There are at least two schools of thought when it comes to modifying a Corvette. One is to make it stand out by adding bodywork, wheels, big brakes, high-zoot interior trim and/or sound systems, as well as other "high-visibility" items like custom paint and graphics. Another would modify a Corvette in so subtle a manner that you'd never know it had been modified, until a new one parks next to it.
Bobby Chestnut's '06 Corvette is definitely a product of the latter, by an owner who has an advanced degree from the College of American Performance Automobile Knowledge. "I grew up with musclecars," he says from his Jasper, Indiana, home. "My first three cars were GTOs, because my Dad was a Pontiac nut, and he was best buddies with the Pontiac dealer in town." His affection for American performance wasn't limited to Pontiacs-or to steel-bodied cars in general. "I was always racing Corvettes for buddies of mine, but I could never afford one-and the insurance on it-until a long time after I got married," Bobby recalls. "I'd always liked Corvettes, and I'd always raced 'em, but when you get married, it's not a good family car. It took me a little while to own my first one."
He didn't get his first Corvette until he was 30, trading a Pro Streeted Camaro Z28 for a '72 Stingray boasting factory-original LT1 power under its domed hood. Since then, he's had several other Corvettes, including an LS5-powered '71 Stingray that we featured here in Corvette Fever several years ago. That 454-powered Shark, however, went away before the '06 C6 you see here arrived in Bobby's garage. In truth, its departure made the '06's arrival possible. "I actually traded the '71 for this car," he says. "I really liked that '71 big-block (LS5) car, but a guy calls up one day, and he asked 'Do you want to sell your '71?' I told him, 'Not really,' and he then asked, 'Would you like to trade?' and I said, 'What have you got?'" It turned out that guy was a Chevrolet dealer in Texas, who wanted Bobby's C3 for his collection. "He had five or six brand-new C6s, and he said, 'Pick one!' I looked, and this one is the one that I picked."
But before it left for Texas, the C3 left behind some fond memories. As Bobby recalls, "The '71 was a nice car. I took it to shows-I drove it down to Bowling Green four times in the last year that I had it, and I won Celebrity Choice all four times I was down there with it!" But, alas, while it was a good car, he could never drive it every day-an aspect of C5/C6 Corvettes that endear them to their owners. "This car, I thought, I can drive every day, it's a fast car, even dead stock," says Bobby of his C6. "It handles good, gets great gas mileage, it's comfortable-I just get more enjoyment out of it."
That enjoyment increased when Bobby decided to make his '06 look more like a same-vintage Z06, starting with fender badging. "Of course, C4s, C5s and C6s don't come with fender badges, unless you've got a Z06," he says. "So, I now manufacture and sell badging for the different C6 engines." He sells them online via eBay and at his own CorvetteForSale.com website. Then came other upgrades, inside and out. "I changed the ground effects, and put on a Classic Design Concepts kit with a new lower front spoiler, rear spoiler, and tunnel in back," says Bobby, who's also tinted the windows, added a set of Lloyd's mats and red Speed Lingerie around the cockpit, and covered the factory writing and stickers on the sun visors, fuse box, and the top of the radiator.
Lest you think all of the changes to Bobby's '06 were cosmetic, he also lowered the C6 via the factory bolts on the rear, added a Vararam induction system and a stainless steel Borla exhaust system. And, to really make the most of his powertrain mods, he called in some outside help. "It was tuned by Chuck at Corvettes of Westchester," says Bobby. "He spent three hours or so on my car. Everything works just fine-it runs quicker, the cooling fans come on quicker. It's a really good tune overall, with no problems at all. He's a really nice guy, and he spends a lot of individual time on each Corvette that he tunes."
The result of Bobby's additions and upgrades? A car that surprised a lot of C5/C6 Bash attendees, including our own Alan Colvin. "I've known Alan for a few years, and when he looked at my car, he didn't see a whole bunch of things until it was parked next to a stock one," Bobby says. "He said, 'That's really sort of subtle in red, but it's subtle."
Not subtle is the praise that Bobby gives his '06, especially in one area not normally associated with Corvettes. "Of all the things that I brag about, I brag most of all about the great gas mileage, over and above the looks and handling and everything else," he says. "When the conversation comes up, I always say, "You may not realize it, but these cars get 30 miles a gallon, and more." Bobby adds that filling his '06s tires with nitrogen, instead of compressed air, has helped not only his Vette's fuel mileage. "It probably makes a mile or two a gallon difference," he notes. "But, it's said that nitrogen cuts down on your tire wear by 20-25%, because your tires run cooler. I've had nitrogen in my tires for two years, and I've never had to adjust the tire pressures in 'em-they've remained constant all the time."
If you're in the market for a Corvette, Bobby says how you plan on using it, and which generation it is, are things to think about. "I'm old school, so I like 'em all. But, if you're buying a Corvette, you've got to think about whether you want to restore it and take it to car shows, or you want to drive it and enjoy the performance, reliability and gas mileage of the newer C5s and C6s."
Data File: '06 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
Owner: Bobby Chestnut, Jasper, Indiana
Modified production 2006 Corvette coupe
Modifications: Starcraft "Lingenfelter" hood, front air dam, rear spoiler and rear tunnel, fender emblems (designed by owner)
Ground-Effects: body panels made by Classic Design Concepts
Bodywork: GM-Bowling Green Assembly Plant
Paint: OEM '06 Corvette Victory Red; Paint preparation and applied by GM-Bowling Green Assembly Plant & Keusch Body Shop
Frame: Production '06 Corvette
Suspension: Production '06 Corvette (lowered in rear)
Steering: Production '06 power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Production '06 four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and calipers painted red
Wheels: Production '06 Corvette, 18 x 8 1/2 inches in front, 19 x 10 inches in rear
Tires: Production '06 Corvette Goodyear Eagle F1 EMT, P245/40ZR18 front, P285/35ZR19 rear
Modified GM Powertrain LS2 overhead-valve smallblock V8
Modifications: Vararam ram-air induction, custom ECM programming by Chuck at Corvettes of Westchester, Ossining, New York
Displacement: 364 cubic inches (6.0L)
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Cylinder Heads: Production LS2 cast aluminum
Ignition: OEM coil-on-plug
Induction: GM Powertrain electronic fuel injection
Camshaft: Production LS2
Exhaust: Borla stainless steel cat-back exhaust system
Horsepower: 450 @ 5700 rpm (Estimated)
Torque: 500 ft./lbs. @ 5100 rpm (Estimated)
Production '06 Corvette six-speed manual transaxle
Shifter: Production '06 Corvette, console-mounted
Modified production 2006 Corvette
Modifications: Custom visor covers, Lloyd's floor mats, Speed Lingerie red shifter/handbrake boots, Escort radar-warning system, GoPro camera system
Seats: Production '06 Corvette sport seats, upholstered in beige leather
Carpets: Production '06 Corvette cut-pile
Instrumentation: OEM '06 Corvette (0-200 mph speedometer, 0-7000 rpm tachometer with 6500 rpm redline, plus fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter and coolant temperature gauges)
Sound System: Production '06 Corvette Delco/Bose AM/FM Stereo/CD
HVAC: Production '06 Corvette heater/defroster/ air conditioner