If you're like many Corvette hobbyists, you want your car to be a "10" in every aspect of its presentation. But with so many perfect Vettes at racetracks, car shows, and, of course, in the pages of VETTE magazine, how do you give your car the character it needs to rise it to the top? In search of that answer, we tracked down one Corvette cognoscente who has reached the exponential level-10 to the third power to be precise-with his 1,000-plus horsepower '99 fixed-roof coupe.
"My Corvette is the fastest automatic-trans C5 in the country, but it wasn't always that way," says Mike Rumain, a professional bodyguard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "In 1999, I was just looking for a new Corvette to buy. I testdrove two of them-a fixed-roof coupe and a base coupe. The FRC had a much tighter feel to it, and I liked the lines of it better. It had a tougher look than the coupe, in my opinion."
Rumain made a great choice when he chose the FRC for his initiation into the C5 community. From 1999 to 2000, Chevrolet offered the car as an entry-level Corvette, one designed and marketed to entice new buyers at a lower buy-in price than either the base coupe or the convertible. Only 6,021 FRCs were built during the two-year run, accounting for a meager 11 percent of total Corvette production.
Thanks to the FRC's lighter weight and stiffer chassis, word began spreading that it was the Corvette to go racing with. Though Rumain didn't yet know that his Corvette would become one of the quickest C5s ever to be featured in VETTE magazine, it didn't take him long to recognize the car's considerable performance potential.
"I took the showroom-stock C5 to a track the first week I owned it, and it ran a 13.0-second e.t. at 110 mph," he recalls. "Over the next few months, I beat on the car pretty badly-one quarter-mile at a time, mostly. Before it was even six months old, I needed a new clutch, and that's when I decided on its first major mod: nitrous."
Loaded with a 100hp shot of speed juice, Rumain won his first major competition, the Corvette Challenge, at Englishtown Raceway near Old Bridge, New Jersey, in October 1999. Excited that he could take his C5's horsepower to even loftier levels, he then treated its LS1 engine to a head/cam package (yielding 425 rwhp), and removed the nitrous. The result was consistent 11.50 e.t.'s.
By 2001, Rumain was ready to sign up his car for more speed. He stroked the LS1 to 415 cid, which tacked on another 100 rwhp and allowed him to set an unofficial national record for naturally aspirated strokers.
But even that was not enough for this fixated speed aficionado. "In late 2002, there was a lot of competition among the New Jersey/New York LS1/LS6 engine performance shops to see who could get into the 9s first. I decided it was going to me," he says.
Before Rumain could claim that honor, however, he still had some serious upgrades to do. The factory's T-56 six-speed manual transmission had a nasty habit of destroying drivetrain parts when subjected to 500-plus lb-ft of torque. To rectify the situation, he installed an RPM Transmissions 4L60-E four-speed automatic. He also needed more power, so out came the 415 and in went a 410ci iron-block/LS6 heads combo with a direct-port 200-shot nitrous system, which dynoed at 750 rwhp in his car.
In 2004, Rumain decided to earn his Corvette another honor: the first naturally aspirated 9-second C5 in the area. He installed a 441ci C5-R block with LS6 heads and achieved a 9.95-second e.t. at 138 mph, at Atco Raceway in Atco, New Jersey. Determined to make his Corvette even more powerful, he destroked the C5-R to 388 ci, lowered its compression to 9.0:1, and installed a Cartek-modified STS rear-mount single-turbo system, which propelled his C5 to a 9.33-second e.t. at 149 mph, again at Atco.
"The performance of that combo really opened a lot of eyes as to the potential of rear-mount turbos," Rumain says. "It was the first rear-mount turbo Corvette to run in the 9s."