2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 - The Adventures Of Buckwheat

This Rascal Runs!

Chris Endres Jan 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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We all know the guy who's just gotta make the proclamation: "I've got the fastest car in this here town!" And, chances are, being polite, we roll our eyes and quickly change the subject. But what if you're a bit less than polite, fiercely competitive, and have the know-how to put guys like that in their place? What do you do?

If you're Mike Murillo, owner of Mike Murillo Motorsports in San Antonio, Texas, you go out and get yourself a Z06. "I'd always wanted a Vette," he says, "and when an acquaintance offered his '01 Z06, I knew this was my chance." Shortly thereafter, one of Murillo's friends followed suit and bought his own '04 Z. The two spent many nights talking over plans for modifying their newly acquired Corvettes.

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A pair of Zex bottles are mounted cleanly in the trunk, away from prying eyes.

Eventually, though, said friend stopped showing up at Murillo's shop. "I didn't think much of it at the time, but then I ran into him at the track one night. As I was walking over to say hello, I could hear the rumpity-rump of a big cam from his car." When questioned, Friendo admitted he had gone to another shop across town, one whose proprietors also happen to refer to themselves as the "LSX Kings of San Antonio."

Never one to shy from a bit of smack-talk himself, Murillo says, "They have a habit of running their mouths via their keyboards on the Internet. As a matter of fact, their mouths run far faster than any car that has rolled out of their shop. Of course, this shop told the guy that 'Murillo doesn't know Vettes,' and he obviously believed them. That's fine, but I was determined to have the last laugh."

Murillo's name may be familiar to some, as he is a longtime Mustang racer with more than 60 national event titles and eight world championships to his credit. This includes the biggest Mustang race of them all: the World Ford Challenge in 2002. His championship-winning Mustang "The Star Car" is also widely known even to those outside the Mustang community for its Texas-state-flag-inspired paint scheme.

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The C5 Z06 cuts a clean profile, but it isn't one to intimidate most racers.

So what does one of the best-known names in Mustang racing know about Corvettes? Quite a lot, actually. "I know more than a little about tuning, power-to-weight ratios, and how to get the most out of any combination. I wanted not only to have the fastest Corvette in San Antonio, but in Texas as well. And I wanted to get there with just bolt-ons. I figured I'd have to make the car capable of high 9s to pull it off." The other part of his goal was to "stomp my former friend on the way every chance I got."

According to Murillo's calculations, it would take about 630 rwhp to run the number. "What I couldn't understand is all these guys on the Internet making over 700 hp at the wheels, yet they were only running mid 10s in the high 130s. It didn't compute with me, but hell, what do I know? I'm just a Mustang guy. I soon came to realize that getting a Corvette down the dragstrip quickly is harder than I thought."

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The illusion of a stocker is quickly dashed once the hood is open. The Zex nitrous system adds 200 hp at the touch of a button.

Power production is no problem for Murillo's stock-appearing Z, which is known around San Antonio as "Buckwheat." Though the short-block remains stock, it's stuffed with an LG Motorsports X4 camshaft. The AFR 225 cylinder heads have been treated to CNC-machining by Kotzur Racing Heads and teamed with 0.040-inch Cometic head gaskets. The 90mm FAST intake manifold is as it came out of the box, fed through an untouched, stock 90mm throttle body from an '07 Z06. Exhaust is handled by LG's Pro Long Tubes and x-style crossover, with sound attenuation by Borla. The rotating assembly, rockers, ignition system, and fuel injectors all remain as GM intended.

As you might expect, the big power boost comes when the Zex nitrous-oxide system is engaged. Murillo has it jetted for a 200-horse hit, which is good to spin his Mustang dyno to 630 rwhp and 615 rwtq. A custom Murillo Motorsports secondary fuel system uses a 255-lph pump to meet the needs of the big squeeze.

The drivetrain remains surprisingly close to stock, though there are some key supporting modifications that have gone into the car to get it down the track in a hurry. The factory six-speed was shipped to T56 Rebuilders in Houston for a freshening, while the rear was filled with 3.90 gears and fortified with a pair of hardened axles. A DTE strut brace was added when the transmission and rear were reunited.

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This auxiliary fuel cell was not a GM option.

As we have previously established, saying your car is the fastest in town is often a dubious claim at best. And Murillo was called out on it. In fact, when he posted news of his 9.94 at 143 pass in Sealy, Texas, and boldly anointed his car "the fastest Corvette in San Antonio," the peanut gallery quickly pointed out that it was actually the fastest in Sealy. Not pleased, Murillo jumped at the chance to run the rival shop owner's personal 427-cube, NOS-snorting Corvette (Friendo's '04 had already been written off as a lost cause). The big stroker had run a 10.27 at 141 just days earlier, so there seemed to be a very good race in the making.

Murillo tells the rest of the story, in his own inimitable way:

It had been raining on and off for a couple of days, so I wasn't sure if the track would even be open. But I knew that if I didn't show up and it was open, I would never hear the end of it.

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Buckwheat gets ready to blast off on another high-9-second pass. Dialing in the right launch rpm is critical.

My buddy, Big Rue, and I showed up at about 8:00 p.m. I was sick, and would have much rather been at home. I told my fiance, Lisa, to stay home with the kids and that if I decided to run, I would call her and let her know. Lisa and I have an agreement that I will never make runs without her being there, if she can be.

So, when we arrived, the track was indeed open, but nobody was there. Nine o'clock came and went, and I decided to just head home. As I said my goodbyes to a few of my friends and started walking to my car, lo and behold, in comes the 427 stroker guy with all his keyboard warriors in hot pursuit. My first response was, "[expletive deleted]!" My second response was, "[expletive deleted] it! Let's get this done! Big Rue, call Lisa and tell her we're ridin'.

I walked right up to 427 and said, "Hey, I'm not sure what condition the track is in, so I'll make a quick hit and see." He told me he was having clutch problems and didn't want to race. I still did, so I decided to make a quick little hit just to test the waters.

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To state the obvious, all eyes were on Wheat, and all the "warriors" were at the fence! As I pulled into the water box, my nerves were shot. The Vette is a pain in the ass leaving the starting line. If I didn't get some good wheel speed leaving, I could bog the motor and add four-tenths to my time.

I pulled it up to the 5,000-rpm two-step [rev limiter], dumped the clutch-and it bogged! But even with a dismal 1.69 60-foot time, the car still managed a 10.21 at 143. I wasn't happy, but the warriors were, let's say . . . surprised. Some of them straggled over and exclaimed, 'Wow!' But Big Rue and I told them, 'We aren't done yet.'

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Inside, only the shift knob and pillar-mounted gauges hint that there may be more going on here than meets the eye.

Lisa missed the first pass, so she was mad when she got there. After calming her down, we went up for Round 2. This time I revved it to 6,000 and dumped the clutch. No bog, but it spun pretty bad. The car responded with a 1.56 60-foot and clicked off a 10.01 at 144. Not bad.

As we were cooling down for the last hit of the night, several more warriors were coming and going, some with less-than-pleasant comments. Then, as I pulled into the staging lanes, one of their fastest 408-inch NOS Z06 guys came over and wanted to "dance." This guy had been the fastest Vette in S.A. for two years or so. Having confidence after the last pass, and knowing that I'm even better under pressure, I was more than happy to accept the challenge.

We both did our burnouts and crept to the lights. Needless to say, you could hear a pin drop even over the rumbling of our exhaust. We both purged the nitrous, pulled in, and staged. I brought my stock short-block up to 5,500 rpm and proceeded to drop the bomb on him right at the lights and tree him out the gate.

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A pair of Auto Meter Sport-Comp gauges allow Murillo to easily monitor fuel and nitrous pressure.

Buckwheat laid down a 1.47 60-foot, and I was grabbing gears like the [expletive deleted] owed me money. The car moved over about 6 feet at the 1,000-foot mark, but there was no way I was lifting. I didn't even see "Mr. 408" at this point. As I crossed the finish line, I already knew it was a 9-second pass.

The scoreboard lit up with a 9.93 at 145 mph to a 10.61 at 140 mph. For whatever reason, I hadn't felt excitement and jubilation like that since I won the World Ford Challenge in 2002.

Now that he has proven that just maybe he does know a thing or two about Vettes, Murillo is going back to his roots and has built "The Star Car II," with the goal of making no less than 2,600 hp via a twin-turbocharged 541ci aluminum Ford big-block.

So is this the fastest Z06 in San Antonio? Yeah, it probably is. But as a hard-core racer on the strip and elsewhere, Mike Murillo knows there's always bound to be someone faster. Therein lies the challenge. And, ever the competitor, Murillo is "O-tay" with that.

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