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.
Around this time, just as the new 505hp C6 Z06s were rolling out, my need for power was increasing again. I knew that the best way to achieve 500-plus horses in a hurry was to install a supercharger, but at an average price of $10,000 for a complete kit, installation, and tuning, a new blower simply wasn't within my budget. I began searching for a good used system at a decent price.
After doing some research, I decided that the A&A Corvette Performance system had the most potential. But at a new price of $5,600, it was out of my price range. I knew it was a long shot, but I called Andy Green at A&A to see if he had any used systems. To my surprise, Andy said he was taking a ProCharger system off an '04 Z06 and would sell it to me for $3,500. I couldn't believe my good fortune.
I told him to let me know as soon as he got it off the car. But after several weeks had passed, with no sign of the kit, I finally gave up and started looking elsewhere. Apparently the deal had been too good to be true.
Little did I know that my wife had called Andy and asked him to hold off on shipping the system until a few days before an upcoming special occasion. I didn't find out about her plan until the day of my birthday, when a present arrived in the form of a large box at my door. Not only did Andy come through with the supercharger kit, he included a brand-new bracket and a 3.85 pulley good for 8 psi of boost! He even shipped me the crank-pinning kit for free. Thanks to Andy, I had assembled the ultimate supercharger system on a budget.
A few weeks later, it was back to John's house for the installation. All the parts were accounted for, and the job went smoothly. I was then off to Carolina Auto Masters to have the car tuned for the new setup. A tune for a blower car normally runs around $500, which was a bit more than I could afford. Luckily, I am a residential paint contractor, and I was able to trade some work for the tune.
After a few pulls, we found the car was making around 530 hp at the rear wheels, but running lean on the top end. To address this, I ordered a Lingenfelter fuel pump from Andy for around $300 and purchased an old set of 42 lb/hr injectors from John. With more fuel and a safe tune, the car put down 537 hp and 469 lb-ft. Including the supercharger, headers, and fuel upgrades, I had invested a grand total of $4,950 in horsepower improvements.
Since the supercharger install, the car has gone as quick as 7.2 seconds with a hot stock clutch. While the stocker has held up surprisingly well, I have a Textralia OZ700 disc in the garage waiting to be installed. My next mods will be an output shaft and strut brace from DTE.
My most recent upgrade was a used Dynotune nitrous system that I picked up on Corvette Forum for $550. I now have a bottle, a switch plate, 250-shot fuel and nitrous solenoids, a digital window switch, and jets ranging from 25 to 250 hp. In the interest of engine longevity, I have decided to limit my nitrous use to the occasional 25- or 50-shot. For now, I am just enjoying the car's newfound power...and wondering what to do next.
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