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."
Initially, Kenne Bell bolted on its new 2.6-liter twin screw supercharger. Most guys would have been content with the resulting 750hp Vette, but not Gooss. Within 60 days of having the car back in his possession, he talked Kenne Bell chief Jim Bell into swapping the 2.6 for a prototype 2.8-liter blower. As we hinted at the outset, Jeff doesn't seem to know when to quit.
During this development phase, Kenne Bell engineers discovered that for anything higher than 700 horses, a speed-density system worked better than a mass air meter. This switch also added a few horses. Pressurized to 18 psi, the engine-by now upgraded to a 403-cube, AFR-headed LS2 stroker-exceeded 875 lb-ft of rear-wheel torque at only 4,000 rpm.
At that point, Jeff finally did decide to quit, requesting that the dyno run be called off prematurely. "Although we would have easily gone over 950 torque and 900 hp on my little 403 LS2 stroker, I had nothing more to prove to anyone. We had accomplished one of our very first goals: the highest-horsepower Kenne Bell C5 in the world."
Instrumental in this achievement was the very first set of 1 7/8-inch C5 long-tube headers ever produced by Long Island-based exhaust fabricator Kooks Custom Headers. Routed into high-flow cats and a 2.5-inch Bassani exhaust system, they flow enough air to keep pace with the ravenous LS2 without introducing an overabundance of noise or compromising emissions legality.
How does it drive? Accelerate lightly through the gears, and you can hear the faint screech of the blower in the background-just enough to let you know this isn't some ordinary C5. Stab the throttle and the car turns violent, squatting and lunging forward as if sprayed with a 500 shot of nitrous. Acceleration is so fierce, it literally takes your breath away. You may even forget to shift gears, what with all that rolling thunder coursing through your body. Let off the throttle and the car goes instantly quiet, giving you time to take a huge gasp of air and perhaps utter the appropriate expletive.
A key factor in maintaining the car's superb overall driveability is the Centerforce 12-inch single-disc clutch. It's forgiving for a super-high-performance unit, with very smooth operation, low pedal force required for engagement, and no chatter or slipping.
With the car finally on the road, we wonder what's next for Gooss. He says he's done with the modifying game for now, but don't believe a word of it. That Lambo orange is the color of a flame that just keeps getting hotter.