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1997 Chevy Corvette C5 - Desert Heat

This C5 Is setting California's Mojave Desert ablaze!

Rob Wallace III Jun 1, 2001
Vemp_0106_01_z 1997_chevy_corvette_c5 Mojave 2/1

When we say that Bob Briley's Corvette is hot, we mean it! But what do we mean? Well, Webster's New World Thesaurus describes "hot" as torrid, fevered, fiery, flaming, blazing, smoking, scorching, searing, sizzling, red-hot, seething, molten, parching, and sultry. But it also says that "hot" stirs enthusiasm, passion, excitement, and desire. In essence, it's everything that a bad-to-the-bone Corvette ought to be!

Bob, a resident of Acton, California (in California's High Desert region), has never been a fan of meek and mild. He's been in love with Chevy's finest since he was a boy. "When I was 17, I remember seeing a Corvette commercial with a red '67 coupe," Bob reminisces. "I thought then that it was my dream car." Thirty years later, and a long string of Sharks and C4s in between, Bob grabbed up one of the first C5 coupes available in 1997. It was a hard-fought battle, being that Chevy couldn't come close to satisfying the early demand. Nonetheless, Bob prevailed. Originally, his Nassau Blue Metallic automatic was just a pleasant daily driver, but after a couple of years, Bob started getting the itch for something different...possibly to run the Silver State Classic in. So instead of buying a new Millenium Yellow 2000, Bob decided to hot rod the '97.

The first stop along the road of metamorphosis was the shop of expert paintman Pete Santini. Bob knew his C5 needed some more visual excitement, but wasn't entirely sure what. After adding a more curvaceous cowl-induction style hood from RK Sport, Bob left the Vette with Pete for a couple of weeks with the instructions to "work your magic." The result is stunning Chameleon Flames that shimmer in different hues from every angle you look. "The flames are classy, yet in your face. We didn't want to upset that balance, and Pete didn't. He's good."

The C5 makes ample ponies thanks to the addition of an S-trim Vortech supercharger. Bob bought a supercharger kit from the now-defunct SVI (see "Snake Bite Remedy," May 2000), but ended up reworking a number of details for the quality of installation he sought. Extreme Automotive Performance Specialists in Canoga Park, California, proceeded to work their own magic under the hood. To make the blower work properly, they relocated the MAF sensor, installed 38-pound Lucas fuel injectors, and switched to Comp Cams AM valve springs with titanium retainers for greater spring tension. While they were at it, they also put in a cooler thermostat and "hotter" ignition wires and plugs. B&B Tri-Flow headers and a stainless steel Borla exhaust system complete the motor. To add even more snap, a 3.42:1 ring-and-pinion from a six-speed C5 was slid into place. Computer guru Steve Cole of TTS then played with the engine processor as well as the 4L60E to maximize the Corvette's performance. With everything dialed in, the Vette now produces in excess of 500 horses!

Because Bob planned to run the car hard, brakes capable of repeatedly stopping his flamed land missile from 160-plus mph were mandatory. For this, he turned to Baer Racing who installed a system that could stop on a dime and give him change! The system is composed of colossal eight-piston calipers that grab gargantuan 14-inch rotors at all four corners. Bob attests to their performance, "Every time I get in the car, the first moment I hit the brakes I'm reminded how great they are. Anyone who drives the Vette also comments on the braking, even before I mention anything."

Because the brakes are so enormous, Bob had to have HRE create a set of custom rims for him. "I bought a set of 19-inch HRE 540 rims to go on both ends, but the rear calipers wouldn't fit, so they made me a one-off pair of 20-inchers," says Bob. The fronts wear Pirelli P00 275/35 ZR19 rubber, and the rears wear 275/30 ZR20's. Bilstein shocks all around help the tires grip the corners solidly.

The interior of the car is the epitome of function and elegance. Stick Craft replaced the factory leather upholstery with high-grade black leather suede with blue inlays. Bob says he loves the way the suede looks and feels. "It doesn't get too hot or too cold, plus it really keeps you planted in the seat."

After about a year, and more than a few dollars invested, Bob has one incredible streetcar/weekend racer. But for the moment he's content with blowing people's minds away at shows. He and his wife, Sue, love to watch the crowds flock around the Vette, not to mention all the compliments and awards. Within only a couple of months of its completion, the coupe had already collected Participants' Choice Best C5 at the Corvettes West Big Bear Bash 2000, and took 1st in its class as well as Best of Show at the Wild West Corvettes Fall Frolic.

Briley will soon be sending the transmission to Lingenfelter to have it suitably fortified. And as for the Silver State? "I may never race it, but it's good to know the car's all there if I get the itch," Bob says. The Vette is most certainly "all there." It's hot for sure, but it is no desert mirage!

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