Corvette owners often get a bum rap from the rest of the motorhead community. Owners of lesser cars love to paint Vette guys as snobs and poseurs when, more often than not, they should be pointing the dirty end of the stick at themselves. Be that as it may, it's true that there's a certain segment of our fraternity that is more concerned with tire dressing and waxing protocol than timing advance and tire smoke. But there's also a group of hardcore addicts who have sold their souls for performance. Curt Babler belongs to the latter category.
Babler has always been a fan of GM's premier two-seater, even if it did take a little longer than expected to get one of his own. "Growing up with Corvettes, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had one. When the time came, the car had to be yellow." And man, is it ever yellow. More on that in a minute.
Another knock against the Corvette crowd is a perceived snobbery towards other cars and their owners. Don't let the vanity plate fool you. Curt Babler is not one of those stereotypically vain Vette guys. Far from it, actually. "I built the car in a way that I felt would make it unique, and made the theme of the car 'Envy'," he says. What about that vanity plate? "It means I built the car the way I wanted. It means that no one should envy me or my car, but should build their own, to their personal taste." That bit of murky philosophy aside, there is no denying that he has assembled a stunner.
Though the car is perfectly detailed, Babler's exterior embellishments are rather reserved. The casual observer may even mistake this clean C5 for a stocker. ACI turn-signal splitters, LED taillights, some Z06-style mesh screens, and a killer set of shoes are the most noticeable departures from stock. The ever-popular CCW 505a wheels are plus-sized to 18 (front) and 19 (rear) inches and dressed in Pirelli P-Zero hides. Peeking from behind the polished aluminum hoops are a set of red Z06 calipers to apply the clampdown on Baer Eradispeed+ rotors by way of Hawk pads.
A glance through any window reveals an eye-popping Mod Yellow interior that any Corvette owner would lust after. "The late Ken King of Vette Essentials produced the truly astounding leather work," says Babler. "I was able to recover the seats using his skins in less time than it took me to install the chrome hood hinges." The yellow theme is carried on throughout, including a two-tone shifter knob and boot, parking-brake handle and boot, console cover, door pulls, and armrests.
Among the more subtle interior enhancements is the upgraded sound system. The factory stereo head unit has been scrapped, and in its stead resides a Pioneer navigational unit complete with monitor for the back-up camera. The factory speakers have been replaced by CDT components, which are powered by a pair of JL Audio amplifiers. A Sub "thump box" is loaded with a pair of Infinity 10-inch woofers. Another understated touch is the replacement of all interior lighting with blue LEDs, giving a far-out custom look after dark.
Babler displays the car often and reports that it's always a favorite at the local shows and cruise nights. "It's always the first one the kids point out. My most coveted trophy is from being selected to the Corvette Corral by Corvette Race Program Director Doug Fehan at the American LeMans Series race at Road America."
A peek under the hood reveals what all the fuss is about. While many are content with a few pieces of carbon fiber or chrome, Babler is not. He shipped his complete carbon underhood kit to Jaime Rodriguez, at Pure Image Design, for further customization. Rodriguez masterfully interpreted Babler's Deadly Sins theme into graveyards, sickle-bearing reapers, and even a skull or two with alarmingly overgrown incisors. There is enough fire and brimstone underhood to make Beelzebub himself proud.
Don't think for a second that this car commits the sin of being all show and no go, as Babler has carefully chosen a combination of parts to maximize power production with an eye on value and reliability. For help with this, he turned to John Boos Performance in Anoka, Minnesota. "I set very strict parameters for John to work within," says Babler, "and he hit a home run in my book."
Going the ever-popular heads-and-cam route was a no-brainer. Boos selected a pair of well-proven AFR 205 heads and milled the decks to achieve 62cc combustion chambers. The valvetrain was fitted with Comp springs, pushrods, lifters, and an XE-R-profile cam. The stock LS6 manifold was left in place but fitted with a matched set of 30-lb/hr injectors.
Not one to settle for posing on the boulevard, Babler races his evil C5 every chance he gets. He derives particular pleasure from testing himself and his machine at the bracket races. "One race in particular, I went eight rounds before I failed as a driver by not adjusting to changing weather conditions." That's pretty impressive for a street-driven, manual transmission car-on street tires, no less! Even with massive traction issues, this C5 is no slouch, running a very unsloth-like best of 12.12 at 117.36 mph.
Regardless of whether he is at the track or romping down one of the countless twisty roads that populate the farmlands around his suburban Twin Cities home, all of the performance mods pay off every time Babler stomps on the noise pedal. Ever greedy for more, Babler's future plans include 3.90 gears and hardened internals for the rear. He freely admits he is a glutton for horsepower. "It's like being a drug addict...never enough!" As these mods will not keep him content for long, a naturally aspirated stroker somewhere north of 427 cubes is in the not-too-distant future.
Babler tells us he drives the car whenever the mood strikes him, which is often. And that's a good thing, because to not drive a car such as this would be the biggest sin of all.