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.
Data File: '06 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Owned By: Ray Bergman, Jupiter, Florida
Modified By: Next Level Performance, Altamonte Springs, Florida
Modified production C6 Corvette
Modifications: Z06 rear body kit, Motor City hood, high-intensity discharge driving lights, black cherry LED taillights/side marker lights
Paint: OEM 2006 Corvette LeMans Blue; Bodywork, paint preparation and paint applied by the paint shops at GM's Bowling Green (KY) Assembly Plant, with body modifications color-matched at Next Level Performance
Frame: OEM C6 Corvette with hydroformed side rails
Suspension: OEM C6 Corvette independent short/long arm with composite leaf springs, front and rear
Steering: OEM C6 Corvette rack-and-pinion, power-assisted
Brakes: OEM C6 Corvette 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, line-lock and Baer EradiSpeed rotors (13 1/2-inch, front and rear)
Wheels: Forgeline 3-piece VR3Scustom wheels, 19 x 9 inches in front, 20 x 12 inches in rear
Tires: Pirelli P-Zero, 275/30 R19 in front, 345/25R20 in back
Modified GM Powertrain LS 2 aluminum-block V8
Built By: Next Level Performance, Altamonte Springs, Florida
Modifications: Twin APS turbochargers, ECS methanol injection
Displacement: 364 cubic inches (6.0 liters)
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Cylinder Heads: Production LS2
Ignition: Production LS2 GM electronic coil-on-plug
Induction: Custom cold-air induction pipe combined with the LS2's OEM fuel injection system
Camshaft: Comp Cams' NLP custom "twin turbo grind" hydraulic roller
Exhaust: Corsa Sport stainless steel exhaust system (with turbochargers mounted downstream of the headers), with electric cutouts
Horsepower: 601 @ 5700 rpm (on NLP's dyno)
Torque: 596 ft. /lbs. @ 4400 rpm (on NLP's dyno)
Modified six-speed paddle-shift automatic transaxle
Modified By: RPM Transmissions, Daleville, Indiana
Shifter: OEM 2006 Corvette
Final Drive Ratio: 3.15:1
Modified OEM '06 Corvette
Modifications: Carbon fiber dash kit, insulation kit.
Seats: OEM black leather '06 Corvette buckets with LeMans Blue leather seatback inserts
Carpets: OEM '06 Corvette black cut-pile
Instrumentation: OEM '06 Corvette (0-200 mph speedometer, 0-8000 rpm tach with 6300 rpm redline with ammeter, oil pressure, oil temperature, coolant temperature and fuel level gauges in dash), plus auxilary boost and fuel-pressure gauges mounted on left A-pillar.
Sound System: Pioneer Advic Z3 SatNav/Radio with JL Audio 600-4 and 750-1 illuminated amplifiers, JL Audio stealth subwoofers, C5 6500 woofers/tweeters with crossovers. Custom audio install by Madvette Motorsports.
HVAC: OEM C6 Corvette