1999 Chevrolet Corvette - Aiming For The Nines

Modified '99 Made To Run Quick, Drive Home

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Go quicker--go faster. That's been the goal of many a Corvette devotee since Zora Arkus-Duntov joined Chevrolet's engineering team in 1953 and set out to make the Corvette do just that. Six generations of production Corvettes have gone quicker and faster than their predecessors. But, in more than a few cases, it has taken an owner's urge, plus aftermarket hardware, to make it happen.

Which brings us to this '99 Corvette, a competitor in the '08 YearOne Shootout. Its current owner, Joe Underwood, says this was originally a "brass hat" car--owned by an executive with the General's Delphi Electronics Division. But, unlike the Marina Blue C4 we brought you several months ago ("Blue Mule," Sep. '08), this one wasn't used as a "test mule," as far as Joe can determine. "I could never find that out," he says. "I tried to do some research on it, and I talked with the previous user, but all I got was a bunch of red tape at Delphi--`We don't divulge that information'--and I finally gave up."

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Look Again That's not a stock '99 LS1 with the engine cover off. Instead it's a bored and stroked LS-series engine that's pushing 7.0 liters (427 ci) displacement, and can run in the high-10s on the strip. With the nitrous system you see on there, Joe hopes to go into the nines.

Still, the car had just 8,000 miles on it when Joe found it back in 2002. It also had a rare color scheme and options combination that he was looking for: Nassau Blue with a six-speed manual transmission. Joe and his friend Randy Hammons flew to Detroit to pick up the car, and then drove it back to Memphis. "We went from Detroit to Chicago, and we were running 100-120 miles an hour," he says. "We then made it from Chicago to Memphis in about six hours. We were flying at low altitude!"

That '99 didn't stay original for long. OEM parts started coming off almost as soon as the C5 was parked after its run to Joe's home. Many of those upgrades were of the simple variety at first. "It started with stuff as minimal as a shifter," he says. "In fact, I already had an exhaust sitting there, through the folks at Lingenfelter, because I had good connections with the folks at Hypertech. They were able to hook me up with some parts-vendor sources."

The anticipation of more power under the hood (a J&D Corvette scooped item that replaced the original hood) led to many of the other parts replacements and upgrades. "It had some breakage, and rather than have that opportunity rear its ugly head again, we just did it," Joe says. "It's more insurance than anything. I don't like to `half-fast' anything, so I've always tried to use the best parts that I could, within reason."

The result is the C5 you see here, which looks little changed from stock, save for the Boyd Coddington five-spokes, Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, and the above-mentioned scooped hood. It's under that hood where the big changes were made--starting with a new LS-series engine built up to 421 ci and filled with a billet-steel Lunati stroker crankshaft, Diamond 12:1 pistons, a specially ground Comp Cams hydraulic roller camshaft, ET Performance LS7-style heads, and a stock LS7 intake with 42-lb/hr fuel injectors, full-length Kooks stainless steel headers, and a GHL exhaust system.

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