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.
"My Vette was shipped to Antwerp, Belgium, as part of the C5 Registry's 'March to LeMans' to be with the C5-R factory race cars," Fisher recalls. "The Corvettes participated in the 'Grande Parade des Pilotes' on the streets of LeMans with 50,000 people cheering us on.
"The next day, we drove two laps at La Sarthe. They were supposed to be parade laps, but how many chances does one get to 'let her rip' on the most famous race course in the world? So, after leading the 20 U.S. Corvettes around on Lap One, I got to the start/finish line and went pedal to the metal. I reached 163 mph on the Mulsanne Strait. It was a thrill that will last a lifetime."
In 2003, Fisher felt it was time to give his Corvette another power fix. "He came back and told me he wanted the Corvette to scream," Walker says. "By this time, it had been accessorized with a heat-extraction hood, fixed headlamps, center driving lights, and six-point rollbar, and it weighed 3,400 pounds. I discussed with him an engine combo that would propel his heavier-than-stock C5 into the high-10s."
Walker installed a 6.0L LQ9 iron block that had been bored to 4.038 inches and stuffed with a Lunati forged rotating assembly to yield a whopping 422 ci. A Comp hydraulic roller cam with 242/248-degree duration, 0.622/0.618-inch lift, and a 114-degree lobe-separation angle was chosen to operate the valvetrain. For exhaust, Fisher decided upon LG Motorsports long-tube headers, 3-inch pipes, a MagnaFlow perforated cross-pipe, and SLP 2.75-inch quad tailpipes. More recently, Walker added a ported LS3/L92 top-end setup, bumping compression to 11:1.
GM components were retained for the front and rear suspension, though QA1 adjustable shocks were added at all four corners. Stock C5 calipers clamp drilled-and-slotted Eradispeed rotors, while CCW wheels shod in fat Michelin PS2 rubber help this "batty" Corvette put the bite on the road. All maintenance work is performed by RevXtreme of Sarasota, Florida.
With a 422ci stroker under his hood, Fisher felt obligated to increase his drag-racing involvement. He joined the Summit Racing Series and entered the Florida Corvette Challenge, where he successfully took runner-up for the '05 season and Third Place in 2006.
In 2007, Fisher decided to give his Corvette a rabid cosmetic makeover by transforming it into the ultimate homage to Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell album. He turned to Brett Newell of Buck's Body Shop and Custom Refinishing in Lake Wales for assistance.
"He asked for something that would catch everybody's eye," Newell says. "We went through dozens of paint-chip samples and both agreed on an '08 GM paint color, Sunburst Orange Metallic, which we applied using a PPG BC/CC system. Then, armed with the BOH album cover and drawings of vicious and frightening bats, we had our airbrush artist, Mike Hobbs, recreate the album theme on the Corvette's rear fascia. He also colonized the hood and side panels with similar graphics."
The paint and artwork were completed in April 2008, nearly 10 years after Fisher placed his original order for the car. "My goals with the car are ongoing," he says. "There's always something to make it better, faster, and more consistent.
"As far as the looks of the car, it's never going to change until I'm gone. And when I die, I want to go like my grandfather, who died peacefully in his sleep-not screaming like the passenger in his Corvette."