Steve Coffey's Lingenfelter-built Vettes-both the red Twin Turbo 427 (foreground) and the Wide Body (rear)-are the first of their kind. They were built at LPE's Decatur, Indiana, shop under John Lingenfelter's supervision.
What's the chance of seeing a serial #001 Corvette at one of the big national Vette shows? Fairly good. What's the chance of seeing two of them at the same show? Fairly low-unless these two Lingenfelter-built cars, owned by Crossville, Tennessee's Steve Coffey, show up. They appeared at the '08 C5-C6 Bash, rolling onto the show field late in the day.
"It was cool," Steve recalls of their entrance-and their subsequent success with the Judges' Choice Awards. "As soon as we pulled in, the author of the book Corvette Masterpieces, Jerry Heasley [who photographed both cars for this story -ED.], picked the silver car as his choice. Then, the former Bowling Green Plant Manager, Wil Cooksey, picked the red car as his choice. He wrote on the picture I've got of John [Lingenfelter] in the red car: 'From One Serial #001 To Another Serial #001-Wil Cooksey.' It was quite an honor!"
One question: How did he get both cars there? "A buddy of mine, Larry Conatser, helps me drive 'em up there-we trailered the silver car this time, and drove the red one," Steve says. These aren't your typical Corvettes, not by a long shot. Both of them have engines built by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (LPE), both equipped with dual Garrett turbocharger systems designed to get the most power out of the engines while fitting snugly beneath those hoods. Thanks to LPE's ultra-high-performance hardware that was installed on them under the supervision of John Lingenfelter himself, you've got to be really careful with your foot on the go-pedal.
Take the silver car, for example. It's a '98 Corvette coupe that LPE converted to a wide-body car three years later. That high-speed, wide-body bodywork is as much for show as it is for go, looking like the product of an Italian carrozzeria. "It's actually a high-speed concept car," Steve says. "When Lingenfelter was doing 226 mph in a regular-bodied Corvette, it got a little light with him, and this was his response to that." Steve adds that plans called for a 1,400hp engine for it, in a bid to beat the Land Speed Record (LSR) for a street-legal car. Instead, the silver wide-body now holds a twin-turbocharged 427-inch V-8 in its engine bay that spun the dyno to "only" 725 hp. As Steve recalls, "It was a 350 Lingenfelter originally, and when it got converted to a wide body, they put the C5R 427 block in it."
What's it like to drive an LSR-capable Corvette? "It's an exhilarating car," Steve says. "It's an automatic, and when you hit it, it's all there. You can't go directly to the floor [because] you'll get out of control with it. It launches, to say the least. When you hit it when you're going down the road, it can jerk sideways faster than you can respond to it. It takes a while to get used to it. You have to be ready for it, because you never really know how much it's going to be there."
No less exhilarating to drive is one of its garage mates, a red '02 Stage IV Corvette that's sporting production bodywork over LPE hardware. This one is the first-ever Lingenfelter-built Vette equipped from the start with a twin-turbocharged 7.0L (427ci) engine. "The previous owner told me that it was the only Stage IV that John ever built," Steve says. "One of the [Stage IV] features is the boost controller that goes from 8 pounds to 16 pounds. You can crank it up-there's a little dial in the console that you can turn up to whatever you want. But you have to have the high-octane race gas in it when you do."
Like its silver-hued stablemate, the red '02 is definitely for experienced drivers only, as Steve heard from its previous owner, who drove it home after it was built. "He had it built at Lingenfelter, then shipped to Barrett-Jackson for show," Steve says. "He drove it from Barrett-Jackson in Arizona to his place in Palm Beach, Florida, and displayed it in his living room until he sold it. He never drove it." Steve says that's because of a high-speed "misadventure" that could have been worse. "He said he was doing 100 when he hit it, and it broke loose on him. So, he put the fear into me. He said, 'Do not drive the car, Steve! Do not drive it!'" Steve adds that it really isn't as tricky to drive as that prior owner made it out to be, but-just like the silver wide body-you can get sideways in it real quick.
Speaking of stablemates, these two Corvettes are just two of four serial #001 cars that Steve owns. "I've got the first wide body, the first Lingenfelter 427, the first Guldstrand Nassau Roadster, and the first BMW Z8." That Guldstrand car is even rarer than the one-of-seven wide body Lingenfelter Vettes-it's the first one of only three built by Guldstrand."
Does the sight of either-or both-of these serial #001s pique your interest in ultra-high-performance Corvettes? Steve says these kinds of Corvettes have to be experienced in person. "The advice I have is, get in one if you can, somehow, and experience it. Because, as soon as you do, you're hooked on it. There's really no way to describe the power, because even if you're in a 400-500hp car, it's not even close! The red one's got 922 hp with the boost up and 885 lb-ft of torque. It's a six-speed-if you grab it just a little too hard, you can be in trouble quick!"