The idea was simple: Assemble a platoon of god-awfully powerful street Corvettes and pit them against one another on the quarter-mile strip at Atlanta Dragway. The event was conceived as an invitation-only adjunct to the YearOne Experience-a mammoth, three-day customer-appreciation event put on each year by the Braselton, Georgia-based restoration- and performance-parts retailer. To make things really interesting, we decided to invite entrants from sister magazines Mopar Muscle, High Performance Pontiac, and Corvette Fever. And to ensure that none of the participants rolled in with an alky-swilling, tube-frame ringer, we incorporated a 25-mile city/highway drive into the program.
Of an initial short list of 10 candidates, only 4 showed up in Atlanta on race day. The quartet completed the street drive unscathed, but one of the cars suffered a mechanical problem on its first dragstrip pass and was pulled from the competition. That left us a with a terrible trio of road-going ber-Vettes representing the third, fourth, and fifth generations of the car. How did they fare against the clocks, and the competition? Keep reading.
With gas prices on the rise, and inflation hovering somewhere in the troposphere, Russ Buckner's LT4 coupe serves as a heartening refutation of the idea that outsize performance requires a similarly outsize investment. Hewing closely to a results-oriented build plan, the 38-year-old active-duty airman managed to accentuate the strengths of the factory-tweaked LT4 engine and create a car capable of holding its own against all but the most formidable competition.
A GMPP Hot Cam and a set of Hooker long-tube headers are the prime movers in the powertrain package, while a set of 4.10 gears enhance the C4's off-the-line urgency. Beyond that, the car remains largely stock, right down to the original throttle body and OptiSpark unit.
While the dragstrip was the venue of choice for our little get-together, Buckner regularly presses the Vette into service in a variety of competitive environments. In fact, just one day after its Atlanta Dragway appearance, the car placed Second in a YearOne-sponsored autocross held a few miles away at Road Atlanta. (The winner of that contest-a road-race-prepped C5 Z06-is featured on page 30 of this month's issue.)
After conquering the street drive with the A/C blasting ("I even got 22 mpg," said Buckner afterward), the car laid down a string of mid-12-second passes at between 111 and 115 mph. Buckner's best run of the day clocked in at 12.38 seconds at just under 115 mph-right on par with a stock (if exceptionally well-driven) C5 Z06. Now that's the kind of transportational efficiency we could get used to.