When do you know if you've done just enough modifications to your Corvette, or if you've been cursed with the insatiable compulsion to continue its customization, even beyond all reasonable boundaries of sense and sanity? That is the question VETTE posed to Michael Burton, a 60-year-old Boeing electrician in Strasburg, Virginia, who is on an all-consuming campaign to continue metamorphosing his Corvette until the day he dies.
"My Corvette is a Z06 'wannabe,' and I proudly proclaim it on its license plate," Burton says. "I owned an '01 C5 Z06 and loved the power of the 405hp LS6, but I was blown away when the C6 was introduced in 2005. For the first time since 1962, the Corvette had fixed headlamps. I had to buy one."
Of course, after owning a C5 Z, Burton was disappointed that the Z06 was not offered for the 2005 model year. Despite the pain of not moving significantly forward in horsepower, he wanted a C6 that would allow him to see the sky overhead. Patiently, he waited the entire model year, then found a Velocity Yellow Chevy Corvette convertible built with the Z51 performance option and the LT3 trim package, which he bought from Criswell Chevrolet in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in August 2006.
"I was pleased with the factory performance of the LS2 convertible, until a trip to Corvettes at Carlisle in 2007 changed my life," Burton says. "It started simple enough; I just wanted an engine tune to wake up my LS2. I thought it would be an easy mod, and something inexpensive that I wouldn't get carried away with."
That's when something strange happened. Though the engine tune's task was to elicit performance gains by modifying the Corvette's air, fuel, and spark tables, it had a psychological effect on Burton, too. "I had intended to keep the Vette stock, but once I got the tune, I realized that it was destined to have more power than a C6 Z06...a lot more power," he says.
He stayed in touch with tuner Corvettes of Westchester, based in Westchester, New York, and discussed with shop owner Chuck "Cow" Mosello how the convertible could become unconquerable. Before long, Burton was making the 800-mile round trip to Mosello's shop-first for a VaraRam cold-air intake, a custom-grind cam, and 4.10 gears-then later for a Callaway/Magnuson 122 supercharger package, followed by a Z06 rearend (also equipped with 4.10 gears), a Zoom dual-disc "Science Friction" clutch, a DeWitts aluminum racing radiator, Kooks headers (1 7/8-inch primaries and 3-inch collectors), an '08 Corvette NPP exhaust system with a NakidParts Mild 2 Wild conversion, and Pfadt competition coilovers and "Pfatty" sway bars.
Along the way the LS2's 6.0L bottom end remained stock, though the valvetrain was upgraded with Comp 981 springs and titanium retainers. The sum of the mods was significant: a whopping 513 hp and 463 lb-ft at the rear wheels, measured on Corvettes of Westchester's dynamometer.
That brings us to part two of our story.
Have you ever opened one door that led to another, and then mysteriously to another? That's how Burton describes how his car received so many body and appearance mods, and, in the process, was transformed into one of the wildest-image C6 convertibles ever featured in VETTE magazine.
"I bought a Lingenfelter CES hood because I liked its aggressive look, then I commissioned Layne Designs in Middletown (Virginia), for the 'small' project," Burton explains. "The problem was I was not well at just doing 'small' projects. After seeing how the owner, Chris Layne, had developed a 'true fire' motif and applied it to motorcycles, I asked him if he would customize the underneath of my hood as well.
"He did a great a great job on the hood, and all would have been fine, until I added the Magnuson 122 supercharger," Burton continues. "The hood wasn't tall enough for it, and I had to take it back to him and add 2 inches to the hoodscoop height, then fill in the grilles with aluminum. Then, of course, he had to repaint the entire hood, including all the airbrushing."