It's easy to believe that the cooking gets better the farther south you go. But just wait until you travel south with us, all the way past the Equator to the Island Continent, and take a look at what has been described as "The Best C4 in All of Australia."
Raymond Doyle, of Shailer Park, Queensland, is the current steward of this mouth-watering Corvette. But it wasn't always this way. Raymond tells us his '90 Vette was ocean-freighted to Australia in the mid-'90s after its American owner lost interest following an engine-bay fire. (Sure, we know steak on the barbie is a tasty treat, but please, not on a Vette's intake manifold.)
Enter John Bondock, of Corvette Automotive in Brisbane, Queensland. Obsessed with unlocking the potential many Americans have forgotten the C4 Corvette has, Bondock has earned his living and his solid reputation by being Queensland's foremost expert on C4 conversions. According to Doyle, the praise for Bondock extends even further. "He may be the best converter of right-hand-drive C4s in Australia," Doyle says.
The first thing Bondock noticed was the extent of the fire damage underneath the Corvette's bonnet. Apparently, when the Australian importer asked for a well-done Vette, he got exactly what he ordered. Perhaps next time he should specify a "rare" one.
Bondock immersed himself in the C4 project. He was indefatigable, consumed. He replaced the Vette's blackened wiring harness and ECU with fresh components, and while he was at it, he fully rebuilt and restored the rest of the car to like-new condition. And as if that wasn't enough, he laboriously converted it to RHD.
The C4 was then sold to another Australian, "a guy heavily involved in computers," according to Doyle. Unfortunately, Aussie owner number two had little interest in enjoying the taste of the previously BBQ'd Vette, and the car fell into neglect. It was then that Doyle came to its rescue. "I heard it was for sale and sold our '89 Vette to buy it," he says. "It had been sitting from 1998 to 2003."
And that's when the process of preparing Australia's tastiest C4 really began.
Raymond Doyle makes his living in the automotive-paint business. He is the company representative of Hi Chem Auto Paint Tech, an Australian firm specializing in supplying color tints to domestic trade distributors and retail auto-body shops. Doyle tells us, "I am a 'panel beater' [autobody specialist] by trade, with many years of spray-painting experience. The paint work [on the '90] took nearly one year to complete. The underside of the bonnet took two guys six weeks, or 400 hours non-stop."
Asked about the recipe behind his Vette's piquant paint hue, Doyle says, "The paint on the car is Glazurit basecoat and clear. It is not a standard color...and only I have the formula. It is one-of-a-kind. The secret formula we sprayed was painstakingly wet-rubbed over many months. Sometimes we made our own rubbing blocks to get into awkward places."
Underneath the hood (which is so pristine we were told gloves were required before touching it) is an iron-block L98 displacing 383 ci. It retains its stock bore of 4.00 inches but has been stroked to 3.75 inches with a Scat cast crank. The meat of the rotating assembly features Scat I-beam connecting rods and Keith Black flat-top pistons.
The heads are Dart Pro 1s, a true dessert topping compared with the factory originals. The Darts feature 200cc intake runners, 64cc combustion chambers, and stainless 2.02/1.60 valves. They use hardened exhaust seats and mag-bronze valve guides and are nicely trimmed with GM Performance Parts polished center-bolt valve covers. The compression ratio has been bumped more than a full point over stock, to 10.5:1.
An appropriately spicy valvetrain is integral to the very flavor of this "Southern" meal. Doyle selected a Comp Cams hydraulic roller with 268/276-degree duration and-when teamed with Crane 1.6-ratio roller rockers-0.570/0.565-inch lift.
Up top, a Holley billet 58mm throttle body connects with an ACCEL high-flow TPI intake with ported siamesed runners. The Vette still runs its original factory ECU, though the computer has been upgraded with a remapped chip. The ignition is an MSD 6AL routed through MSD wires to NGK Iridium plugs. Side dishes include an intake power coupler, a relocated MAF sensor, an air-pump eliminator, and an adjustable fuel-pressure regulator.
The front suspension adds serving-dish panache with polished upper and lower control arms. The rear end is a stock Dana 36 housing 2.59 gears. Aside from the RHD conversion, the interior appears 100 percent factory original.
The exhaust system is more than the garnish for this already perfect meal. Call it instead the coup de grace. According to Custom Exhaust Specialists (CES) owner Trevor Campbell, the C4's hand-made "extractors" (Australian slang for headers) "...are fabricated from mild steel pipework. All spark plugs are accessible, with good clearance to all engine parts and steering components. [The headers] are designed to retain original Corvette header bolts and also to allow all A/C components and brackets to fit. The header pipes use a High Performance Coatings (HPC) aluminum-ceramic coat that resembles polished silver. Once baked and polished, they come out looking like an aluminum wheel, and they reduce underhood temperature and increase horsepower by up to 25 percent."
The scrumptious C4 cruises on '91-'96 Corvette "sawblade"-style factory rims wrapped in Goodyear Eagle GS-C 275/35-17 front and 315/35-17 rear tires.
Doyle tells us his quest to create the perfect C4 has been unending. "I started out to rebuild it as original as possible. I have had the vehicle now for four years and have changed it dramatically...in that time."
One of those changes includes an authentic '93 Corvette body kit from General Motors/Holden of Australia. The body kit, combined with Bondock's and Doyle's incredible craftsmanship, truly makes this C4 a one-of-a-kind chef-d'oeuvre.
In the last 10 years, Doyle's car has won more First Place awards than any other C4 Corvette we've encountered. Shown at right, the list of trophies is practically beyond belief.
Since our photo shoot, Doyle has added an ACCEL/Lingenfelter Super Ram EFI intake and nabbed another First Place, this time at Australia's Grand National Concours. Doyle estimates that the Vette is good for 430 horsepower in its current configuration-185 hp more than when it left the factory back in 1990.
At a build cost of around $130,000 (Australian), Doyle's C4 represents Southern cuisine at its finest. In fact, considering all the trophies the Vette has tallied, we wouldn't be surprised to see Raymond Doyle end up with his own TV cooking show. Maybe it will be called "Cooking with Raymond" or, better still, "Everybody Loves Raymond's...C4 Corvette." In either case, the program is bound to revolve around one thing: fast food.