When the factory supported C5-R racers made their debut in the 1999 24 Hours at Daytona they weren't the only Corvettes on the track. Two specially prepared C5 coupes were provided to Daytona to pace the twice-around-the-clock contest. In the intervening years several other Corvettes have paced many more road races, including the Grand Prix of Texas, where the C5-R earned its first victory, and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Though many features of the various Corvette pace cars changed from one venue to the next, one element remained essentially constant. All of the pacesetters shared a gorgeous graphics scheme featuring a large depiction of the Corvette nose emblem and very prominent checkered flag-like ribbons sweeping across the nose and down both sides. Most enthusiasts agreed that the pace car graphics were far more dynamic and appealing than the graphics utilized on the C5-R racers.
Brian Miller was among those who felt this way, though at first he simply admired the pace cars from afar. When he first saw one he had recently become the proud owner of a new '99 coupe. No stranger to high-performance Corvettes, having owned a '66 roadster, a '68 L89, and a ferocious '69 L88, his goal was to make the '99 a serious drag race competitor with few, if any, cosmetic modifications. In fact, for the first two years his car's only deviation from stock consisted of a broad white racing stripe up the middle of its Torch Red nose.
Earlier this year, however, he decided the pace car scheme was right for him. Only, unlike the vinyl stickers that the actual pace cars wore, he wanted the design painted onto his steed. For that challenging assignment Brian turned the car over to V&J Auto Body in Lindenhurst, New York. Using a die-cast pace car model as their primary guide, the experts at V&J first removed the broad white racing stripe, added a Doug Rippie hood, and then sprayed the white base up front. Following this, they carefully laid out the ribbons along both sides and the extra large Corvette emblem on the hood. After two weeks of fastidious masking and spraying the car was finished. The result is every bit as stunning as the original it is modeled after, and all the more remarkable since it is painted on.
While Brian's C5 is stunning, its beauty is far more than skin deep. Right from the beginning his goal was to turn the car into a formidable drag racer. After competing with it in bone stock condition for a little while he turned to the Vette Doctors, an Amityville, New York, shop renowned for squeezing every last ounce of performance out of C4 and C5 Corvettes.
Initially, the Vette Doctors were asked to increase power output by reworking the engine's upper end. Careful porting of the cylinder heads in conjunction with a competition valve job satisfied that request. At the same time the Vette Doctors also massaged the drivetrain. The differential was outfitted with 3.73:1 gears while the automatic transmission was treated to a full competition rebuild and installation of a Pro Torque 2900 stall speed torque converter.
It was not difficult for Brian to gauge the effects of the work that was done to his car since, on average, he brings it to Englishtown's Raceway Park three times a week. After the upper end and drivetrain were reworked the car turned consistent 12.0 quarters and on a good day it would dip into the high 11.90s.
That was fine for about a year, but then Brian got the itch to take his ride to the next level. Once again he turned to Dennis and Carmen at the Vette Doctors. Out came the original LS1 engine and in went a 383 cubic inch stroker version.