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1991 Chevrolet Corvette L98 - Thanks, Mom

Paul Fan's '91 Coupe Raises The Bar For Street Performance

Jack Sweet Oct 1, 2004
Corp_0410_01z 1984_chevrolet_corvette Silver 2/1

Ten years ago, this used '91 L98 coupe was a bone-stock, fully equipped FX-3 automatic with just more than 30,000 miles on the clock. It was purchased as a used car to serve as transportation to and from college for the then-18-year-old Paul Fan of San Diego. Today Paul, now 28, has a monster on his hands.

"I guess my brother got me into Corvettes," Paul says. "I grew up reading all the articles about the C4s and their world-class performance. It was just a dream car for me to have, so when the opportunity came up, I took it."

The opportunity presented itself in 1994 after a bunch of research. Paul's mother bought the car for him as a "getting into college" present.

"She actually fell in love with the Corvette first," he says. "When I sold my RX-7, we went to the swap meet to look for a car. I wasn't even thinking about owning a Corvette. She saw a red one and asked why I didn't drive one of those and how I liked it. I told her I would love to have that car. She said, 'Well, start looking.' She was the one who made it possible-I think she really wanted to have a Corvette."

Typically, college students don't have a lot of money to spend making modifications to a daily driven car. Paul took the Corvette to the muffler shop the first week he owned it and had a set of Flowmasters installed. He followed up with a K&N filter.

"I basically put every penny I had into that car," Paul admits. "I started with the exhaust and intake, then there was a lot of port work. I ported the runners and the throttle body and did just about all the free mods a poor college kid could do. After I got a job, the mods just went crazy and never stopped. I'm actually on my third engine and fifth transmission."

The current Ed Wright-tuned engine is built around a Dart Little M 400 block. An Eagle 4340 forged crank with 3.48 inches of stroke yields a displacement of 377 cubic inches. Eagle 4340 H-beam rods connect the crank to a set of forged JE pistons that are dished to give a compression ratio of around 8.9:1.

A custom-ground Competition Cams 236I/248E roller cam provides about .578/.591-inch lift to the 2.02/1.60-inch Ferrera valves via a set of Crane 1.6:1 roller rockers. The rockers are mounted to a set of ported and polished AFR 195 heads bolted on top with ARP studs. Paul opted to install an AFR Hydra-Rev kit to keep the fast-revving 377's lifters firmly seated on the camshaft.

The car breathes through a TPIS MiniRam assisted by a custom Vortech T-trim blower providing about 10 pounds of boost. For those occasions when even more power is necessary, the car is fitted with a Nitrous Express Gemini Twin EFI nitrous-oxide system that brings an additional 150 ponies to the party.

Engine management is handled by a custom chip programmed by Ed Wright, the owner of Fastchip. The fires are lit with an MSD 6AL box, which delivers the voltage to a Davis Unified Ignition HEI coil and distributor. MSD 8.5mm wires take the juice to the plugs. Spent gases get blown out of the way through a set of Hooker long-tube headers and Flowmaster dual 3-inch pipes.

The current transmission is an Art Carr 700-R4 with a non-lockup converter advertised to stall at 3,000 rpm. A Dana 44 aluminum driveshaft takes the power back to a Dana 44 rearend stuffed with Precision 3.73:1 gears. From there, the power gets to the pavement via a pair of carbon-fiber halfshafts.

The suspension features Doug Rippie Motorsports coilovers with Bilstein shocks all the way around. There's also a DRM 30mm antisway bar up front and a DRM trailing-arm kit out back. "I wanted it to handle real good," Paul says.

He installed Baer's C4 Track Kit brakes, which feature slotted and drilled two-piece EradiSpeed 13-inch rotors in front and 12-inchers out back. The 18x8.5-inch Fikse FM5 wheels in front are shod with 255/35-18 Kumho tires for street and track driving, while the 18x11-inch wheels out back wear 295/30-18 Yokohamas. The rears are swapped for a set of 26x10.5-inch Mickey Thompson ET Streets when it's time to hit the track.

The bodywork is bone stock except for the Prowler front spoiler, and the paint is the stock steel blue metallic color that's been redone by GA Coachworks in San Diego. "I like the lines of the Corvette and I like to keep them basically stock-looking," Paul says.

Inside, a five-point rollcage was welded in by Top Flight Corvettes of San Diego. The stock sports seats stayed in the car, but the restraint system is now augmented with a five-point harness from Simpson. Other changes to the interior are relatively limited. There's an A-pillar-mounted pod with boost and A/F-ratio gauges from Auto Meter. A 5-inch Auto Meter tachometer is mounted on the dash. Cruising sounds are provided by an Alpine CD player that feeds Boston Acoustic speakers. Driver input goes through a Sparco steering wheel, and there's a custom aluminum nitrous control panel mounted in the dash under the stereo.

"Charlie Bowser at Chas Performance in San Diego basically built the car from the ground up," Paul says. "Also, the members of helped a lot in getting the car to where it is today, and Dan Kao at Rev Xtreme in Tampa has provided endless technical support."

No dyno figures are available for the current engine, since it had been in the car only for a couple of weeks at press time. Paul estimates the output to be about 750 rwhp with the 150 shot of giggle juice. He also predicts the car will be "deep into the 10s" once it finally gets out to a track.

"But the car's not set up to be a drag racer," he says. "It's got the big antisway bar, coilovers, and all the rest of the stuff. It will drag race, but I really built this car to put it on a road course and run with the Vipers, Porsches, and Ferraris. It's a good street car that'll keep up with all the exotics. The good thing about the car is, even though it's a full-blown race engine, it's still got all the amenities-stereo, A/C, and the full interior."

While it seems the car has reached a peak, Paul's not one to call it complete by any means: "Right now I'm thinking about going with an ACCEL digital fuel injection and engine management setup," he says. "That will allow more flexibility with tuning."

Unfortunately, Paul lost his mother to cancer in 1998: "The reason I have held on to this car for so long is because my mother picked out this car," he says. "I've had many chances to get rid of it and buy something newer and more expensive, but the thought never even crossed my mind. I am going to hold on to this car forever in loving memory of my mother."

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