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1992 Chevrolet Corvette - Graduating To The Big League

A High School Graduation Present That Became The Quickest Street Vette In Texas.

Bob Wallace Apr 1, 2001

It was June 1993. Joel Perez had just graduated from high school in his hometown of College Station, Texas, and had been accepted to attend Texas A&M University. Joel's parents were justifiably proud of his accomplishments and had already been dropping hints that a new car might be an apropos reward for both the good job he'd done, as well as what they were confident he'd achieve as an "Aggie." In turn, young Perez started dropping hints about a Nissan 300ZX, but not for long.

See, the senior Perez is a Chevy man, through and through; a man whose attitude is expressed by his comment, "I'd rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford." His dream car had always been a yellow Corvette-any Corvette, as long as it was yellow. So you know that a non-Chevrolet product-especially an import-was out of the question! A Vette, however, was a possibility.

And so the father and son ended up one weekend at Corvettes of Houston. Joel only had one request (Hey, Dad's gonna buy you a Corvette-take whatever he offers and be grateful!), a late LT1, which meant a '92 or '93. There she (Joel calls his Vette "she") sat, a Competition Yellow '92 coupe, six-speed, both tops (glass and painted), black leather, and RPO Z07, the Adjustable Suspension Package which included FX3, heavy duty suspension, and heavy-duty brakes. The odometer indicated just 2,054 miles. In Joel's words, "She was perfect."

While Joel drooled over the yellow coupe, his father and the sales manager disappeared into an office. After 15 minutes of suspense, the elder Perez came over to where his son was still staring rapturously at the '92 and told him that he'd made an offer that the sales manager would, "think about."

A week or so went by before Joel's father told him that he'd heard from the dealer, and that they had another offer on the yellow coupe. The kid's mood swung from excited about the possibilities to distress in a flash.

Fast-forward another week, and a second trip to the Corvette dealer in Houston. On the way, father informed son that he'd talked to the dealer and that the yellow '92 had been sold. When they arrived, Joel saw the car of his-and his father's-dreams sitting outside, detailed and freshly waxed, with a "SOLD" sign on the windshield. "I was crushed," Joel remembers. "Dad told me to go inside and see if there was anything else that caught my eye," but nothing else could compare. His father headed to the manager's office to, "get the keys to a green Corvette that was there, so I could test drive it. I didn't really care. I was still pretty upset about our dream car being sold."

A few minutes passed, then Joel's dad and the sales manager came out of the office and the senior Perez tossed a set of keys to his son-the wrong keys. The tag didn't identify them as belonging to a green C4; it read, "1992 Corvette, Yellow, Z07."

"I couldn't believe it! Dad had pulled one over on me. He'd bought the car a week before, was just waiting for the paperwork to go through, and fooled me into believing that someone else had bought it. And it worked! I really took to this car, not just because it was a Corvette, but because it was the car my father had always wanted for himself. He and my mother had bought his dream car for me! My parents are the most important people in my life and I'm very thankful for them."

It's a great story, kinda heartwarming, almost enough to give you the "warm-fuzzies." But, the subtitle says, "...the quickest street Corvette in Texas," not "generous and loving parents give appreciative and accomplished son a Vette." Obviously, there's more to this saga.

Shortly after receiving this incredible graduation gift, Joel replaced the stock air filter with a K&N, followed by a set of Flowmasters. It stayed in this very slightly modified form, which was enough to power it to 13.60s at 104mph, for a couple of years. By then, Joel was getting the "jones" to go faster. "At that time I didn't know a lot about engines, so I had a shop do some work on the car." That work included Extrude Honing the stock LT1 heads and intake, plus a 52mm throttle body, Doug Rippie fuel pressure regulator, and a higher capacity in-tank fuel pump. Not anything major, but enough to slip the yellow '92 into the high 12.70s at 111.

Next on the agenda was about 150 horsepower worth of homebrewed nitrous system. With the traction assistance of a pair of M&H "DOT" drag tires, Joel's everyday driver cracked into the 11s, with a best of 11.98 at 120 mph. Good enough for a while-a short while. Joel wanted more, but it had to remain, "completely steetable."

So, with just 38,000 miles on the drivetrain, Joel had the LT1 bored .020 over, then fitted it with Eagle rods, J&E forged pistons, and Total Seal rings, all swinging on the stock crank, and topped it off with a pair of Air Flow Research heads. He opted for a GM Performance Parts LT4 "Hot Cam" kit to open the valves further and for a longer time, to take maximum advantage of the freer breathing heads, and re-used the "old" Extrude Honed LT1 intake, but equipped it with higher flowing Bosch 24 lb-hr. injectors. He replaced the original clutch with a Clutchmasters unit to handle the expected additional power. The only other driveline revision was having a 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion installed in the otherwise stock rearend.

With that combination, on the by-now well-used M&Hs, Joel's graduation gift has run 11.69 at 121 "on the motor" and an incredible 10.40 at 137 with his two-stage, homebrewed nitrous system activated. What makes this all the more impressive is that the yellow '92 is still a daily driver with cold-blowing air conditioning and all of its original comfort and luxury gear. The only alteration to the interior is for safety-an Autopower five-point rollcage. Joel hasn't compromised the Z07 suspension setup either. In fact, rather than messing up the car's excellent handling for his occasional quarter-mile sprints, he's upgraded its capabilities with a Doug Rippie coilover conversion, using DRM shocks at the rear and 12-way adjustable HALS up front, plus big Baer Racing brake rotors at all four corners.

The yellow paint that caught Joel's attention back on that fateful summer day in 1993 is still there, augmented only by a custom rear wing and a set of 17 x 9.5-inch OZ Racing wheels shod with 275/40 and 315/35 BFGoodrich Comp T/A ZRs. While Joel is justifiably proud of his C4's superb performance (which includes beating John Hennesey and one of his highly vaunted 600 Vipers at a Vette/Viper shootout-twice!) and daily driveability, he's not resting on his laurels. After putting 45,000 miles on the nitrous'd 350, Joel's now building a 383 stroker, looking for 9-second timeslips and the same sort of reliability and driveability he's so used to. It looks as though "The Quickest Street Vette In Texas" is only going to get a lot quicker!

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