Model: Rikki Superdock
Here at VETTE, we're accustomed to bringing you Corvettes you can really sink your teeth into. But watch out: If you're not careful, this month's feature may sink its teeth into you.
"In 1998, I decided it was time to try out the brand-new-generation Corvette, the C5," says Marc Fisher, a retired school teacher from Lake Wales, Florida. "The previous C4 models were very hard for me to enter because of a back problem that left me disabled. The C5 had great ingress and egress, and I fell in love with it."
In May, 1998, Fisher ordered a '99 Vette. He says that while he expected to receive one of the first copies to roll off the factory line, GM held back customer orders to allow the initial batch of 1,200 '99 C5s to make it into dealer showrooms. "My Corvette ended up being No. 1,532, since it was built to order. I picked it up on August 8, 1998."
The Light Pewter Metallic coupe was shipped from Bowling Green with the standard LS1 engine, a 4L60E automatic transmission, the G92 Performance (3.15) Axle, and the Z51 Performance Handling Package. Other options included the Head Up Instrument Display, the Active Handling System, the Power Passenger Seat, Foglamps, the Bose Speaker Package, and the Twilight Sentinel. Fisher tested his new Corvette at Moroso Motorsports Park in Jupiter and learned that it was a 13.4-second performer in stock trim.
Four months later, the thrill of owning a new Corvette had turned into a re-evaluation of the car's potential, as Fisher was no longer satisfied with its track times. He contacted Barry Walker of Airflo Technologies in Fort Lauderdale and asked him for more horsepower.
"When the C5 came out, there wasn't an aftermarket industry like we have today," Walker says. "There weren't any bolt-on packages for the C5, and off-the-shelf head/cam packages were still years away. I ported a set of stock heads and outfitted them with one of the very first sets of 2.02/1.57 oversized valves, from Race Engine Valves (REV). It was just as challenging to find any performance cams for the LS1, so I asked Crane Cams to make us a custom grind with 222/226 degrees of duration and 0.529/0.529-inch lift."
According to Walker, the hardest part of the power upgrade was the tuning. "There are so many signals built into the LS1 system architecture, and in 1998 there was no software available to allow us to adjust the fuel, air, and spark tables to match the requirements of the heads and hotter cam. With the tuning industry still in its infancy, we developed a method where we placed resisters and a frequency modulator in-line between the sender output signals and the ECU. Through trial and error, the car got faster and faster using these Band-Aids."
Quarter-mile testing backed up his claim. Fisher consistently ran 12.8 second e.t.'s on his new combo. In celebration of the car's enhanced performance bite, he affixed over 30 custom-made vinyl bat decals to the Corvette and dubbed it the "Bat Out of Hell."
His next step was to squeeze even more performance out of the car with trans, intake, and additional tuning mods. "He brought it back to me, and I added a custom cold-air intake and a 3,800-stall Yank torque converter," Walker says. "The most important change in our performance numbers came when LS1-Edit software was released in 2001. It allowed us to remove the resistors and frequency modulator, and to tune the Corvette from our computer. Suddenly, the Vette was running in the mid-11s."
Fisher campaigned his Corvette at venues around the country, visiting Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida; Route 66 Drag Strip in Joliet, Illinois; and Old Bridge Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. But the real honor came in June 2001, when he joined in a special trip to Europe.