There is no doubt that automotive customization is a fluid art form. When you can see little old ladies with iridescent pink and sky blue hairdos cavorting up and down Miami Beach in convertible Chrysler Sebrings, you know that auto art is in the eye of the beholder. For some, all-but-stock-appearing vehicles with drastically ramped performance is the ultimate goal for customization, while radically altered chassis, suspension, and interior accruements are the standard for others less interested in competitive racing. All of which solidifies the subjectivity of auto personalization.
Brian Davis of Louisville, Kentucky, has tried to wave the banner of "I wouldn't modify a car past the point of no return." Meaning, that were he to alter or customize a car of his own, he wouldn't journey past the point of not being able to return the car to stock trim. He also claimed he wouldn't modify a car past anything that couldn't be offered by the factory. But Brian failed to adhere to these two credos with his '96 Collector Edition. Brian once owned a '93 40th Anniversary Edition Vette, which was his second Corvette. But with the introduction of the new C5 in the fall of 1996, Brian got the itch to "trade up." But his efforts were sidetracked by a LT4-equipped '96 Collector Edition that sat on the showroom floor.
Dealerships had loaded up on the final year of the C4 body style, trying to get their allocation up for the new C5s. They were also hoping with the impending demise of the chassis that many enthusiasts would rush to snatch them up. Rather, the opposite occurred as many placed their names on waiting lists in anticipation of the new super-sleek coupes and roadsters, leaving the dealerships with an over abundance of C4s. One of those overstock Corvettes was the aforementioned silver on Torch Red interior Collector Edition. It was "that Torch Red [that] just set off the [Sebring Silver Metallic] paint, along with having a LT4 and a stick. it was love at first sight," says Brian. After taking possession of the Collector Edition, Brian immediately purchased a set of aftermarket Enkie V1 three-piece chrome rims. Other than the new rims, Brian says, "no modification should look like it comes from the factory," because, "if you're going to do anything else, you're going to screw it up for sure."
Equipped with a bevy of factory goodies to offer the pilot a sure and comfortable ride, the C4 Corvette came equipped with power driver and passenger sport seats, dual removable roof panels, F45 Selective Real-Time damping, a low tire pressure warning indicator, a Bose CD player, and a spare tire delete. Brian started mildly, adding an expensive red background for the dash gauges and a silver carbon-fiber dash kit, along with a Momo Sphere-style leather shift knob (with a fine red pinstripe applied by Brian himself).
With the LT4 producing a factory-tuned 330 hp, Brian chose to eke out just a little bit more. A SLP cold-air induction kit was mated to the intake with a triad of K&N filters, all of it powdercoated in matching Torch Red. A Granitelli MAS was installed, while a JET power control module helped ramp up the performance curve. a B&B Triflow Performance exhaust system expel the spent gases out the back via dual pairs of chrome tips. Michelin Pilot Sport tires keep the silver Vette from sliding all over the road when Brian stands on the skinny pedal.
But all of this didn't happen overnight. Remember Brian's credo about "stock appearances?" Well, that didn't last too long. Brian adhered a couple pairs of "LT4" badges to the fenders and quarters, which snowballed into adding custom rocker panels with the same LT4 badges, then LED brake lights, a M-1 Prowler spoiler, and a head-to-toe chrome accent kit, including polished door handles, a front fascia license plate insert, a set of taillight chrome louvers, and rear "Corvette" letters all from Mid America Motorworks. Taking a breather to observe his work, Brian realized the engine compartment needed the same treatment. Triple-plated chrome accents cover nearly every surface, based on solid brass and coated with a flawless satin finish.
The elephant in the room that has yet to be mentioned is the custom Targa hatch that replaced the original glass greenhouse. Supplied by Vanacor Corvette Parts, the hatch is available with a removable pane of glass when the Targa needs to be buttoned up. Compatible with factory roof panels, the silver Targa replacement hatch sets Brian's Collector's Edition apart from the rest.
Brian farmed out the paint and bodywork to Erick Faust of Louisville, Kentucky. The flames applied by Taylor's House of Color in Louisville are "a little out there," admits Brian, but make for a nice custom hot rod look, pouring out from the side vents and underneath the clamshell hood.
With all the modifications (rating 370 hp at the flywheel) under the hood and out, it makes for one of the most distinguished C4s to grace the pages of Corvette Fever. Recently, Wil Cooksey, Corvette assembly plant manager, selected Brian's Targa coupe as his celebrity pick at one of the National Corvette Museum shows.