When looking for the best way to maximize the look and quality of a gemstone, a master jeweler considers what would be needed to show off that gem to best effect. Sometimes, it may be nothing more than a light polishing; other times it might need careful cutting, along with a setting of other gemstones and precious metals, to produce the desired result.
So it is with Corvette owners. Regardless of which generation of America's Only True Sports Car they own, they're always looking to present it, and its designed-and-engineered-in virtues, to the best effect. Sometimes, that involves routine maintenance and careful cleaning. Or it might entail a total, body-off-the-frame rebuild.
Or, in the case of Ray Bergman and his '06 Corvette convertible, it involves a master of the late-model Corvette "arts": Next Level Performance (NLP) in Altamonte Springs, Florida. "I got in touch with them through the Internet, through the Corvette forums." Ray says from his home in Jupiter, Florida "I'd read a lot of great things about them. I pretty much had Geoff Skorupa do everything to the car-the turbochargers, the methanol injection, everything."
Ray, a jeweler on Florida's Gold Coast, started with a C6 that was a rare gem in its own right: a LeMans Blue '06 convertible, one of just 973 drop-tops (of 11,151 convertibles built that year) that was painted that color at Bowling Green Assembly. Under its hood was a production LS2, a 6.0 liter, 400 horsepower version of The General's LS-engine family, in its second year of production.
That much power in such a rare example would be enough for many Corvette aficionados, but not Ray, who'd previously owned a half-dozen earlier-generation Vettes including a 454-powered '70 and a '91 ZR-1. But he took his time with the updates and upgrades to his '06, instead of having them done all at once in a single build. "It started out with a little bit, then a little bit more, then a little bit more," he says. "I just kept on going."
What went in and on Ray's C6 at Next Level Performance included two APS turbochargers, mounted aft of the engine, which bumped the LS2's output from 400 to 601 horsepower, helped in no small part by a special NLP "twin turbo grind" camshaft from Comp Cams. The LS2 also received a methanol-injection system to keep that modern-tech V8 from detonating under boost. Next Level Performance had RPM Transmissions in Daleville, Indiana, modify and upgrade the '06's automatic transaxle to handle the additional power the turbos produced. The '06's chassis received its share of upgrades, too. In place of the OEM disc brake rotors, big Baer EradiSpeed brake rotors boost the stopping power of this APS-turbo-boosted C6. At each corner, Pirelli-shod Forgeline three-piece wheels went on.
As for the body and interior, they received the attention needed to create a special setting for this blue gem. Outside, a Z06 rear body kit and a Motor City hood was installed, with high-intensity-discharge (HID) driving lights and "black cherry LED" taillights and side-marker lights went on. Inside, an insulation kit went in before a carbon-fiber dash kit and a killer sound system comprised of a Pioneer Advic Z3 head unit/satellite navigation unit, JL Audio amps, and speakers (expertly crafted by Madvette Motorsports) was installed in place of the factory sound system.
As mentioned above, the work on Ray's Vette wasn't all done at once. "It was there a bunch of times getting things done," he says of the multiple trips to NLP in Altamonte Springs. "Once was for the cam and the rear end, once was for the turbos and brakes, once was the methanol injection system, and once was for the body kit. Each time, it was there about two or three weeks, over a period of about two and a half years." The result is the masterpiece you see here, which wasn't just built for looks. "It's like a space shuttle," Ray says of his '06's acceleration, which is good enough to propel it to high-ten-second times in the quarter-mile."That thing is insane!"
But how does it compare to his previous Corvettes, especially that '91 ZR-1. "That was nothing compared to this," he says of that four-cam C4. "This one is ten times better-it's way faster. It turns better, it handles better, it stops better-the other one was a wrestling match compared to this one." And what is Ray's advice if you're planning to upgrade a sixth-generation Corvette into a creation like his? "See Geoff. He is such an honest, good guy," he says of Next Level Performance's Geoff Skorupa. Quite possibly, this jeweler's recommendation will result in more Corvette-based gems rolling out of Altamonte Springs.