In the United States, we have ways of showing appreciation and honor for the people and things that make up our American culture. For instance, every year in the early part of the summer, people come together en masse to lakes, beaches, parks-just about anywhere and everywhere-to celebrate Independence Day. Through partying with friends and family, bottle-rocket wars, and shooting off fireworks, we pay tribute to our country's founding fathers and to those who fell before us years ago fighting for our independence and, most importantly, our way of life. Jerry Downey of Oklahoma City goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to honoring those he admires; in fact he built a whole car around paying tribute to two kings of the Corvette world.
Jerry hasn't owned a Corvette in quite awhile; actually the last one he owned was a '72 LS5/four-speed coupe. He decided it was time to get back in the game and buy another Vette. The first Corvette that struck his fancy was a Z06. He heard only good things about the performance of the car and figured he couldn't go wrong. But upon further inspection, what he did learn was the fact that he wasn't too crazy about the FRC (fixed-roof coupe) design. Then out of the blue, he read an article on the original King of the Hill, the ZR-1. Jerry remembered thinking about buying one in 1995; he especially remembered the high price, and he certainly knew the elevated level of performance the King of the Hill was capable of.
So it was settled, and his search was on for a black on black ZR-1. As luck would have it, he ultimately found just the car he was looking for in his hometown. Mechanically the car was sound, but the previous owner had done everything wrong and nothing right when it came down to maintaining the appearance of this rare Vette. The reason for buying the car was so Jerry and his wife Karen could drive it around, and since there were already 65,000 miles on the odometer, preserving low miles was not an issue. However, getting her to look good again was.
Originally the plan called for just taking care of the basics. Fix the leaks, throw on new tires, recover the seats, and install a new carpet kit. But when Jerry looked under the hood and saw no distributor, no carburetor, and the words "4 cams and 32 valves," needless to say he was a little intimidated. He got involved in the ZR-1 community and starting learning more and more about his ride.
He attended his first Corvette meet in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a couple of months later. He met a few other ZR-1 owners there, and they began to throw ideas at him left and right. Then Clint Hooper, the founder and national director of the LT5 registry, showed up at the meet in his Callaway ZR-1. He gave Jerry the idea to add on a Lingenfelter Aerobody Kit and some trick wheels.
When Jerry got back home to the green country of Oklahoma, he began doing some research on the Lingenfelter kit. He called Tim Dyer at the Lingenfelter shop and quizzed him on the kit. He found out that only five or six kits-to Tim's knowledge-were ever sold, partially because when body packages were first introduced, only those with Lingenfelter engine mods were allowed to purchase them. Jerry went back to searching Internet forums trying to find any information about a ZR-1 LPE Aerobody in existence. He found one ZR-1 with a 415-cid stroker engine built by Lingenfelter with the kit on it. Then he saw a photo of John Lingenfelter's personal record-setting ZR-1 that was wearing the rear fascia part of the kit. When Jerry could only find one other ZR-1 with the entire LPE Aerobody kit, he knew he had to have one.
The kit was ordered, and the car was taken to Corvette Body Works in Oklahoma City where they sprayed both the ZR-1 and the new LPE Aerobody kit in Triple Black DuPont Polyurethane. A 60-light LED was added in the rear spoiler and an Auto Meter A-pillar (windshield) pod was installed to the left of and behind the wheel. Jorge Lopez recovered the seats in black leather and laid new black carpet down as well. Other modifications include C-Beam plates, '96 Grand Sport calipers and Power Slot rotors, and a 3-inch diameter, Jet Coat Ceramic exhaust installed by Texas Quality Exhaust Systems in Houston, Texas. A pair of Fikse 18x10-inch rims with 275/35ZR18 Michelin Pilots were placed up front and another pair of Fikses, measuring 18x12-inches with 335/30ZR18 Michelin Pilots, were bolted up on the back.
The ZR-1 currently puts out roughly 430 hp at 7,000 rpm, but not for long. A 368-cid LT5 engine buildup should be in process by the time you read this. The package will include Ron Davis Radiator, custom ground hotter cams, a single mass flywheel and clutch, and 3.90 Dana Super 44 Gears. The engine compartment will also be detailed, and the aluminum block will be painted metallic high-gloss red.
What started as simple project turned into a full-on tribute to two of the greats in the Corvette world, John Lingenfelter and the original King of the Hill, the ZR-1.