To the hardest of hard-core performance enthusiasts, the Corvette roadster is an enigma. Why would anyone willingly forego the chassis stiffness and take the weight penalty by choosing the topless model over a coupe or, especially, a hardtop? For Rick Turnbull, the answer is easy. "It's about the driving experience," he says. "Driving with the top down provides a far more visceral experience that involves all of your senses. It's like flying."
And Rick ought to know a thing or two about that. The Maple Grove, Minnesota, resident is a pilot for Toronto-based Air Canada, a fact reflected by his choice of personalized license plates. "MSP and YYZ are the three-letter identifying codes for Minneapolis and Toronto. I spend a lot of time flying between them." When he's not airborne, Rick spends a good deal of his time piloting his Arctic White '00 roadster.
The myriad of available aftermarket parts having proved too tempting, Rick began plotting a course of modifications for his drop-top. "Having had several previous Vettes, we knew they were great performers but could easily be modified for more performance. It was only a few months after we purchased the car when we started the mods that have brought us to where we are today: a supercharged, nitrous-burning street machine."
External modifications are few but make a big statement, as Rick selected an in-your-face 3.5-inch cowl hood from Magnuson. The Supercharged LS1 fender badges provide fair warning for those who wonder about the goods beneath the bonnet.
So what about those goods? The engine in Rick's car remains stock internally, but don't let that fool you; this is no creampuff show car. Wanting the instant rush of torque only a supercharger can provide, Rick contacted A&A Corvettes for one of its ATI ProCharger kits. For installation, he handed the keys to Doug Rippie Motorsports, in Buffalo, Minnesota. The blower inhales deeply through a Halltech cold-air intake and a Z06 MAF that keeps tabs on the cfms passing through. Airflow is moderated by a BBK throttle body, which is bolted to a polished Weiand manifold. The modified mill's fuel demands far outstrip the capacity of the stock system, so a Kenne Bell high-flow pump was added to supply the upsized 42-lb/hr injectors.
Knowing free flow of exhaust gases is just as important as intake air, Rick asked Boos Performance, in Anoka, Minnesota, to install a set of TPIS headers. A B&B Tri-Flo exhaust system was installed for just the right sound, and a Corsa cross-pipe with high-flow catalytic converters was added to keep the smog Nazis at bay. For some extra growl when he's feeling frisky, Rick also opted for a pair of Quick Time Performance's electric cutouts.
Now, a supercharged LS1 is no slouch, particularly one that knocks out 500 horses to the wheels. Happy, but not satisfied, Rick decided a small nitrous-oxide system would be just the thing to complete the package. Not only does it get the oohs and aahs at the shows, but it also gets the attention of the driver once engaged. "The car now has adrenalin-rushing power that leaves me with a schoolboy smile from ear to ear each time I step on the accelerator." Jetted for a 150-horse hit, the Vette belted out 655 hp and 599 lb-ft of torque on the Rippie Motorsports Dynojet.
Taking into consideration the immense power the drivetrain is being asked to channel, we find it amazing that the clutch, transmission, and rear remain essentially stock. The lone mod is a DTE transmission brace, which was installed in an attempt to shore up the drivetrain enough to endure continued punishment delivered by the fortified powerplant. Looking for a way to keep the tires firmly planted and body roll to a minimum in the twisties, Rick added a pair of Z06 sway bars. He decided the finishing touch was the "neo-retro" look, choosing a set of stock-diameter Cragar S/S wheels and wrapping them in BFGoodrich's finest g-Force KD hides.
The cockpit of the C5 has gone largely unmodified, but the few changes have been solid choices. The rubbery stock shifter was ousted in favor of a Hurst with a shortened stick. Keeping an eye on the vitals is loads easier, too, with the addition of Auto Meter boost and fuel-pressure gauges in an A-pillar pod. Also residing on the pod is a none-too-subtle Auto Meter shift light, set to blind the driver at 5,600 rpm.
Future plans for the car include widening the rear Cragars and mounting beefier 345mm drag radials. Recognizing that his current combination is a ticking time bomb with the stock engine, Rick has big changes in mind for the engine room, too. "I will soon need to build the engine internals to take all the power and am thinking about a Rippie 427 with my blower and nitrous setup." Along with the fortified engine will come some drivetrain reinforcements, namely a DTE strengthened torque tube and hardened output shafts.
Minnesota summers are frightfully short, but Rick makes the most of them by participating in all manners of Corvette goings-on, including weekly cruise-ins and shows, and even an occasional track day. Though he has owned the car for six years, 2005 was the first in which he showed it. It has racked up an impressive palmars in that time, though, bringing home the hardware on a frequent basis. Rick says he enjoys competing with (and frequently losing to) his wife Lisa and her Le Mans Blue '04 roadster. In-house rivalry aside, he adds, "We will continue to show the car, and include much more drag racing and just driving the car. In other words, we plan to keep on enjoying another awesome Vette."
While a demanding career in aviation can put a serious crimp in one's free time, Rick Turnbull can usually manage to climb behind the wheel of his Corvette a few times a week. After all, he's always got time to fly.