Some Corvette lovers dream about how they're going to upgrade their cars-the right way (especially when they're reading Corvette Fever). Some of them go out in their garage or shop, and add/replace what they need to get their Vette right, in their mind.
And some, including Jimmy Pezzulich (owner of this '05 widebody convertible) turn their DIY/Corvette modification skills into a business. In Jimmy's case, that's Atomic Autosports, his shop in Port Orange, Florida, where this C6 was converted from a factory-fresh '05 into the sinister-looking stormer you see here. But the conversion didn't happen overnight or over one weekend. "It's been three years," Jimmy says, "but we're pretty much in the home stretch with it."
Most recently, he finished upgrading the '05's rear brakes. "We were trying to get that finished before last year's C5/C6 Bash at Bowling Green, but we didn't have enough time," Jimmy says. He adds that since that event, some artwork has now appeared to accent the mostly stock LS2. "My friend Steve Ray at Airbrush Inc. did some really nice airbrushing under the hood. Other than that, it's pretty much like it was at Bowling Green."
In a show field like the C5/C6 Bash's, it can be hard for a car to stand out, but Jimmy's conversion of a production '05 convertible into a droptop-Z06 look-alike drew crowds at the Bash. Those show-goers were even more impressed when they found out who did the bodywork. "I painted it and I hung all the panels," Jimmy says. "I found the rear-quarter conversion to be probably the simplest panel change of any car that I've ever done. The great thing about the Corvette is that everything bolts right off. Try taking a quarter-panel off of a Mustang-you have to cut it out then seam weld it back on." Jimmy says Atomic Autosports has done some C6 body conversions for its customers. "We've done a couple of Z06 conversions, and inside of a day-not a hard day-we can take the quarters off and put widebody ones on."
Inside those widened body panels are a set of custom CCW wheels covered in real carbon fiber by Jimmy, wearing Michelin Pilot Sport tires and backed by DBA brakes all around. Not only do they look good, but they're all needed to make the best use of the 545 rwhp the twin-turbocharged LS2 puts out.
But don't look for those turbos under the hood. Jimmy used an APS system, whose liquid-cooled turbochargers-putting out 8 pounds of boost-are driven by exhaust gas downstream of the catalytic converters. "The engine, especially the block, is pretty much stock, and we have the twin-turbo system coming out through a set of Borlas in the back," Jimmy says. "The whole intention was to keep it streetable. When I built this car, I wanted to be able to do something like hop in it in Florida and drive to Bowling Green. I like to get in my car and take a long drive and not have to worry about reliability."
When he made the drive to Bowling Green last year, two of the people in the crowd who admired his work with the '05 were two men who know C6s and how they go together. "Wil Cooksey [the former Bowling Green Assembly Plant manager] came up and signed my car, and had some really nice things to say about it," Jimmy says. "Dave Hill [Corvette's former chief engineer] was also there. He stopped by and saw the car, and he had some really nice compliments." But that wasn't the best part of Jimmy's trip. "Believe it or not, the highlight of the trip was doing the photo shoot with Jerry Heasley," Jimmy says. "We've never done a photo shoot like that-we've done some rolling shots for our own photo albums here, but with Jerry we were going through those tight, winding roads up there, and I'm six to eight feet off the camera-car's bumper at speed!"
Jimmy has some advice for Corvette lovers who'd like to upgrade their C6 into something like the one you see here. He says if you've worked on Corvettes before and you're up to it, why not do it yourself? "A lot of guys bring their cars to shops to have people do some of the stuff to them," he says. "I have people calling me weekly about how hard it is to remove a quarter-panel. Most of these cars aren't daily drivers. Take it off and figure it out; you can't really hurt anything by trying. We encourage a lot of our customers to do it themselves. Some don't know how to replace door handles. They call us, we walk them through it, and the next thing you know they're buying spoilers and starting to do stuff with their cars."