I replaced [the original exhaust] with a GM titanium system," he says. "Then, I opened up the intake with a K&N FIPK. The K&N Airbridge, radiator support, and homemade custom fuel-rail covers were smoothed and painted with basecoat/clearcoat, then color-sanded and buffed."
After the exhaust modifications, Doug turned his attention to the exterior and decked out his car in traditional Corvette colors.
"The hood is a carbon-fiber [piece] built by Motor City Mold," he says. "It was painted in my garage, as were all the underhood components. The hood was primed and basecoated with black. Then, the Torch Red stripes were applied. Then, a load of clear was placed on top. The whole bottom of the hood was also clear[coated], bringing out the beauty of the carbon fiber. People are always surprised that I painted the hood in my garage."
Doug also modified the stock all-black interior with some Torch Red components. He stripped the stock seats down to the frame and added sport-seat foam and upholstery. "To accent the seats," he says, "I added a Torch Red knee bolster, glovebox, door pulls, custom console cover, and-my favorite-a flameball shift knob."
This Corvette rides on Weld Racing Wheels-18x9.5-inch in the front, and 20x11-inch in the rear. The Weld wheels are shod with Potenza S02 tires-255/35ZR18 in the front and 285/30ZR20 in the rear. A quick look at the painted (black) calipers with polished "Corvette" lettering clearly demonstrates Doug's attention to detail.
While Doug performed many modifications to this Corvette's hood, when it came to what was under the hood, he decided to leave well enough alone. The LS1 engine remains in stock form, for now. Also, while Doug changed some of the interior components, others, like the Bose stereo system and dash components, remain stock.
Doug likes to do as much of his own work as he can and calls himself "a painter by hobby." He adds, "My wife says the old quote 'Jack of all trades, master of none' suits me well. I just hate paying people for a job I can do myself." On the other hand, Doug doesn't mind other people paying him to do a job. He moonlights doing custom modification and maintenance.
The Johnsons' story should serve as a lesson to Corvette enthusiasts everywhere. There's really no such thing as "just looking." If you're looking at all, the down payment is as good as made. All it takes is the sweet sound of the right car calling your name.