Let's set things straight: This story is titled "Black Magic" for a few reasons. First and most obvious, this '99 Corvette convertible is black. Its interior is black. Heck, it even has black wheels. But when coupled with "magic," black takes on an entirely new connotation. It implies something beyond the realm of the ordinary, but it also means something secret, something that can be brewed only with the most exotic of ingredients. As applied to an automobile, it means very special modifications have been done to the car to get it to be as fast as it is. It should conjure up images of secret engine coatings, high-dollar materials, and build techniques to help get every last horsepower out-driveability and reliability be damned.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only is this car built completely from parts anyone can buy off the shelf, but East Coast Supercharging can build one just like it for you too. Want to go mid-9s at well over 140 mph? No problem. Many have put ECS to the challenge, and they've come up with the results to back up the claim. In fact, as you are reading this, the record for the fastest supercharged Corvette has likely been broken again-by one of ECS's customers.
Car owner and ECS cofounder Douglas Ring explains: "That's why when people ask me, 'What will you do to break that other guy's record?' I say, 'Well, that guy is a customer of mine...' I'll break his record the next time we go out, but that's not the point. I want people to know that you can be a customer at ECS and get exactly this: record-breaking performance. I didn't do anything to make this car really one-off and unique. What you see here we absolutely can do for anyone.
Doug wanted nothing but a fresh canvas from which to create one helluva quick Vette. After purchasing the '99 a couple years back from a seller in the Sunshine State, Doug ordered up a GM C5-R block and stuffed it with a Callies crank, MGP rods, and 9.5:1 Diamond pistons. A set of LQ9 heads was ported and bolted atop, followed by a FAST intake and a 90mm throttle body. Equipped with the stock PCM and a custom ECS fuel system, the engine was ready to rock-almost. All that was missing was a big honkin' centrifugal supercharger to help fill the 427-incher's holes.
Utilizing one of ECS's own supercharger systems-at the time equipped with another manufacturer's head unit-Doug was able to pull some pretty impressive 9-second timeslips. But once the head unit was swapped for a Paxton Novi 2000, things got even better. "The top end has the same amount of boost as before, but the big improvement was at the bottom of the rpm range. The head unit I had been using was really slightly too big for my application. So when I swapped to a Paxton, the lower rpm was much more responsive. Plus, this Paxton is super quiet. All you hear is the big blow-off valve when I let off. It sounds like a jet!"
Doug built this car as a showcase of the company's capabilities, and also to show off at the East Coast Supercharging Corvette Challenge, a race series sponsored by ECS and held at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, in Englishtown, New Jersey. "This event is actually E-town's largest attending series-not counting the NHRA national event, of course-in terms of registered racers," Doug says. (For more information on the ECS Corvette Challenge and other Challenge series held around the United States, see "Mounting a Challenge" in our April '06 issue.)
"Every year, there is a so-called 'nationals,' which all the Corvette Challenge guys go to. There is what's called the Pro 8, which is a heads-up race of the eight fastest Vettes there. That's what we're going for. The problem is that now, what are essentially race cars and dragsters are allowed into the class. These suckers can run in the 7s, whereas we're running a true street car. But it's no big deal because it's not like we're racing for any crazy amount of money. Everyone knows what's a street car and what's not. So if we have the fastest street car of the day there, that's really all that matters to us. We very often are able to do that."
Though there are a few changes to the current setup coming before long-most notably a swap to a trans-brake-equipped TH-400 transmission for increased tranny longevity-streetability will not be altered. To that end, Doug will swap to 3.15 gears to keep the revs down on the highway. "Not losing streetability is big-time important to me. I take this car on all the Toys for Tots runs, I go on a lot of the Vette cruises, and I take it up to my ski house in upstate New York. It really sees a lot of road use on top of the track use. That's the most important thing I try to let people know: Yeah, I'm running some nice numbers, but this Corvette is still completely driveable. [It has] air conditioning, stereo, the whole nine yards. Making a race car fast is not anywhere near as hard as making a street car fast! But we've done it-and we can do it for anyone."