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1998 Chevrolet Corvette - Needful Thing

Ira Tabankin's '98 Coupe Is A Testament To The Addictive Nature Of Customization

Ira Tabankin Aug 22, 2007
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We met Ira Tabankin on the "Fun Field" at last year's Corvettes at Carlisle show. Naturally, it was his car that caught our eye, but after a few minutes of chatting with him, it was clear he had quite a story to tell. We'll let Ira tell that story in his own words.

I saw my first Vette when I was 10 years old. A black '57 was stopped at a traffic light, and as I crossed the street, the driver revved the motor. I was hooked for life.

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I have had two Corvettes prior to the one I own now. The first was a white '77, and the second was a '96 Collector Edition. I enjoyed both, but when the new C5s were introduced, I knew I had to have one. I wanted a '99 Nassau Blue coupe, but my local dealer demanded a very large deposit before he would order one to my specifications. Naturally, I demurred.

Prior to this, I had just divorced my first wife and moved to Oregon. I was making regular visits to Iowa to visit my daughters, and it was on one of these trips that I decided to take them to the first Route 66 Corvette Show. While stopped at a store along the way, my youngest daughter bought me an appropriate Father's Day present: a Nassau Blue die-cast Corvette. "Dad," she said. "I know you've always wanted a blue toy, so I decided to get one for you."

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We hadn't driven more than a block from the store when we spied a '98 Nassau Blue coupe sitting on a dealer's lot. In speaking with the salesman, I learned that the car had been ordered the previous fall. When it arrived in January, the customer decided he didn't like the color combination and backed out of the deal.

For me, it was the perfect Corvette. Not only was it the right color, but the salesman was going to give me $3,000 more for my '96 than the dealer in Oregon-sight unseen. We cut a deal on the spot. He would fax me the final paperwork, and I would drive the '96 to Bloomington in two weeks to swap cars. I walked on air the rest of the day.

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The next week, I went to San Jose for business. Unfortunately, during lunch, I had a heart attack. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was told to take two weeks off and relax. I managed to convince my wife that it would be just as relaxing to drive halfway across country to get the C5 as it would be to stay in bed. She let me go on the condition that I call her every 30 minutes. So, just one week after my heart attack, I was off to pick up my third Corvette.

Soon afterward, I went to my first Bloomington Gold show. That was a mistake. I bought something at virtually every vendor space on the grounds. I took all the parts back to my hotel and performed the first of what would ultimately become hundreds of modifications.

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Since then, I've made many more changes to the car. Some are obvious, while others are so discreet you'd have to be a true C5 aficionado to spot them. My '98 Vette has become my hobby and primary stress reliever. Personally, I think it even saved my life.

Shortly after I bought the car, I decided I wanted to lower it. The C5 parts market was still in its infancy at the time, and I was unable to find a set of lowering bolts. So, I asked a friend of mine who made aircraft parts to make a set of titanium bolts. We worked on the principle that if the bolts could support a plane, they could probably support my toy. Although I'm not sure how much the car was lowered, I do know I've learned the benefits of an angled approach.

I changed wheel designs several times, finally settling on Motorsports Z06s with blue-capped lug nuts. I also changed out the factory-issue Goodyear run-flat tires for Firestones. Other chassis and suspension mods include BMR sway bars, Bilstein sport shocks, upgraded bushings, and oversized Baer Eradispeed brake rotors.

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Next, I covered everything under the hood with a combination of chrome and silver-colored carbon fiber. Even the courtesy light was surrounded with chrome. When the time came to add horsepower, I went with a Cartek head-and-cam package, LG Motorsports long-tube headers, a Borla Stinger exhaust, a Callaway Honker intake, and a reprogrammed PCM. The car now puts out about 405 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. A set of 4.10 gears makes Sixth gear usable while keeping the revs down to 2,100 rpm at 80 mph.

Of course, the exterior and interior of the car are what you really notice. The most obvious alteration is the Lambo door kit with chromed hinges. As for the body, I started by adding the front canards and rear spoiler from [C5 design chief] John Cafaro's body kit. I also added an RK Sport high-rise hood. Since I loved the Grand Sports-the original '63s and the '96s-I decided to add a black GS-style racing stripe highlighted with Ghost Blue Pearl.

To dress up the rear of the car, I installed a unique set of LED taillights, a custom muffler surround, and chromed rear-marker-lamp covers. Because I was never able to find a license-plate surround I liked, I made a template and had a glass dealer cut a tinted tempered glass plate instead.

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Additional exterior modifications include '63-style "Fuel Injection" logos, chrome inserts for the front and rear "Corvette" lettering, and Z06 rear brake scoops covered in carbon fiber. Finally, I installed later-model ('99 and later) sill protectors with color-matched decals, along with polished stainless steel screens in the front fascia and side gill openings.

The inside of the car looks reasonably stock-at first. After wearing out two sets of factory seat covers under warranty, I had a local shop make a set of two-tone black-and-oak replacements. I then asked CAR Motorsports in Atlanta to make a set of matching custom floor mats.

To the dash, I added white gauge faces and an RK Sport polished aluminum trim kit. I also had John Caravaggio make a two-tone sport steering wheel. Believe it or not, it's actually from a Pontiac.

I'm not sure what's next, but I do know that I love this car. It's unlikely I'll ever sell it.



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