Model: Courtney Day Jeff Gooss' friends sometimes accuse him of overreacting to middle age, trying to relive his youth with a double-throwdown, hot-rodded Corvette. The thing is, Jeff is just short of 30-still in his prime. While the intense orange hue on his C5 may evoke a brilliant sunset, Jeff is not settling down for the evening of his life. It's 6 a.m., and this Vette is the wake-up call.
Which makes all the difference, because this guy doesn't know when to quit and won't let obstacles beat him down. He ran into plenty of them during the build up of his supercharged C5, which uses a Kenne Bell blower to pump out 800-plus horses at the rear wheels. To date, Gooss has dropped more money than he can count on the project-and we suspect there's more to come.
Where does somebody get this sort of ambition? "My passion for Corvettes started when I saw my first Greenwood C4 Corvette quite a few years ago," Jeff says. "It was always one of those things that I imagined in my head: if I ever get anywhere in life, this is the car I want."
Gooss did eventually get somewhere, becoming general manager of a custom motorcycle shop in Las Vegas, where money flows from the gaming industry like geysers from the spillways at Hoover Dam. Seeing all the mega-buck bikes rolling out the door, he soon developed an uncontrollable desire to buy a toy. Not just any toy, but one with four fat tires instead of two. He wanted something so loud and fast it would get more attention than a showgirl on the Strip.
Fortunately, Jeff's then fiance-they're married now-understood his needs. "I came home from work one evening and said, 'Honey, I'm buying a Corvette,'" he says. "I have one of the most supportive wives. Anytime I ask her for permission, it's always, 'Whatever you want to do, honey, is okay with me.'" We can almost hear the clatter of e-mails being typed by VETTE readers, inquiring as to whether Mrs. Gooss has a sister who's single.
With no hurdles on the home front, Jeff jumped into the project with both feet. "For the next few weeks I was a man on a mission," he recalls. "I did as much research as possible and finally located a beautiful yellow '00 C5 coupe with 20,000 miles in Colorado." That's when a crazy impulse took over: "Rather than take a couple of days off and scramble to get the car back to Vegas, I wanted to savor the drive home. I walked in to work the next day and quit my job. Just like that, I had bought a Corvette and quit my job all within 24 hours." At this point, we are wondering just how understanding his fiance was.
Once home, Gooss kept the car in basically stock form for the better part of a year, adding only a Vortex ram-air system and a Corsa Touring exhaust. He quickly put around 20,000 miles on the Vette, but soon got an itch to take things to "the next level." The problem? The car began to feel like it didn't have enough power.
Blame Jeff's Internet addiction, in part. After surfing for months on Corvette Web sites learning about performance modifications, he contracted a shop in Southern California to build a forged 346 LS6 boosted by an A&A/ProCharger D-1SC blower. About 60 days and some 20 grand later, Gooss had a 686-rwhp C5 that could shoot down pretty much anything in its path.
This configuration only lasted about a month before the car was back in the shop for a larger F-1R supercharger. Another 30 days and plenty of dollars later, Jeff had his car once again. It's right about here that his tale takes an unexpectedly dark turn. The Vette began to experience numerous mechanical problems, and he could barely keep it running. Did we mention it was also leaking oil?
"Over the next couple months, it took everything I had not to just cut my losses and leave the hobby I loved so much. I spent many, many evenings talking with my fiance, wondering why something that was supposed to be fun was turning into a nightmare," he says, shaking his head.
Jeff persevered, though, and by late 2005, things began to look up. He caught wind that Kenne Bell would soon be releasing a new supercharger designed to dominate the street. After once again getting the green light from his better half-we're beginning to think Mrs. Gooss should be in line for sainthood-he decided that if he was going to tackle one last project with this car, he might as well pull out all the stops. "A project of the magnitude I was planning was going to take the expertise of more than a few shops. This wasn't going to be some quick engine swap. I was going to completely rebuild the car."
With that in mind, Gooss traveled to Fremont, California, to meet with Synergy Motorsports owner Rick Hollenback. Hollenback is an avid Corvette builder with more than a few big projects under his belt, but Jeff cites other reasons for entrusting him with the project. "The reason I chose him...wasn't because of his long list of credentials, but because he was willing to listen to exactly what I wanted and build it any way I dreamed."
The plan was simple in concept, if not in execution: completely disassemble the car and upgrade every part necessary to make it the baddest C5 on the planet. "What I wanted was a car that could run down the quarter-mile, then switch to a road course, then turn on the A/C and cruise control and [drive] home. Every part had to work in harmony and complement a different part of the car."