A sign posted at entrance ramps feeding Interstate 35 near Overland Park, Kansas, bears the following injunction: No Animals Led, Ridden, or Driven
It's unclear whether the proscription extends to beasts of the metaphorical variety, but if so, we're likely looking at a 20-year joint in Leavenworth. The animal in question is a Victory Red '05 convertible, freshly fitted with ATI ProCharger's new C6 blower kit and making somewhere in the neighborhood of 615 hp. Pair that outsize thrust with the Vette's eye-catching outerwear, and staying on the sunny side of the Kansas Highway Patrol feels like an exercise in Jainian self-abnegation.
We'll blame ProCharger chief Dan Jones for our predicament, as it's Jones and his band of megalomaniacal merrymakers whose frenzied development of cutting-edge Corvette engine upgrades has landed us here in cow country for the second time in the last four months. Further culpability may be assigned to the Vette community's seemingly insatiable appetite for huge horsepower, which only seems to intensifywith each successive iteration of the car.
As we mentioned in our review of ProCharger's "Stage II" supercharger package for C5s ("Nasty, Brutish, and Short," Nov. '05), many of that kit's design improvements grew out of knowledge gained while developing an all-new blower setup for the C6. You'll recall that the car we testedfor that story, a black '04 Z06, gained 172 rear-wheel horsepower--for a total of 527--and ran consistent mid-11s at around 125 mph in miserable air. (Since then, the ProCharger team has made a few minor adjustments to the package, and the blown Z06 is now pumping out 552 rwhp.)Accordingly, our expectations for the new C6 package were high.
When it comes to performance hardware, the C6 kit deviates most radically from ProCharger's previous LS-engine offerings in the placement and configuration of its intercooler. Thanks to the comparatively generous dimensions of the new car's engine bay, engineers were able to specify a single 27x3.5-inch front-mount intercooler--thelargest such unit ever fitted to a regular-production ProCharger system. In addition to giving the C6 an aggressive new mien, the big FMIC offers slightly improved cooling performance when compared with the smaller twin 'coolers used on the '97-'04 cars.
Other departures are more subtle. With the Stage II C5 kit, tilting the top of the radiator rearward (toward the firewall) freed up enough space for ProCharger engineers to use larger-diameter blower-discharge and intake tubing than would otherwise have been possible. Whereas that package includes a custom cradle to achieve the necessary rearwardslant, the C6 kit comes with a set of billet-aluminum spacer blocks to serve essentially the same function. The radiator angle is therefore somewhat less dramatic on the C6, which may explain why the new car uses a slightly flattened discharge pipe. When asked, ProCharger ProjectEngineer Nick Jensen responded that the piece did not pose arestriction, but admitted that a larger-diameter replacement could potentially become part of a future Stage II package for the C6.
As it does with all of its Corvette-specific packages, ProCharger designed the C6 kit around the realization that irreversible modifications to the factory hardware are anathema to most Vette owners and should therefore be kept to an absolute minimum. According to Engineer Dorian Comeau, the finished product cleaves to that design goal, requiring that only one easily replaced coolant line be cut to complete the installation.
So the kit installs cleanly and uses proven technology, but how does it perform? Equipped with a modest 6-psi pulley, our test car's output jumped from a preternaturally healthy 373 hp in stock form to a downright spooky 523. Allowing for a 15 percent loss through the Vette's six-speed manual drivetrain, we can estimate that the ProCharged C6 is spinning up just over 615 horses at the flywheel.
Although a compressed test schedule didn't allow for drag testing this time around, we did have a chance to sample the ProCharged C6 on the highways and shunpikes around the company's suburban Kansas City headquarters. Compared with the blown Z06 we tested a few months back, the new car feels nearly as fast and is several furlongs ahead in terms of ride comfort, exhaust noise, and overall cush factor.
Low-speed roll-ons in Second gear will still send the car's tail slewing for the guardrail, but the overall impression is of a vehicle whose charms won't wear thin in the multifarious driving environments these cars typically face. Indeed, it's not difficult to imagine squiring this stylish all-rounder on a 1,000-mile interstate jaunt, then ducking into the local dragstrip for an ego-burnishing evening of Mustang mauling and Viper vivisection.
Just try to stay off I-35.
How the Other Half Drives
ProMotorsports Specializes In Conspicuous Consumption
With gas prices perched firmly in the ionosphere and hybrid hysteria spreading like the Ebola virus, one could be forgiven for assuming the demand for high-powered, high-glitz custom automobiles is currently in full Louganis mode.
According to Jim Lewis, such an assumption would be unfounded. Lewis, who owns ProMotorsports, in Springfield, Missouri, is in the fiscally ironclad business of keeping professional athletes, captains of industry, and other image-conscious quadrillionaires rolling on the cutting edge of automotive performance and style. Chalk it up to vanity, one-upmanship, or good ole bourgeois materialism, but the demand for cost-is-no-object personalized automobiles shows no signs of slowing down. "We started back in 1995 with just a few cars," says Lewis. "Last year, we did almost 50 vehicles, not counting the basic wheel-and-tire jobs."
Although a strict policy of client confidentiality prevents Lewis from naming names, when pressed, he'll divulge that the ProMotorsports client list includes members of the San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, and numerous other pro ball teams "from coast to coast." If you've ever gazed longingly at the chromed-and-Dub-shod conveyances that fill the secure lot of any major sports complex on game day, chances are you've clapped eyes on a ProMotorsports creation.
In addition to slaking the sybaritic thirsts of private individuals, the company also mints many of the pimped-out, babe-draped bijoux that pack auditorium floors at large automotive- and electronics-industry trade shows. One of the company's more, ah, comprehensive projects was an '05Escalade that formed the centerpiece of the Sony display at last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and Consumer Electronics Show (CES) confabs.
Notable upgrades included a set of manhole-cover-sized DUB or Lowenhart wheels (depending on the venue), a ProCharger intercooled supercharger kit, and a custom "Powder Blue"paint scheme keyed to the hue of one of the electronics giant's latest cellular-telephone offerings. Finally, to ensure that none of the 'Slade's occupants was ever forced to undertake a task so prosaic as driving, ProMotorsports installed 17 televisions and enough stereo gear to induce tectonic migration. "We've actually taken it down to nine TVs since," says Lewis, sounding almost apologetic.
Considering the luxury sport-utility vehicle's status as the bucks-up chariot of choice among the glitterati, it should come as no surprise that heavily made-over Escalades, Hummers, and Range Rovers constitute the majority of ProMotorsports' business. But when it comes toperformance cars, the Corvette reigns supreme. Last year, the company built SEMA Vettes for ProCharger and Weld Wheels, and current projects include a supercharged C6 for one of the Kansas City Royals.
The red convertible featured in this article was recently sold to two-time NHRA record holder John Woods, who in his spare time operates Performance Auto, a successful racing-engine shop and drag-car-fabrication emporium in Oklahoma City. As the accompanying photos attest, ProMotorsports took a comparatively restrained approach when customizing the car, adding only the ProCharger kit and a set of upsized Weld BC10 Forged wheels.
Mercifully, no one suggested installing a television.