VETTE readers already know that the Corvette is America's Favorite Sports Car, but we recently discovered one passionate Vette owner who's doing everything he can to turn his C6 Z06 into America's Fastest Sports Car.
"I fell in love with Corvettes when I was 7 years old," says Adam Brandt, a sales executive and part-time Vette tuner in Bethpage, New York. "My mom's boyfriend had a '77, and he used to give me rides in it. It instilled in me a lifelong passion for Chevrolet's flagship car."
Moving forward 16 years, Brandt purchased his first Vette, an '88 35th Anniversary coupe. Subsequent acquisitions included an '85 coupe, followed by onetime Corvette Chief Engineer Dave Hill's personal '00 Millennium Yellow convertible. Brandt eventually settled on a '97 coupe, which he boosted to 800-plus horsepower with an APS twin-turbo kit and a forged motor.
"I wanted to 'spool' my C5, but back in the early days of the LS horsepower wars, Lingenfelter's $50,000 twin-turbo conversion was the only option I knew of. Eventually, the APS twin-turbo kit entered the market at a fraction of the price; it was well engineered and added 300 hp to a stock LS1. I had a great experience with it and knew that I would go back to APS for another kit someday," he says.
In 2006, Brandt bought an '07 Z new from Kerbeck Corvette in Atlantic City. Like many new Corvette owners, his intention was to leave it stock, but he changed his mind quickly when found its 505hp LS7 was too docile for him. "The twin-turbo C5 was much more fun to drive," he explains.
Less than a year later, Brandt was given the opportunity to trade his low-mile, late-model Z for an Atomic Orange Z from the same model year. The enticement? The AO Z was already outfitted with an APS twin-turbo system. "The timing was perfect," he admits. "Choosing between boosted or stock was no contest. I agreed to the trade and have not looked back since."
The APS system-which features Garrett GT35R 35mm turbos, dual intercoolers, Tial 44 wastegates and blow off valves, and a 3-inch exhaust system-pushed Adam's newly acquired Z to more than 750 rwhp on 12 psi of boost. That was enough to whet his appetite, but not his imagination. After some much-needed safety, data-acquisition, and comfort upgrades to the cabin (specifically, a Brey-Krause harness bar, Crow five-point harnesses, an AeroForce Interceptor Gen II Scan Gauge, an Innovate Motorsports LC-1 wideband air/fuel ratio sensor controller, Auto Meter boost and fuel gauges, Dynamat sound deadening material, and an LG Motorsports shifter switch modified to provide a "scramble" boost feature), his first order of business was to retire the Corvette's rare factory paint color for something even more extraordinary.
"I know VETTE readers will think I'm crazy for changing an Atomic Orange Z to green, but I had a good reason," Brandt says. "I had my C5 painted a custom color called Tangelo Pearl, and it got so much attention that I quickly learned that color choice is everything. Atomic Orange received a lot of attention when it was first introduced in 2007, but then I started seeing it everywhere. I wanted something different . . . really different."
Sometime later, Brandt attended the New York Auto Show, though not with the intent of finding his Corvette a new color. "An '08 Snakeskin Green Viper caught my girlfriend's eye," he says. "She knew instinctively that it was the perfect color for my car. I told her no Corvette owner in his right mind would paint a one-year-old Atomic Orange Z a Dodge color, let alone a Dodge Viper color." Before he knew it, however, he had succumbed to her feminine logic. "I remember her words clearly: 'Your Z06 is not a normal Corvette, and the paintjob should reflect that.'"
Enter Joe Pardo, owner/operator of Westfield Collision in Westfield, New Jersey, who consummated the co-conspired color change. He disassembled the C6 completely, stripped it of its factory paint, then applied Spies-Hecker Snakeskin Green base and clear, followed by color sanding and 3M Perfect-It polishing. He also painted and added ZR1 side skirts, an MTI chin splitter, and an APR carbon wing to the Corvette's presentation.
After four weeks of tense anticipation, Brandt was treated to his first glimpse at his Vette's gorgeous new glow. "I was stunned and relieved when I finally saw it. I knew I was taking a big risk painting the Corvette such a bright color, but it sure paid off," he says.
Before long, however, Brandt began to have doubts about his engine's long-term durability in the face of 20 psi of boost. "The LS7 motor is a great block for naturally aspirated applications, but it has its limitations when mated to power adders," he says. "My choices were to girdle it for extra strength or build a motor with a different block. After doing my research, I decided on the GM Performance Parts LSX short-deck block, which would allow me to safely run a 427 on 20-30 psi of boost, [thanks in part to its] six-bolt head configuration."
Brandt sourced an LSX from IPS Motorsports in Columbus, Ohio, and had it delivered to Livernois Performance in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Livernois' trained techs prepped and bored the casting, then treated it to one of their signature rotating assemblies: a 4.00-inch-stroke forged crank, 6.1225-inch billet I-beam forged rods, and 23cc-dish forged pistons.
IPS Motorsports also provided the ET Performance custom-ported LS7 heads (35-72cc combustion chambers, 262cc port runners), as well as the custom-grind Comp hydraulic roller cam (243/243-degree duration, 0.654/0.654-inch lift, 115-degree lobe-separation angle). The compression ratio was set to a boost- compatible 9.3:1.
During the engine install, Brandt took the time to install even more mods, including Katech valve covers and coil-relocation brackets, an IPS 280-amp alternator, an Evans high-flow LS water pump, a BeCool radiator, and Evans NPGR waterless coolant.
If you recall, Brandt is a part-time Corvette tuner, so safely squeezing every last iota of horsepower out of his boosted Z was a task he wanted to take on himself. "I tuned my Corvette with the speed-density method instead of the easier MAF technique," he explains. "In my opinion, speed density is the best way to tune a car for boost. It uses the MAP and a VE table for fueling, instead of the MAF sensor to measure airflow for fueling and speed." To prepare his Corvette for speed-density tuning, Brandt converted the factory ECM operating system using HP Tuners software. He also installed a custom 2.5-bar MAP sensor from DPE Corvettes, since the factory's 1.0-bar sensor is not designed for boosted speed-density applications.
Two Walbro in-tank fuel pumps had already been installed in Brandt's Vette before he bought it, but the heady boost levels cooked up by the APS kit required substantially more fuel delivery than even the largest high-impedance injectors on the market could provide. Consequently, his next task was to install a Versafueler injector driver. It converts the factory ECM's signal to low impedance, which allows the Vette to run Delphi 96-lb/hr low-impedance injectors. "A lot of tuners only run 60- or 83-lb/hr injectors and claim their cars made 1,000-plus hp. There is no way you can make that kind of power safely without installing a big injector, at least 96-lb/hr," he says.
Before Brandt could safely mash the go-pedal, the remainder of the drivetrain needed bulletproofing. According to MCP Competition Engines' Mike Tiedemann, who upgraded both the factory six-speed trans and the rearend, "The T56 received a billet front plate, G-Force gears, solid Three-Four and Five-Six synchro assemblies, bronze shift-fork pads, heavy-duty synchro springs, and micro-polishing. The IRS was treated to 3.42 rear gears with micro-polishing, a Posi heavy-duty clutch pack, and hardened output shafts." In addition, Brandt installed a Spec dual-disc clutch and a Quick Time Performance bellhousing on one side of the T56, and a custom driveshaft on the other.
After all these major mods, you might be shocked to hear that the suspension and brakes remain stock, except for a set of Pfadt adjustable coilovers which was installed to accommodate the extra weight of the iron block. "The Z06 has great brakes, even for 1,000 hp," Brandt explains.
It's only been a few months since this two-year project was completed, so Brandt hasn't had a chance to get his Corvette to a track and lay down some awe-inspiring quarter-mile times. Until then, the question of whether his Z06 really is America's Fastest Sports Car will have to remain unanswered. For now, we'll end Brandt's story with a metaphor he uses to describe his Vette's crushing power delivery. "Once you push the gas pedal down hard, watch out. This Corvette will rearrange your organs as it slams you hard into the seat." You gotta love it!