If you've been in this hobby for any length of time, you've probably used or lusted after a set of mandrel-bent, stainless steel, American made, long-tube headers from a little company called Kooks Custom Headers. Historically, racers and enthusiasts have actually been after such pieces of art and function for the better part of the last 49 years, when a man from New York named George Kook (aka Pappa Kook) took a torch to his very first set of headers for a family race car project and accidentally started a craze for high-quality headers at affordable prices. Several years later, while George was busy building a small header empire, he had a son, named George Kook Jr., who would hopefully one day be as passionate about hot rods as his father. Forty-three years later, Jr., who was serving as the president of Kooks invited us up to check out the family's brand-new 45,000-square-foot facility, which was built from the ground up to provide customers with the best exhaust components that Kooks could produce, in the quickest time and at the lowest cost. The facility was spectacular (trust us, it's worth the visit if you can make it by), but what was even more intriguing was the entire Kook family's love of high performance, the essence of which can be found in George Jr.'s personal track-ready and street friendly '08 Corvette Z06.
In all honesty, George Jr.'s Z06 isn't extremely modified, not by any means, but it does present a well thought out combination that works perfectly for George's desires, and really, isn't that what this is all about? First and foremost, George's Z06 represents a test mule for the Kook's family business and has been used extensively to develop new and innovative products for the Corvette market, including the company's well known 1-7/8-inch long-tube headers, which we've seen on several Z06 features we've done in the past. Even during our time at the Kooks' facility, we saw this particular Z06 up on the rack twice, with the skilled fabricators installing a top-secret X/H-Pipe, which George and crew were testing for a possible future production run. Never heard of an X/H-Pipe? Neither had we, but it's that type of testing--whether it ultimately works or not--that leads to the development of groundbreaking parts that can possibly revolutionize the industry, similar to the way George's father had almost 50 years ago.
Along with product development, George's Z06 serves another function, one we can probably all relate to, and that is stress relief. As you can imagine, running a gigantic 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility responsible for producing thousands of sets of custom headers and exhaust systems can be quite a daunting task, so when it comes time to hit the clocks at 5 pm on a Friday (yeah, right, you know these guys work longer than that!), it's key to have a way to unwind. For George, his Victory Red Z06 is just perfect for the undulating roads of North Carolina, although he is just at home on the fast-paced race course at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), where he has logged several fast laps, including a personal best of 2 minutes and 18 seconds, which is blisteringly quick on the famed 3.27-mile "full course." When asked what George liked most about the Corvette, his answer was simply, "its handling and high speed stability," much of which he attributes to the Corvette's fantastic factory equipped suspension.
In fact, almost all of the running gear on George's Z06 remains stock, with the only notable modification coming from a set of Carbotech "race pads," which can bring this monster to a dead stop from high speed in just a matter of seconds. George needs all of the braking he can get too, as his Z06 lays down quite a bit more power than stock, thanks to a couple of key upgrades installed by the crew at Heintz Performance, a well known LSX shop whom you may know better from Don Dixon's killer GTO that they campaign in the LSX Challenge Series. Not looking to set the world on fire with George's engine but still tasked with creating enough thrust to get George around VIR quickly, Heintz played it cool, installing a set of Scoggin Dickey Parts Center ported LS7 cylinder heads on the otherwise stock LS7, along with a custom ground camshaft that George selected, which he called a "3/4 race cam." Up top, George selected a FAST LSXR 102mm intake manifold stuffed with eight 42 lb/hr injectors, which works in conjunction with a Nick Williams 102mm throttle body and a Halltech carbon fiber intake system to feed the 427-cubic-inch beast. Additionally, the Heintz crew installed a 10-percent underdrive balancer from ATI, along with a Meziere electric water pump, to help keep engine temperatures under control, along with a set of billet valve and coil covers, which just barely hint at the modifications that lie within the engine bay, without looking overdone or gaudy.
And while it might not seem like that much on paper, the Heintz crew was able to work their magic on the LS7, with all of the small changes, combined with the ported cylinder heads and camshaft, working together to lay down over 562 rear wheel horsepower along with a gut-wrenching 515 ft-lb of torque. In a lightweight Z06, that's enough power to get anyone in trouble on the street or track, a lesson George has probably learned on more than one occasion. But, isn't that the point of building a stress reliever like this? To have too much fun, go way too fast, brake way too hard, and smile the entire time you're doing it? It sure beats having to work, which is something George and his father can still be found doing almost every single day, getting their hands dirty with the family business, which has become a multi-million dollar operation, thanks to a ton of hard work, dedication, and the ever important task of research and development.
|Car: 2008 Corvette Z06|
|Owner:||George Kook Jr.|
|Heads:||Scoggin Dickey Parts Center CNC-ported LS7, 2.200-intake, 1.60-exhaust valves|
|Cam:||Comp Cams custom hydraulic roller|
|Rocker arms:||Stock LS7, 1.8-ratio|
|Crankshaft:||Stock, forged steel|
|Throttle body:||Nick Williams 102mm|
|Fuel injectors:||42 lb/hr|
|Fuel pump:||Stock, in-tank|
|Ignition:||Stock coil-near-plug, NGK plugs|
|Engine management:||Stock ECM, tuned by Heintz Performance|
|Exhaust system:||Kooks 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers, 3-inch exhaust, Kooks mufflers|
|Clutch:||McLeod Racing Super Street Pro|
|Front suspension:||Stock upper and lower control arms, composite leaf spring, shocks|
|Rear suspension:||Stock upper and lower control arms, composite leaf spring, shocks|
|Rear end:||Stock IRS, 3.42:1 gear, axles, posi|
|Brakes:||Stock 6-piston front, 4-piston rear; Carbotech Race pads|
|Wheels:||Stock 18x9.5 front, 19x12 rear|
|Front tires:||Michelin PS2 275/35/18|
|Rear tires:||Michelin PS2 345/30/19|