In many ways, Robert Zona is a very typical Corvette owner. When he purchased his new 2003 Chevy Corvette Z06, he thought it would be a great toy for weekend cruising. Though it was his first six-speed performance vehicle, he quickly became addicted to the satisfaction that only comes from rowing your own gears.
It wasn't long after that the 39-year-old dentist from Jackson, New Jersey, found himself at the dragstrip in nearby Englishtown for a show-n-go event. "I had never drag raced before, but I decided to make a few passes. After that, I was hooked."
What makes Zona unusual, then, is that he now finds himself the owner of what may be the quickest naturally aspirated C5 in existence. "[My] 9.932 at 138.80 mph is currently the fastest NA e.t. ever recorded on the forums for a C5, regardless of engine size." While it may be going too far to say reaching this remarkable level of performance was like pulling teeth, it certainly didn't come without substantial effort.
What's it take to make a C5 run in the 9s? The most obvious answer, naturally, is brute power. For this, Zona turned to the pros at Anger Management Racing, in Brick, New Jersey. Though the original 346ci LS6 is still in place, don't make the mistake of assuming it's stock. While the short-block is mostly factory issue, with the exception of fly-cut pistons for valve clearance and a host of ARP fasteners for durability, it's the attention paid to the top end that makes the magic happen.
The rest of the car was put together by Zona and Tommy Michalkowski in Zona's garage. According to Zona, "One of the most rewarding parts of the build was that Tommy encouraged a lot of input from me." Together, they bolted on a pair of TEA-ported heads, a FAST intake manifold, a custom-spec cam, American Racing headers, and a GHL exhaust system. Nothing extraordinary jumps out at you when reviewing the buildsheet, but the combination of parts, and the attention to detail when assembling them, are a big part of what makes this car so special.
Once assembled, the car was handed over to Troy Nikola of Anger Management, who began the long process of tuning it to perfection. "I spent a lot of time with Tommy and Troy, dialing in this car over the past year. [It] was a process that we built upon from each previous track experience," says Zona. "Our first time out in the spring of 2008, the car trapped 134.40 in average air. So we knew it was going to put up some big numbers once the combination was perfected.
"Since we knew what the car was capable of, our eventual goal was to run 9s. Through the summer we dialed in the car, knowing that the cold air would bring faster times. Thanks to the help of the AMR crew, we were able to run our first 9-second pass in October 2008 and shock everyone with a 138.80 mph. We were able to back up the time and mph many times and managed a total of three 9-second passes, with a best of 9.93." This, of course, brought out the skeptics.
As with any groundbreaking endeavor, Zona and crew had to tolerate the cries of foul from the nonbelievers. "Since we dealt with a lot of crap from people who couldn't understand how we ran the numbers, we thought about doing a teardown at the track." Immediately after the 9.93 pass, the intake portion of the Z06's engine was disassembled to prove that there was no nitrous-oxide system in place. "The manifold and the Vararam, air bridge, and throttle body were completely removed from the car, proving there was no way any nitrous could have been injected into the car to boost performance." Further infuriating the doubters, the car was even driven to the track, raced, and then driven home after the teardown.