OK, long-time Vette lovers: Just how long (and how strong) has been your attraction to America's Only True Sports Car? Does it go back to the days before you could spell the word Corvette? For Dave Barkus it does.
His Vette history started long before this '00 convertible arrived at his Arvada, Colorado, home. When he was a kid, instead of saving up for a scale-model Corvette from AMT or MPC, he saved his silver for a 1:1-scale version from St. Louis Assembly. In 1970, when he was 17, he made the dream come true.
"I bought my first one in Salem, Oregon, for $1,400 cash, and I drove it all the way to Anchorage, Alaska, and back over the Alcan Highway," he recalls like it was yesterday. "It was a '64 Sting Ray convertible. It had a 365-horse 327 and 3.08 rearend gears. I was clipping 13.60's through the quarter-mile with it, in Third gear." Other than the Hooker headers and side pipes (which, he says, would burn your leg if you didn't step wide when getting out), it was stock. Dave adds that the seller had one request before he left on his 4,000-mile adventure. "He said, 'Take some pictures of it-if there's anything left of the frame when you get there!'"
Over the next four-plus decades, he's had nearly three dozen Corvettes in his garage, but not all at once. In 2002, he had a '90 C4 powered by a Lingenfelter-built stroker 383 with a Paxton supercharger, but he was looking to update to a later-generation Vette. He found a modified '00 convertible for sale in Houston, bought it, and drove it home. That's when the "fun" started.
"The people who played with it in Houston weren't thinking about things like emissions," says Dave. Among other things, the car's engine control module (ECM) was in default. The exhaust system had been modified, too. "It had hollowed-out GM cats on it, which wouldn't pass emissions inspection in Colorado at all."
Dave replaced what was left of the OE catalytic converters with high-performance aftermarket versions. "The first thing that I had to do was get it legal in Colorado, because there's no air here." (Well, there is, but thanks to Denver's mile-high altitude it's quite a bit thinner than what the Vette was used to breathing in Houston.) Getting properly-functioning cats on the C5 was just one issue. Once out of default, the ECM held more horrors. "We were having problems trying to decipher all the codes that were in it," says Dave. "There were 34 different trouble codes! It was a nightmare." One of those codes was triggered by the headers on the car. "You have to take the steering column out to put these headers on, and there's a sensor there that tells the computer that you're turning," he says. "They didn't have it set right, so the computer was confused, thinking the car was turning all the time."
But that wasn't all. Not only was the ECM reporting engine trouble, it also threw codes for the automatic transaxle. "It was complaining that the transmission was slipping," Dave recalls. "The computer was reading the wrong speed that the tires were turning, so it flagged transmission slippage, which it wasn't." As Dave puts it, "To say that it was a nightmare was an understatement. We had a lot of work to do to straighten this thing out."
His first stop for outside help was a GM high-performance dealer. "They told me there was nothing they could do with it, and that I needed to put it on a trailer and send it back to Houston!" Dave then turned to some friends at another GM dealer who, armed with computer savvy and the needed books and hardware, helped him get his Vette not only sorted out, but running right.
The corrective work took about a year, and then the actual fun began. "My original idea was, if there was such a thing as a Z06 convertible, that's what it would look like," Dave says. "Some people do it the other way, and take a Z06 coupe and cut the roof off it."