With the arrival of the C6 Z06 in late 2005, owners of modified Corvettes were faced with a conundrum. Chevrolet had released an extremely potent car with daily-driver usability as well as a full warranty. For Riverview, Florida's Mark Dickie, whose '01 Z06 saw duty as both a daily driver and a track-day warrior, the thought of upgrading to the newest bad-boy Vette formed a tempting proposition. Counterbalancing that temptation was the considerable untapped potential Dickie saw in his own Z. "I had to make the decision of whether to buy a C6 Z06 or build a monster," he says.
Fortunately for us, he decided to pursue the latter route. To execute his monstrous vision, Dickie sought the assistance of Greg Lovell at AntiVenom in Seffner, Florida. Together, the two concocted a plan to outperform the C6 Z's 505hp 427 without using forced induction. "I see way too many guys blowing up their engines with forced induction. It really puts a strain on the components," Dickie says. The final strategy was to build an exceptional big-inch powerplant with an emphasis on durability.
The resulting 454-cube motor is based on a GM Performance Parts LSX iron block. Its innards consist of a Scat crankshaft, along with Callies rods and forged pistons. The engine's compression ratio is set at 11.25:1. While Dickie was forthright about most of the intimate details regarding his 454 mill, he felt it was best to leave the specifics of his camshaft under wraps.
Atop the engine are a pair of LS7 cylinder heads outfitted with Del West titanium valves. These are fed by an LS7 intake manifold and throttle body combination attached to an AntiVenom air intake. Exhaust gases are expelled through American Racing headers and a Borla Stinger exhaust system with quad four-inch tips.
With its formidable arsenal of high-performance parts, the big motor needed a fortified support system capable of meeting its fueling and engine-management needs. To keep the fires stoked, the fuel system received Comtech Performance rails and Motorsports 42 lb/hr injectors. The 454 is controlled with a stock LS6 PCM tuned by AntiVenom.
The combined efforts of the foregoing hardware produce 525 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. If Dickie had any doubts about his decision to stick with natural aspiration, they were promptly quelled on the day he picked up the finished car. During the drive home, he was challenged by a supercharged C6, which he soundly defeated. "Right then I knew I had made the right choice in building this," he says.
Even with so much power, the drivetrain needed only minor upgrades. The original transmission was replaced with a fresh T56 six-speed from an '04 Vette. An LS7 clutch and flywheel were installed, and the stock 3.42 rearend was improved with C6 Z06 output shafts.
With Dickie's proclivity for track days, he made sure not to neglect the suspension during the upgrade process. Underneath the Z06 the factory "oxcart" springs were swapped in favor of a Pfadt adjustable coilover system. Pfadt sway bars were also installed front and rear to tighten up the car. With this setup and gummy Toyo Proxes T1-R tires, Dickie's Z06 sticks to the track like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. The factory binders have been replaced with C6 Z06 brakes at all four corners.
While the C5 is not an unattractive car in production-line mufti, it has been somewhat overshadowed by the sharper lines of its newer sibling. The C6 cuts a more athletic profile that makes the '97-'04 model appear a bit soft by comparison. Wanting an exterior appearance more in keeping with his car's newfound extreme performance, Dickie sought the assistance of Tampa's Red Finish for paint and body work. The car was originally Torch Red, with a single, owner-added black stripe from nose to tail, but it received a drastic makeover.
The final outcome is a vehicle not for the introverted. A complete Tiger Shark body kit was added, and the pop-up headlights were removed in favor of C5-R-style fixed units. The most notable characteristic of the car, however, is its brilliant orange hue. The dazzling effect is the product of tangerine-colored paint mixed with yellow and copper pearl. The wild look of the exterior was done with an eye for detail, right down to the body-color-painted brake calipers behind 18-inch, black-chrome C6 Z06 wheels.
While the outside of the car has been changed extensively, the interior remains simple and unadorned. So far the cockpit has only seen the conversion of its stock, red Z06 upholstery to standard C5 black and the addition of a Hurst shifter. Future plans call for the installation of a complete custom interior.
This car has been built to perform well at the track, but Dickie made its use as a daily driver his first priority. As such, the Vette maintains a poised, tranquil nature not present in many modified cars. "Most people who ride in the car would never know it had a 454 unless I meant to show them that it has a 454," he says.
The top-secret cam is described as being "pretty mild" to facilitate driving in all conditions. While the car can be a composed commuter, there's always a reservoir of performance to tap into when called upon. "I like to say it's civilized until it's no longer time to be civilized."
Dickie's passion for Corvettes runs deep and is a topic on which he enjoys expounding to the masses. He has also been a member of Z06Vette.com for six years and is one of its "Super Moderators." One of his main roles with the site is as the lead liaison and organizer for the NCM/Z06Vette.com Z06Fest held each year in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dickie also leads an annual "blurry" road tour from Bowling Green to the Makers Mark distillery, which he cagily describes as "an aggressively driven road tour."
Mark Dickie regenerated his '01 Z06 with a spirit and character not found in an off-the-shelf Z. He has composed a brilliant car with an appearance that belies the 116,000 miles counted on its odometer. "A 600-plus-hp 454 is not something you see everyday, especially one as civilized as this one is." A high-performance daily driver wrapped up in show-car good looks is certainly something rare. Dickie has had a long, committed relationship with his Z that has endured, even when faced with temptation.