Like great motion pictures, some Corvettes are made, then they're remade. Sometimes, that remake involves a thorough body-off-the-frame restoration to exactly the way it came off the assembly line. Many times, the remake centers on engine and related powertrain upgrades, intended on producing much more horsepower and torque than stock. Or, they can be exercises in beautification (to the owner, at least), ranging from one-off body modifications to multiple coats of hand-rubbed metalflake paint, to an interior upholstered in exotic fabrics and leathers, to a sound system that puts out more wattage and sound than many radio stations--to a combination of all of those.
Sam Wilensky's Vette remake started out with one of the greatest regular-production examples, the '03 Z06, and he made it into a distinctive driver that dazzled us when we saw it at Corvettes at Carlisle. Since then, he's gone the higher-zoot route with it, including a new exterior paint scheme and an even-more-state-of-the-art sound system.
Sam's love of Corvettes and Chevys runs deep--all the way back to his days in St. Louis, Missouri. There, he grew up near Chevrolet's St. Louis Assembly Plant, which turned out steel-bodied Chevys starting in 1920, then became the home of the Corvette in 1954. Several of his neighbors worked at St. Louis Assembly, and he'd often see them "take their work home with them" as they drove the latest production examples around town.
When it came time for his first car, it was indeed a Chevrolet--but not a Corvette. "The first car that I bought as a teenager was a '76 Nova coupe that I put an L88 hood and striping on; it was a lot of fun," Sam says. Several Camaros succeeded the Nova, with one of them still in his Spartanburg, South Carolina, garage. However, family commitments meant minivans instead of Vettes for a number of years, until his daughters were grown, and it was time for him to fulfill his lifelong dream of Corvette ownership. "I had been searching for a Corvette for a while," Sam says, "and I finally found myself in a position to do that."
Enter the '03 Z06. "We bought the '03 brand-new in August of 2002, not long after they hit the dealers," says Sam of his Millennium Yellow Z06--1 of less than 2,000 Z06s that were painted in that optional shade. For Sam, the 405 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque that the production Z06 engine put on the pavement weren't enough, so he took it to the folks at Lingenfelter Performance and had them add an intercooled Magnuson supercharger, plus related performance upgrades like a Corsa after-cat stainless steel Pace Car Edition exhaust system. Lingenfelter also added a mini-tub kit out back to make room for the 19x12-inch HRE wheels and 345/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport tires (which were joined by 18x9-inch HRE wheels and 255/40R18 Pilot Sports in front), as well as a set of big Brembo disc-brake rotors. All that, plus a set of '04 Z06 shocks, went in to keep the supercharged Z06's power (now up to 595 hp and 505 lb-ft of torque) on the pavement and the Z06 aimed where Sam wanted it.
Inside, the upgrades included a high-end Clarion sound system with a touch screen, iPod, and DVD-playing capability, plus a full set of Vette Essentials interior upgrades (seats, steering wheel, center console, armrest, shifter and handbrake handles and boots, and door pulls) color-keyed to the Z06's original Millennium Yellow.
Since we photographed it, Sam's Z06 has undergone a complete makeover. As he puts it, "It now has custom paint, custom audio and interior," with a black-over-yellow-over-black color scheme that adds scallops where the Z06s body has coves. "I've been working with a great custom shop, Elite Audio, here in Spartanburg that's done some wonderful things with the car," he says.
With the remake, Sam has retired his Z06 from daily driving. "I'll probably still find excuses to drive it to work, but when I met the great guys from your team at Carlisle, the car was a daily driver," he says. "I was driving it back and forth to work every day and I drove it to Carlisle. Now, with the new custom paint job and all that goes along with it, I don't think it'll see as much street duty as it once did." He's left that duty to the other cars in his garage. Which, no doubt, are waiting their turn to be remade.