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C1 Corvette Drag Car - Say Cheese

A Swiss Racer Cooks Up A Piecemeal C1 Chevrolet Corvette drag racer That Goes Like Stink

Christopher R. Phillip Aug 2, 2007
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What carries the name of Chevrolet's famous sports car, runs the quarter-mile in 8.52 seconds, and boasts trap speeds of over 153 mph?

If you said a highly modified '07 Z06, you're wrong.

No, the subject of our feature article pays tribute to a Corvette of a much earlier vintage. But despite its retro appearance, this C1-based supercar is capable of shutting down just about any high-tech Z06 that crosses its path.

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Although he's the proud owner of a '41 Oldsmobile coupe and a '56 Chevy Bel Air, Beat Rechsteiner is no run-of-the-mill collector of classic motorized Americana. Rechsteiner's real love lies with vintage performance cars, and Corvettes fit the bill nicely. "I've always been a drag-race addict, and today nothing has changed," Rechsteiner says. "I am a Corvette freak [and] have collected Corvette bits and pieces for over 20 years."

All of this sounds reasonable enough until you learn that Rechsteiner lives in a rural area outside Zurich. Not Zurich, Kansas, or Zurich, Montana, but 3,500 miles from the closest American shore, all the way across the Atlantic in Zurich, Switzerland.

Sure, we knew drag racing was a hugely popular pursuit in America. But Europe? That's the land of Le Mans and the Nrburgring, where Jaguars, Porsches, and Ferraris square off between high tea and $300 fill-ups, right?

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Not anymore.

Rechsteiner is the only driver in Europe to race a C1-based Corvette dragster. Even better, the industrious welder built the car entirely on his own. And so we polished up our best Schwitzerdtsch-a process that basically involved mastering the correct pronunciations of "cheese" and "high-quality timepiece"-and convinced Rechsteiner to give us the details on both himself and his NHRA Super Comp Vette.

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Rechsteiner's first project was a '67 Sting Ray; his second, a '68 Camaro Pro Mod. Despite the fact that he stays quite busy welding five days a week in his professional career, he managed to devote "four hours every evening, and all [my] weekends" to building his latest Corvette-a process that took three months.

The first step was the frame. Rechsteiner studied the design of the C1's underpinnings, then built a TIG-welded mild steel frame to hold the engine, body, transmission, drive axle, suspension, and fuel cell. Next, he bolted on a stock '56 Corvette front suspension modified to accommodate '86 C4 rotors and calipers. The Vette's rear comprises a '68 Chevrolet 12-bolt axle with a 31-spline differential housing, 4.88 gears, and is outfitted with '68 Chevy drums. A ladder-bar setup and QA1 shocks complete the package.

Old school? You would think so. After all, Switzerland became a country all the way back in 1291.

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The motor reposing between the frame rails of this lightweight (2,320-pound) Vette is pure American Super Comp. A late-model LT1 block was bored 0.040 over-for a displacement of 357 cubic inches-and stuffed with an Ohio 4340 steel crankshaft, Bill Miller aluminum rods, and Ross forged slugs. Exhaust exits the heads via side-mounted Hooker Super Competition 1 7/8-inch headers, which feed 3-inch dumps.

Up top, AFR 220cc heads feature CNC porting, 78cc exhaust ports, Manley 2.08/1.65 valves, and Jesel roller rockers with a 1.6 ratio. The camshaft is an Isky nitrous grind with 274/280-degree duration, 0.680/0.700-inch lift, and a 112-degree lobe-separation angle. Compression is a towering 15.0:1.

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According to AFR Product Design Manager Tony Mamo, the 220 heads work well in "strip-oriented, high-output, small-to-medium-displacement engines. They have 300 cfm intake runners and exhaust ports that flow about 235 cfm."

Since these particular heads are no longer available from AFR, readers who are looking to duplicate or better Rechsteiner's high-horsepower combo will want to look at the company's new Eliminator 23-degree units. "Our new 195cc competition-ported street head flows 300 cfm-same as our older 220 design-with 25 fewer cc," Mamo tells us. "It should make similar numbers...while making a bunch more peak torque and even stronger gains under the curve.

"Also, part-throttle response would be far crisper with the smaller port. Our new [Eliminator] 210s flow close to 315 cfm, and our new 227 heads should flow 325-plus-huge numbers for a conventional, non-raised-runner, 23-degree cylinder head."

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The intake manifold is a ported Holley Dominator outfitted with two Barry Grant 650-cfm race carburetors. A two-stage NOS Pro Shot Fogger system works with the Holley setup to provide a 250hp gain. Rechsteiner tells VETTE the Fogger's dual-stage feature allows him to "jet the first stage for full traction," then use the second-stage spray-bar plates to add incredible mid-range and top-end power.

Combining this late-model motor with old-fashioned carburetion and nitrous yields a heady 900 hp at 9,000 rpm. That's impressive. What's more impressive are Rechsteiner's best track times: 8.52 seconds in the quarter with a 1.32-second 60-foot sprint.

Sending the power to the wheels is an ATI two-speed Powerglide transmission designed for the NHRA Super Comp class. It features a Compu-Flow transbrake, a 10-clutch high-gear drum, a high-volume front pump, and an 8-inch ATI torque converter with a 5800-rpm stall speed, among other heavy-duty features. The trans connects to a Strange chrome-moly driveshaft and then to the Chevy 12-bolt. First-to-Second-gear shifts are executed by the driver as the speedometer hits the triple-digit mark. Second gear pushes the Vette close to the 160-mph range.

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Purists will breathe easier upon learning that the Vette's body is 100 percent reproduction. (That's right-no actual Corvette bodies were harmed in the building of this vehicle.) "The race-car body is a copy of my original '56 Corvette," Rechsteiner says. After taking measurements from the stocker, Rechsteiner and fiberglass specialist Eugen Nyfenegger created molds and resin panels to duplicate its shell in Super Comp dragster form. Then, painter Ryf Mellingen sprayed the Vette in two-tone Brilliant Cherry Red and white hues.

This Corvette uses C23 race fuel housed in a fuel cell in the trunk area. We asked Jay Farnsworth, technical director of VP Racing Fuels, why C23 is the preferred fuel of many nitrous-equipped dragsters. "C23 was provide extra protection for motors that use large quantities of nitrous," Farnsworth said. "Engine builders noticed that heavy nitrous fuels, like C16, tended to trap fuel between the rings when using multiple stages of nitrous. [This] would cause ring and piston problems when the trapped fuel would ignite.

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"Since nitrous cools the fuel-intake temperatures, VP developed C23 to burn cleaner and at lower temperatures, thus not allowing the fuel to trap between the rings. This prevents engine damage and allows the fuel to burn more efficiently, which provides better power gains [than] some of the other blends. We also raised the octane levels in C23, which allows the engine tuner to be more aggressive with the tune."

In modern-day Switzerland, where "Aldisierung" refers to the current trend away from quality and specialization in favor of mass-marketing and mediocrity, Rechsteiner's C1 stands as a testament to the power of a talented, dedicated individual. These days, that's quite an any language.



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