Is the production Corvette the ultimate example of performance or is it just a starting point? many Corvette lovers enjoy the level(s) of performance provided by the standard hardware and optional goodies that the Corvette Team has designed, engineered, and made available since the first C1s of the early '50s. But for a devoted number of Vette enthusiasts, what comes from The General is merely the starting point to transforming America's Only True Sports Car into The Optimum Driving Experience.
That direction started with a solid base. The '94 Vette marked the eleventh year in production for the C4 platform, and continuous upgrades had improved it a lot over the first C4s of 1984. For 1994, the base 300hp LT1 Corvette engine received an all-new sequential fuel-injection system, one that fired its injectors in time with the cylinders' firing order, which gave better throttle response, idle quality, overall drivability, and lower emissions than the previous EFI setup had. Also, Corvette's automatic transmission was now electronically controlled for better shift quality and rpm-shift consistency. If that wasn't enough, the cabin got its share of major updates, including standard leather seats, a passenger-side airbag, a new two-spoke steering wheel, and an HVAC system that used R-134a as its refrigerant instead of R-12 (Freon).
Speed Hound Performance is a shop in Social Circle, Georgia, (east of Atlanta) that specializes in high-performance upgrades to Corvettes and steel-bodied GM cars. One of the cars they've turned from a factory stocker into a track-day twisties-tamer is a Polo Green '94 Corvette coupe that they did for Larry Strunk. according to Speed Hound's Trey Hanson, Larry brought the car to Speed Hound to remedy its performance in another way. "He actually had a broken CD player, so he brought it to us and we did everything else," Trey says. Larry had purchased it a couple of months earlier, and it did indeed have a CD player that didn't work. Trey adds, "Larry had read an article about an LT4 conversion, and that's the reason he went in that direction."
But all that wasn't enough for Larry. With the help of Speed Hound, he started upgrading the green '94. Under the hood, the OEM heads and intake came off, replaced by an LT4 cylinder heads/intake combo from GM Performance Parts. The stock cam and lifters also were replaced by a TPiS ZZ9 camshaft/Comp Cams roller rockers-and-pushrods combo.
Other mods include an Accel ignition and plug wires set, as well as a prototype exhaust system by Random Technology (which Speed Hound is a dealer for) that uses Corsa mufflers out back.
Those updates boosted the modified LT1's output beyond the 300hp factory rating. However, seeing just how much further led to another series of modifications and updates. "What happened was the transmission blew up on the dyno," Trey says. "When we were dynoing it after we'd put it all back together, the transmission let loose, and it didn't want to deal with the engine anymore." Out came what was left of that gearbox, replaced by another electronic-overdrive automatic, this one modified by Neal Racing Converter in Snellville, Georgia, containing heavy-duty internals, as well as a TCI 2600 stall converter and an auxiliary transmission fluid cooler.
The chassis received its fair share of attention and strengthening thanks to a stout Doug Rippie Motorsports (DRM) five-point chassis brace located just behind the seats, which many people confuse for a rollcage. A set of lowering springs, Bilstein shocks, and polyurethane bushings all went in the '94, as did 13-inch front disc brake rotors from the '96 Corvette Grand Sport and a set of Z-rated Performance Friction brake pads.
Other than the previously mentioned chassis brace, the cabin of Larry's '94 was left pretty much as-is. a good thing because it contained beige leather seats, an optional Delco/Bose AM/FM/CD player (which was repaired), and all the other convenience features that came with the '94 Corvette. As a result of all the upgrades and modifications, this one runs and handles like few other '94 Corvettes. Especially no others that look factory original on the outside, save for a set of halogen headlights in front and LED taillights in back.
But does it handle or perform any better than a production '94 Corvette? Absolutely. What's it like to drive? As Trey puts it, "It's a blast!" He notes that once it was done, Larry got some serious track time with it. "He actually took it to Road Atlanta a number of times. He went through a number of the [driver school] classes, then he got out on the Road Atlanta track and absolutely had a ball with the car," says Trey, who adds that they'd see Larry's car regularly after its on-track sessions. "He'd constantly bring it back to us, and a full fluid change would occur. It had maybe gone a couple of hundred or a thousand miles, but we'd change every fluid on the car, and it would go right back to Road Atlanta again. We would flush the brake system, replace the gear fluid in the back, drain the transmission fluid and replace it, and the (engine) oil would get replaced every time."
Nowadays, the meticulously maintained green '94 is owned by Speed Hound, serving as a rolling showcase for the high-performance parts and services they offer to Vette lovers.
And it can still tame the twisting turns of Road Atlanta-and all the roads leading to it.