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1999 Chevy Corvette Coupe - Ten to the Third Power

Mike Rumain's 1,000-Horse FRC Tramples The 8-Second Barrier

Christopher R. Phillip Jun 10, 2010
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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.

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"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."

But with greater power came the need for a stouter transmission. "The 4L60-E behaved well on the track, but on the street, I was pushing its limits," Rumain explains. "RPM Transmissions came up with the idea of adapting the new 4L80-E automatic trans to a C5. I was willing to be a guinea pig to do the conversion." Before he could install the 4L80-E, however, he discovered that the C5-R block had a cracked sleeve. The 4L80-E swap would have to wait.

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That brings us up to the Vette's current competition-crushing combo. In 2007, Rumain returned to Cartek Racing in Garwood, New Jersey, where he had his prior engines and mods installed. His goal was to build up his Corvette to 1,000 horsepower, achieve 8-second e.t.'s, and keep the car 100 percent streetable.

Cartek's plan was simple: retire the C5-R and swap it for a 402ci LS2 block with a 4.00-inch Callies forged crankshaft, 6.125-inch Manley forged rods, and Diamond dished pistons. The new combo was then mated to Trick Flow 235cc heads with 70cc combustion chambers, 2.08/1.60 valves, and Jesel 1.7:1 aluminum rocker arms, while valvetrain orchestration fell to a custom solid-roller cam. Other engine essentials include a ported LS6 intake, LS7 coils, and an LS6 oil pan. The compression ratio is 9.2:1.

The real secret to this C5 Vette's quadruple-digit horsepower benchmark is its Cartek-modified STS turbo system, which is fitted with an 88mm impeller, a Tial 60 wastegate, T6 trim, and a custom intercooler. Rumain controls the boost manually using the wastegate, which is currently set at 18 psi. (He plans to eventually install a cabin-mounted boost controller.)

Cartek's custom fuel-delivery system consists of a Walbro 340 lph in-tank fuel pump, an external Bosch fuel pump, a Weldon fuel-pressure regulator, RCI 96-lb/hr low-impedance injectors, and FAST fuel rails, all controlled by a Big Stuff 3 ECM and tuned by Cartek using the speed-density method.

Exhaust exits through Billy Boat custom shorty headers with 17/8-inch primaries and Mufflex custom exhaust piping with a 4-inch Y-pipe, a 31/2-inch charge pipe, and a 5-inch Magnaflow muffler.

RPM's 4L80-E was then installed, an operation that required modifications to the C5's floorpan. A Midwest 3,700-stall lockup torque converter mates to one end of the A4, and a Driveshaft Shop driveshaft connects to the other. The factory 3.42-geared rear features hardened output shafts and billet side covers supplied by RPM Transmissions.

The suspension remains factory original, except for QA1 single-adjustable shocks up front and Bilsteins in the rear. Braking comes from Wilwood 12.6-inch rotors and C5 Z06 calipers. The Vette rides on 17x5 (front) and 16x10 CCW wheels (rear), wrapped in M&H Racemaster 4.5/26.0-17 and M/T 315/45R16 drag radials, respectively.

To add some show to his greater-than-thou go, Rumain had his Vette painted in a custom Black with a Purple Pearl Tint sprayed by Motor City in Newark. Motor City also added an RK Sport High Rise Hood and a GM/Grand Am Series rear spoiler to the presentation. The interior sports Auto Meter A-pillar-mounted boost, fuel-pressure, and trans-temp gauges; an aluminum racing seat; and a Carroll's Rod & Racecraft rollcage. For obvious reasons, the latter item is an absolute necessity for quarter-mile racing.

With a best e.t. of 8.87 at 158.63 mph, Rumain's ravenous record-setting Corvette is the fastest A4-trans C5 in the country today. "For now this is the end of a long road of engines and mods. I've achieved my goal," he says. "I'm going to enjoy my C5 on the streets."

But with 11 years and seven engine combos behind him since he bought his '99 FRC new, Rumain can hardly be expected to forsake his record-setting quarter-miles so easily. "Don't worry about me retiring for good," he says. "I'd definitely like to go after the C5/IRS record, which is currently around 8.3 seconds. After that, there's always the possibility of turning my C5 into a 6-second car, though I admit both goals would compromise its streetability."

For now, we'll just have to see how long Rumain enjoys street driving his 1,000-hp Corvette. If his prior accomplishments are any indication, it won't be for months, weeks, days, hours, or even minutes. The only thing this speed-obsessed C5 Corvette racer has on his mind is seconds.

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