After modifying my first two C5s to produce 305 and 308 rear-wheel horsepower without breaking the bank, I decided that for my next Vette, I would start with a stouter foundation. Not far into my search, I realized that the 385hp '01 Z06 was the car for me. Samples were available for only $3,000 to $5,000 more than a base '01, for which you got a fixed hard top, stiffer suspension, and LS6 engine.
I managed to find a 23,000-mile '01 Z on eBay for the right price of $27,000. The previous owner installed a custom-chambered exhaust system, a B&M short shifter, a K&N air filter, and a better-flowing airbox lid from an '04 model. The car ran strong, but I wanted more.
The first thing I needed to do was get more air into the engine. After doing some searching on eBay and Corvette Forum, I came across a used Halltech air bridge and a Vortex cold-air intake for $260, shipped. Once the new parts were installed, I went with my buddies from the local Corvette club to a dyno day in Durham. The car put down 337 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque-not bad, but well below the 356 hp recorded by an '02 Z06 on the same day. I briefly wondered if I had made a mistake by not buying an '02-up model. Then I decided to see how far I could go with all the money I saved.
Not only did I want my Z to go fast, I wanted it to have a look of its own. What better way to do this than with a set of chrome wheels? During yet another eBay search, I found a new set of Weld Evo forged wheels-18 x 9.5 fronts and 20 x 10.5 rears-for only $1,100. Wrapping them in BFGoodrich rubber brought the total to $2,200. Soon after, I found a new set of cross-drilled rotors for $90. My brake, tire, and wheel upgrades were complete.
When it was time to give the car some sound, I decided that "loud and aggressive" was for me. After a tedious online search, I picked up a set of Billy Boat Bullet mufflers for $230. They gave me the loud rumble I wanted at idle and screamed when I hit the gas. It was time to hit the drag strip.
After making a few runs on the new street tires, I was running consistent 8.5 passes in the eighth-mile. I was getting decent launches, but I knew a set of sticky tires would help me improve my e.t.'s. I went to see a buddy at Discount Tire, and $360 later, I had some Mickey Thompson 275/40-17 ET Street Radials mounted on the stock Z06 front wheels. Back at the track, I was able to make consistent 8.2-second passes.
At this point, I realized that to get a major power gain and lower my times further, I would have to get more air out of the engine. After placing a post on Corvette Forum, I got a response from a local guy selling a brand-new set of Dynatech long-tube headers for $1,150. The price was $400 lower than I could find anywhere else. Off I went to close the deal.
Doing the installations yourself is a great way to save money on a high-performance build. But as everyone knows, it's always better when you have a friend to help out. It just so happened that I found that friend at the dragstrip. His name is John Svoboda, and his car is the infamous "Super '98" that appeared in VETTE last year ("Tales of Super '98," May '06).
Over the course of a Saturday, John and I had the old manifolds off and the stainless Dynatech system on. The headers didn't improve the performance of the car until I brought it to Jeff Creech, at Carolina Auto Masters in Durham. After some tuning, the Z put down 360 hp and 345 lb-ft on the CAM dyno. The next chance I had, I was back on the track to see what improvements I had achieved. Soon, I was running consistent 8-second passes, with an all-time low e.t. (at the time) of 7.82.