Brian Davis admits, "I have always been a Corvette purist. To be honest with you, I always had a rule I'd never do anything I couldn't unbolt or change back. Factory is king."
But that was before his Hatch Attack. "I saw that Targa Hatch and thought, What the hell? I gotta try. Once I did, everything changed."
What changed was his LT4-powered '96 coupe. Brian bought it brand new. It was his third Corvette. "I had a '93 40th anniversary," he says. "I went in [to the dealership] to look at a new C5. Of course, back then [late 1996] dealers bought a ton of '96s trying to get their allocation up for C5s. They were trying to push me back to a '96."
But Mr. Conservative wasn't buying a C4 until he saw a Collector Edition. The body was silver-nothing special yet, as all 5,412 produced that year were the same color. But it was the interior that cinched the sale. "That Torch Red interior upholstery just set off the silver," Brian says, "along with having the LT4 engine and stick."
He bought the '96 and added a set of chrome rims. Steeped in purity of the factory look, Brian came up with a new rule: If the modifications he contemplated didn't look like they came from the factory, he wouldn't make the change. Except for the Targa Hatch, he might have stayed on the straight and narrow. The hatch was the jumping-off point. Installation required custom cutting into the fiberglass top. Brian realized his '96 was now, by definition, a custom. So he went wild. The closer you look, the more modifications you find. The smallest is the thin red line Brian painted on the Momo shifter ball. "I painted the little red line in there just so it would highlight the other red in the car," he says. "It was down to that kind of detailed thought."
Brian's modifications came only after much trial and error. He thinks the LT4 badges in front of the rear quarters, for example, have a factory look. He feels the same way about the Targa Hatch. Inside, the instrument cluster is modified with a red background which he also feels could have been factory issue. "I ordered the cluster from a very small company that was only in business for a couple of months," Brian says. "They were very expensive. I've had people offer me $600 or $700 for them and they're nothing but two pieces of plastic. But to get them with the tach and everything for the LT4 was a pretty tough deal."
The silver carbon-fiber inside paneling is Brian's attempt to keep up with the look he found in several modified C5s. Apparently, there is a slight rivalry between C4 and C5 Corvette builders. "Some of the aftermarket folks for the C5s had come out with molded dash kits that actually match the exterior paint," Brian says. "I really thought that was cool looking. I was able to finally locate that kit which is very, very close to the exterior paint color. I just liked that offset of color."
The tripled-plated chrome under the hood is based on solid brass and has a flawless satin finish. Three K&N cone filters are powdercoated red to match other body accents. A few engine modifications pump up the horsepower at the flywheel to 360 including a custom intake and 3-inch stainless exhaust pipes and an after-cat exhaust system with B&B mufflers.
For those who spotted the flame paint scheme-yes, Brian has broken his rule for sticking to like-factory changes. He confesses he went "out on a limb" with that change, but clearly loves the look. To cover himself, he has a new rule: It's OK to go out on a limb with a late-model. He says, "Go for it. Have some attitude."
Wil Cooksey, Corvette assembly plant manager in Bowling Green, selected Brian's Targa Hatch coupe as his celebrity pick at a National Corvette Museum show. Maybe all those modifications looked factory to him.
'96 Collector Edition CorvetteEngine: LT4 50ci, 330hpTransmission: Six-speed manual Exterior Color: Sebring Silver MetallicInterior Color: Torch Red
Factory Installed Options:Power driver and passenger seatsSport seatsDual removable roof panelsF45 selective real-time dampingSpare-tire deleteLow-pressure-warning indicatorDelco-Bose stereo with CDExtended-mobility tiresCollector Edition Appearance Package
Performance Modifications:SLP Cold Air Induction with 3 K&N filters(custom powdercoated red)Granatelli airflow sensorJET power control moduleB&B TriFlow performance exhaustEnkei V1 3-piece wheels (with C5 offsets)Michelin Pilot Sport tiresNote: Car dyno'd at the flywheel at 360 hp
Exterior/Engine Appearance Modifications:All bodywork by Erick Faust, Louisville, KYFlames by Taylor's House of Color, Louisville, KYM-1 Prowler spoilerCustom rocker panels by Doug RippieMotorsportsCustom Targa Hatch with removable glass panel by Vanacor Corvette PartsChrome engine covers by DesignSpecialtiesLED brake lights from Eckler'sCorvette PartsChrome door handles, front license-plateinsert, rear "Corvette" letters, & tail-light louvers by Mid AmericaMotorworks
Interior Appearance Modifications:Silver carbon-fiber dash kitRed gauge overlay by Doug Rippie MotorsportsEmbroidered carpet by AutoCustom CarpetMomo Sphere Style leather shift knob