Some folks are content to blend in with their surroundings, while others shout above the crowd, "Look at me." Cars are very much the same way, and this '03 Z06 Corvette belonging to Earl Bennett screams for attention.
Earl, 62, is the proprietor of Bennett's Radiator Service in Bloomington, California. Due to illness, Earl isn't able to slap those Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires on the pavement very often, but one of his employees, John Parthemore, has filled in as the car's caretaker and has benefited greatly from Earl's investment.
John says Earl was enjoying his '97 Corvette back when the new '03 Z06s were introduced. But when the power numbers came out and Earl was tempted with the idea of a C5 with more oomph, he couldn't resist buying a new toy. He still has the '97, by the way.
Not long after he bought the car, Earl began looking for a way to customize it. With the exception of Anniversary Red Metallic, black was the most popular color ordered on '03 Corvettes. So, in order to make this car stand out from the crowd, Earl decided it needed something unique and eye-catching. He turned to Redline Performance Graphics in Rialto,California, and left the car in the capable hands of Adrian Fezquez.
"All he told us was he wanted his car to stand out, then he let us do what we wanted," Adrian says. He began by sanding the panels he would work on so the paint would adhere. Also, the factory moldings were removed. "It would have been difficult to paint with them on, and I think it makes the car look cleaner," Adrian adds. Then, after masking off the other parts, he proceeded to freehand the flames in Candy Apple Brandywine.
"It was really a pretty easy job," says Adrian, who had never painted a Z06, but had worked on a few C4s. "The job came out really clean, and I was happy with it. The Z06 hood was like working on a big canvas."
Then, for an added touch, the Z06 emblems were removed and a facsimile was airbrushed in their stead by Adrian.
When Earl first saw the car, Adrian got the response he was hoping for. "He was really excited and anxious to drive it," Adrian says. "He's a good guy and he loves his fast cars. We receive a lot of comments about it because everybody in Rialto knows Earl."
Unlike the exterior, the engine compartment has been left completely in stock form. However, Adrian says he had talked with Earl about painting some pieces before he fell ill. It's filled with the 5.7L LS6 V-8 engine (factory-rated at 405 hp), which does the bidding of the standard six-speed manual transmission. While the engine is stock now, it may not stay that way forever. "We've talked about maybe putting a supercharger in it, or a chip," John says.
Even though Earl has a large sum of money invested in this Corvette, John says it doesn't make him nervous to drive it. "Nah," he says, "I'm used to it now."
John says the car is driven only about 20 miles per week, and when Earl isn't able to take it out, he's gracious enough to let John slide behind the wheel. In September 2003, John drove the Z06 to the Route 66 Festival in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He had been there before with some of his own Chevelles, but this was his first time taking a Corvette to the show. "A lot of people liked it," he says. "Nobody turned their noses up to it."
So far, the modifications Earl has made to his C5 have been well received. One thing is certain: Like it or dislike it, it's impossible to ignore.