With a combustion engine, there are only so many ways to feed the powerplant. Normally-aspirated engines reign in the majority, as the engine gasps in its intake charge by means of its naturally produced vacuum and gravity. Originally tunneled in through a carburetor where fuel is sprayed into the intake charge, normal aspiration (for the most part) evolved into fuel injection, a method where the ingested air flows through a throttle body, meeting up with the fuel in the intake runners or directly in the combustion chamber as with direct-injection engines. Either way, the intake charge was susceptible to a litany of variants that could hinder the vehicle's performance. Higher altitudes starved the engine for the necessary air, altering the combustion's fuel-to-air mixture. Certain engine speeds and rpms limited the conventional carburetor's usefulness, often floating the throttle or maxing it out.
But it wasn't long after the original patents on the internal-combustion engine were filed that new innovations in advanced performance were made. Rudolf Diesel's 1898 design for a supercharger drastically improved the output of his compression-ignition engine-the first diesel engine as we know it today. Utilizing centrifugal fan blades either spun by the crankshaft via a belt, chain, or directly mounted, superchargers offer on-demand power; while turbos are propelled by exiting exhaust, requiring a build-up of pressure to force additional air into the induction. Superchargers and turbos evolved step-for-step with the internal-combustion engine, making their cross application almost second nature. The advent of the "power-adder" to domestic production vehicles during the '70s and '80s offered on-tap power without sacrificing streetability during the nation's tight economy, and through the '90s and the new century as a performance enhancer, most notably on four-cylinders and diesel trucks.
So was it any wonder when it came time for Vint Fantin to squeeze out some extra ponies he opted for a supercharger? We didn't think so.
The magic number advertised in 2002 was 405 for the Z06's horsepower output. Drawing from its historical nomenclature, the Corvette brandished the famed, but short-lived, moniker for the 21st century made famous by the white-on-blue '63 entries for LeMans. The performance-bred hardtop was the fastest, most potent Corvette since the swan-song '95 ZR-1, matching it pony for pony. But this time, the special-bred Corvette was wider, longer, and lighter than its C4 predecessor. The following '03 model of the Z06 remained nearly unchanged, and it showed in the nearly identical final sales for both Z06 production years.
It was these attributes that drew performance-hungry Vint to the '03 Z06. He was already a connoisseur of fine GM horsepower with his triad of muscle: a '68 Camaro, and '73 and '84 Vettes. Since his other Corvettes were all dressed in black, he thought it would be appropriate to order his Z06 in a matching hue. Vint ran the idea past his wife, Katrina, who raised a skeptical eyebrow. So he took her to the local showroom where she saw a fetching Electron Blue Z06 sitting among the Cavaliers and Malibus. She said, "This is the only color to have; black doesn't compare!" And the decision was made. Vint would get his Z06, but in blue, not black; yet it was a Z06. Not one to leave well enough alone, he pushed for chromed wheels, a slight modification that would hint at many more to come in the future. Knowing her husband well, Katrina warned, "Ok, but nothing else for at least a year."
True to his word, Vint waited one year to the day and then took the C5 to the masterminds at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering for some unique fabrication. Keeping the epidermis of the Corvette the same, a LPE prefabricated mini-tub kit was installed, opening up the rear wheelwells considerably.
Once the Z06 returned home, a set of HRE wheels allowed for massive meats in the rear and a more aggressive stance, setting the Electron Blue coupe apart from the crowd. Wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sports 275/30/18s in front and 345/30/19s in the rear, Vint had Baer Eradispeed two-piece rotors slipped on with the factory Z06 ceramic brakes to handle the stopping. The ride height was lowered both front and back, dropping the Corvette into the weeds.
With the outside tweaked only slightly, Vint opted for some custom highlights in the interior. Lloyd's embroidered Z06 floor mats, a custom-crafted dual gauge pod featuring Auto meter Cobalt fuel pressure and boost gauges adorn the driver's A-pillar, as well as a FJO wideband O2 meter that keeps tabs on the engine's many vitals. Blue LED lighting illuminates the cabin as well as the lighted stainless door sill guards with the Corvette logo. Vint shelled out extra bucks for the XM radio option from the factory. The remainder of the factory interior was left alone, as the original black leather seats and panels were tastefully done the first time. The manual M6 six-speed transmission didn't require any reworking, so he installed a Breathless Performance Products shifter marked by a shorter throw and topped with a Momo contoured knob.
When it came time to make this Vette a bona fide street screamer, Vint wanted to do it all himself. Pulling the Corvette into the garage, he began pulling apart the top end of the LS6. He had already acquired a pair of signature Lingenfelter valve covers when he had the mini-tubs installed, but it was a newly ordered Magnuson intercooled supercharger that would now reside betwixt the new rocker covers. The factory intake was extracted and shelved and replaced with the beautifully polished blow-dryer. Following the factory instructions word-for-word, he secured the intercooler to the core support, plumbed it to the intake, attached the new wire looming, and connected the aforementioned gauge pod to the newly reborn powerplant.
Some of the more meticulous fine-tuning had to be done by professionals, so Vint took the Z06 to a nearby tuner shop, where the final result rendered an additional 140 hp to the rear wheels with the boost only turned up mildly.
Now there was only one problem: the hood wouldn't close over the roots-style supercharger. Jim Bayne of Killer Ridez in Seagoville, Texas, was contacted for help in giving the blown-LS6 some more headroom. A new hood was crafted, painted to match the factory paint, and bolted to the clam-shell hinges.
The stylish marriage of classic Sting Ray and new-generation Corvette is seamless on Vint and Katrina's Electron Blue Z06. but it's not the aesthetics that turns so many heads, it's the roar of the big exhaust and the big fat tires hazing sticky trails down the boulevard.