If there's one word that describes all types of Corvette owners, it's observant. They're up-to-date with the details not only of their particular Corvette, but of the many variations of their generation of America's Only True Sports Car. And, they keep up with what other Vette owners are up to, thanks to the Corvette-based mass media-especially Corvette Fever and www.corvettefever.com-and also corvetteforum.com, ZO6vette.com, and smokinvette.com.
Butch Howard is among the most observant of Corvette owners, not just because his observational skills were honed by 32 years as a police officer in Slidell, Louisiana. He's also one who saw what was happening in the world of Vettes and took action.
That action involved his C6, which you see here. "It was a great car from day one. I can't say enough about it," Butch says of his '07 Z06. "It's been an awesome car." Awesome, indeed-but with room for improvement. "505 horsepower at the crank is a lot," Butch says. "But, like most guys who are car guys, after you get it and drive it, you get on the forums, you read Corvette Fever, and you start seeing what everyone else has done. You then get the "itch," and you want toto upgrade." So, Butch contacted aftermarket companies like Katech, Pfadt, and Brembo. As he puts it, "It was just one thing right after another."
The first area on Butch's Z06 that was upgraded was the chassis-and for good reason. "I wanted to track the car a little bit," Butch says, "to run it on track days and high-performance driving events. That's why I did the brakes and suspension first." Off came the original-equipment (OEM) parts and on went Brembo's big-brake kit and Quantum Motorsports spindle ducts, then Pfadt's coilover suspension and sway bars.
The "itch" to upgrade carried over to the engine, which Butch rebuilt with help from Katech (and their "Torquer" camshaft), Halltech cold-air induction system, Harland Sharp roller rockers, MSD (coil packs on the Z06's ignition system), Kooks headers, and Billy Boat mufflers. Plus, the cylinder heads were port-matched to the intake and headers. It now puts out more than the 505 horsepower that The General rated the production LS7 engine at.
Outside, Butch added Katech's carbon fiber rear spoiler and ZR1 front splitter and Caravaggio's GT hood, while the cabin received a much appreciated upgrade, changing the stock C6 Ebony leather for the optional Ebony/Cobalt Red interior. "I pulled everything out, and then put sound-deadening and heat-reflective insulation in the whole car before the interior went back in," he recalls. "It really made a difference on long trips."
Along with the updated cabin, the mechanical upgrades made this Corvette the top performer and handler of all the Vettes that he's owned (including a six-speed '92, which he says was the best of his previous six Vettes.) "The '07 is twice the car as far as performance and handling goes," Butch says with pride. "At 75 miles an hour, it gets about 26 miles a gallon all day. It's smooth-it's not so rough that it feels like you're riding in a truck like the '68 I had. It really handles well, it's good on the track, and it's well behaved." He does have one caution for C6 ZO6 owners who take their Vettes-modified or not-to track days. "You've got to be careful, even though it's got traction control and active handling," he says. "You can turn all that off, and the car can get away from you if you don't watch it. I don't profess to be a race car driver by any means-I enjoy getting on the track with it and doing laps. You've got to be careful with it."
But those mods and upgrades took nothing away from this C6's grand touring character, which Butch experienced during some very long trips with it. "We've been out Route 66 with the car, all the way to California, and up to New England twice with it." That included a five-week, 9,700-mile Western trip, made just after he got it but before he started upgrading it. We went up to Oklahoma City, got over to 66, then went all the way as far as we could to Santa Monica," he says. "We also went up to San Francisco on Highway 1 all the way, then Highway 101 back to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, all of that." Then less than a year later, America called him again, and he went in a different direction with his Z06. "Eight months after that trip, we left for New England. We were in Salem, Massachusetts, for Halloween the following year."
Lately, Butch has been keeping closer to his Slidell home, running his '07 at some track days and taking in some local events. But he's got another long-distance run in the works come next fall's "fall colors" time. "We're planning another trip up to New England for "leaf time" there," he says. Without any modifications, the '07 Z06 is quite a Corvette. With the upgrades that Butch added to his, the lyrics to the classic Chevy ad jingle. "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet" ring even truer: "...On a highway or a road along a levee, performance is sweeter, nothing can beat 'er, life is complete-er in a Chevy..."