Editor's note: The difference between creating a one-of-a-kind custom and bringing a concept to market can be of staggering magnitude. Such is the case for the Cavallo GT. This wild, almost completely re-bodied C5 made its first public appearance at the 1999 SEMA Show. It was to be marketed by Redline Motors L.L.C. and C5 Concepts, and offered with three levels of performance upgrades with tire and wheel packages, suspension and brake modifications, and from 400 to 500 horsepower. We were highly impressed by what we saw, ran a couple of photos of it in the March 2000 issue in our SEMA coverage, and anxiously awaited the opportunity to both test a Cavallo GT and to shoot one for a feature. Then the car and the companies it was to be marketed by seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth. Needless to say, we were both surprised and pleased to see the car reappear a few months ago under the aegis of Blue Dot Design and HBW Body Works, and then to see it in person at the NCM's 8th Anniversary Celebration over the Labor Day weekend. Nearly two years have passed, but the car still is, in our eyes, a stunning piece of work, and we were quite pleased to assign the "shoot" to longtime contributor Jerry Heasley.
While it's unmistakably a C5, the Cavallo GT is, according to designer Ken Grant, "an exercise in restraint because we wanted to take the sophistication of the C5 and bring out the raw, bold proportions of the Viper." Grant is an experienced automotive designer who worked for Ford for over 10 years. His last corporate projects were working on the '99 Mustang re-design, followed by the upcoming '02 model, two-seater Thunderbird.
Then he ventured out on his own to start an automotive aftermarket company doing "visual appearance accessories" (custom body panels). The front fascia for Ford's F-150 Harley Davidson package was one of Ken's designs.
He sold that business and started Blue Dot Design in Livonia, Michigan, with Paul Burke. Paul owned a new C5 and said, "It's the ideal car to re-body. Nothing is sonic welded."
Ken remembers, "We were wondering what to do when we grew up and decided to dive in and do something for ourselves for a change."
Both Ken and Paul think that's why this design came off so clean. They had nobody to please but themselves. Burke remembers the Vette was an impulse. "We re-clayed the whole body in about three weeks, then cast the original body from that clay."
Of the design parameters, Ken says, "We wanted to enhance the car, proportionally. The width and the fullness of the shape of the Vette is a little on the thin side, if you compare it to our Cavallo. If you put them side-by-side, the Cavallo has just got a little bit more volume. The C5 is very subtle and refined The idea was to take the C5's design elements and exaggeate them. We were restrained only by the existing lighting and the mounting points for the body panels."
The Cavallo GT is about 4-inches wider in the back and a little over 2-inches wider in the front. Ken made a very interesting comparison, "If you took the ZR-1, where it was an exaggerated C4 in proportions, that was the idea here, but we went a little bit further because we did more than quarters and rear fascia."
Take a look at the side scoop, for example. "The C5 has one, but it is kind of hinting, like I got a little scoop here. Damn it, if you're going to put a scoop on it, make it a scoop!" Ken says.
Likewise, the hood is more pronounced. The C5 has a traditional cowl induction look. On the Cavallo GT, Ken says, "The hood is higher, a little bigger, a little flatter, and has a little harder edge to pronounce the shapes a little bit more."
The name itself is an exaggeration. Ken laughs, "That's a long story. A friend of Paul's actually came up with it, somebody who I had never met. And he suggested we call it 'Cavallo,' and I asked, 'What does it mean?' He said, 'I'm not quite sure, it means either whore or horse in Italian.' But, by that time I had already written it down, and if you squint at it, Cavallo looks like Corvette. It starts with a C, and the proportions of the name are very similar."
Paul and Ken wanted a bright color to make a splash in the magazines. Yellow is a hot color, so they were spraying test panels, looking for just the right shade. Says Ken, "I thought maybe we would do a metallic, but were having a hard time. It was coming down to the eleventh hour and I wasn't coming up with the right yellow. We were two days away from paint. I was driving down the road on the way to the studio and a yellow Viper went by on the other side, and I thought that looks really good. You know if it ain't broke, don't fix, it so we went out and bought factory paint, end of story."
This Viper Yellow Cavallo GT is much hotter than stock. The stock LS1 has been replaced by a 500 horse 383 stroker motor built by GTP Technical Performance in Houston. The suspension features T1 stabilizer bars and Penske racing shocks. The body is lowered over an inch. Taking advantage of the substantially wider-than-stock wheelwells, huge 18x10 front and 19x12 wheels are on this car. Inside, Burke and Grant added white leather seat inserts, re-covered the upper part of the steering wheel to match, and wrapped the shifter knob in a leather cover resembling a baseball.
The Cavallo GT is alive and well. Blue Dot Design (35457 Industrial, Dept. VM, Livonia, MI 48150; 734/542-1890, www.cavallo.cc) sells complete, bolt-on body kits, minus paint, or will professionally paint and install the body at the customer's request. A large discount is offered to both NCM and C5 Registry member. Any performance enhancements are up to the customer.