2001 Chevrolet Corvette C5 - Conversion Reaction

How A Would-Be Cobra Enthusiast Saw The Light In A Supercharged C5

Steve Temple Nov 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0911_01_z 2001_chevrolet_corvette_c5 Exhaust_pipes 2/10

It's an oft-repeated story. After a sudden epiphany, a misguided soul sees the error of his ways and does a complete 180. In this case, though, we're not talking about a morality tale of giving up a vice such as gambling or drinking, but rather a simple realization concerning the virtues of our favorite sports car. And no ordinary Corvette at that, but one with a 600-plus-hp, blown-and-juiced LSX 427.

In the case of Duke Wilson's turnabout, it actually happened not once, but twice-first from a Japanese import, and then from a Shelby Cobra.

"I originally wanted to go with a Cobra replica after breaking from Japanese cars," Wilson relates. "I sold my twin-turbo V-6 Mitsubishi VR4 Spyder because I wanted more power and presence. Nothing can satisfy that need like American V-8 muscle."

Well, at least he got that part right, thanks to a youth spent building build hot rods. Still, despite input from his friends, Wilson didn't make a complete conversion at that point.

Vemp_0911_02_z 2001_chevrolet_corvette_c5 Front 3/10

"For the next year and a half, I researched the Shelby, making three trips to the factory," he recalls. "I was also having meetings and meals with the local Cobra club technicians and enthusiasts." Ironically, it was those club members who first mentioned that the Corvette boasted better accessories and offered a superior overall driving experience. (Hey, all he had to do was pick up a copy of VETTE, and he'd have known better all along . . .)

After hearing such comments at different times from a variety of Cobra owners, Wilson started paying more attention to Corvettes on the road. His resolve about the Cobra was beginning to crack. After testdriving the Shelby, that crack only widened. Just to clear away any gnawing doubts, he stopped by a Chevy dealership-and then suddenly shifted gears.

Vemp_0911_03_z 2001_chevrolet_corvette_c5 Plates 4/10

Not that there was anything wrong with the Shelby; it just wasn't quite right. After all, the Z06 was so much better looking and more sophisticated. He just couldn't resist its allure. (This all sounds rather familiar, since your author used to work at Shelby American and went through a similar change of heart.)

"My dissatisfaction with the Shelby was that is was very single-minded," Wilson says. "[It had] plenty of torque and engine sound but left aside beauty of form and drive experience."

The Corvette, on the other hand, had it all.

Vemp_0911_04_z 2001_chevrolet_corvette_c5 Rear_left 5/10

"I knew this car was far superior before I even turned over the engine," he continues. "Immediately, I felt how well balanced it was compared with the Cobra. The feeling was like the difference in riding a runaway or a racehorse. Both are fast, but the runaway might decide to buck you off at any minute."

It would take several more dealership visits before Wilson finally took the plunge and bought an '01 C5. But once he converted to the Corvette camp, he was more committed than a born-again prison inmate, preaching to all his car-guy friends about his new way of life and making numerous modifications to the stock platform. He started with a switch from pop-up headlights to Le Mans-style fixed units, but that was just the first drop in what would become a bottomless bucket.

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Bolting on a polished Magnuson MagnaCharger blower was the next step, along with a general dressing-up of the engine compartment using carbon-fiber, chrome, and paint to create a distinctive look. As with so many new converts, though, Wilson stumbled along the way.

"The original company I chose to do the install talked a good game but sucked in its ability to deliver," he recalls. "It lacked a specialist who could correctly fine-tune the fuel and airflow. During the first 200 miles on the new supercharger, I had to return to the shop because of this problem three times. The problem was the two back cylinders were running lean. Well, time number three was the last time-because the block cracked!"




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