Nitrous oxide has long been a mainstay of the performance world, but we haven't seen too many bottle-fed late-model Corvettes. It's so easy to drop a blower onto an engine that many enthusiasts simply go with forced induction for the quick and easy power boost.
Ed Miklavcic has been around the high-performance block more than a few times, however, and after experimenting with turbocharged imports and supercharged Mustangs, he decided natural aspiration was the way to go-with a healthy nitrous system on tap for on-demand power.
"I grew up modifying cars," says the 38-year-old owner/operator of Bissell's Hideaway, a water park and RV resort in Ontario, Canada. "I started with the imports and blew up a few turbo engines. I tried the SVT Mustang, but kept throwing blower belts."
Frustrated with forced induction, he finally turned to the Corvette.
"I liked that the Z06 had a lot of cubic inches and a low curb weight," Miklavcic says. "That's a great recipe for speed, and I've never regretted my decision. It's the best car I've ever owned."
While experimenting with nitrous was in his plan at the outset, Miklavcic managed to get the car running low 11s at 131 mph, with 2.1-second 60-foot times, in naturally aspirated form. It was quick, no doubt about it, but Miklavcic had a goal to chase: "I want to run 9s," he says bluntly.
Achieving that goal would risk damage to the stock engine, thanks to the LS7's hypereutectic pistons, so a purpose-built engine combination was required-one with a rock-solid, all-forged rotating assembly suitable for nitrous use. For that, Miklavcic turned to Katech, in the industrial 'burbs of Detroit.
The company renowned for building racing-strength Corvettes tore down the factory LS7 engine and completely rebuilt it. The bottom end includes:
Callies Dragonslayer forged-steel crankshaft
Callies H-beam forged-steel connecting rods
Katech LS7 nitrous pistons and rings, with diamond-like-carbon-coated (DLC) wristpins
Lingenfelter stud girdle, main-cap studs, and cylinder-head studs
Katech Torquer LS7 camshaft, high-speed lifters, high-lift valvesprings, and titanium retainers
The great-breathing stock LS7 heads were reinstalled atop the strengthened short-block, and a stout C5-R timing chain was added to connect the crankshaft to the new Katech cam. Straddling the heads is a FAST LSXR 102mm intake manifold that was finished to complement the exterior. The engine also wears Katech's aluminum valve covers (painted black) and coil-relocation kit. Blowing through a set of Kooks long-tube headers, the engine made 520 rear-wheel horsepower without nitrous and 701 horses at the Tarmac with the giggle gas engaged.
But nitrous is what this combo is all about, and the system on Miklavcic's Z represents hundreds of hours of custom work, including hardware design and installation, wiring, and tuning. The setup is based largely on Nitrous Express (NX) components, with highlights that include the following:
Carbon-fiber nitrous bottle mounted in the rear storage compartment
NANO system (nitrogen-assisted nitrous oxide)
Remote bottle opener
NX direct-port components and billet fuel rails
Twin purge lines
NOS progressive activation controller
NOS LCD touch-screen control interface
Nitrous Outlet stand-alone fuel system
Because matching the nitrous flow with a commensurate amount of fuel is essential to preventing piston-melting lean-out, the Nitrous Outlet stand-alone fuel system was selected to ensure there is always a ready supply when Miklavcic decides to spray the LS7. The NX fuel rails (anodized black to also complement the car's exterior color scheme) are plumbed with the nitrous feed lines, along with fuel lines from a small, dedicated fuel tank located under the hood.
The fuel system supplies only the nitrous system; none of the fuel from the auxiliary tank makes it through the engine's standard injectors. It's only introduced to the engine through the nitrous/fuel nozzle. The stand-alone system operates in parallel with the engine's standard fuel system, which simply uses the factory 40-pound fuel injectors, and only draws fuel from the separate tank when the nitrous system is activated.
The NANO system incorporates a small bottle of pressurized nitrogen that is connected to the nitrous bottle and helps maintain the optimal pressure within it. That helps provide a fuller, more consistent "hit" of nitrous as the content of the bottle is reduced during use. A conventional, un-assisted bottle of nitrous loses pressure as the liquid nitrous in it is drawn out during use, so half a bottle doesn't have quite the same power as a full one. A bottle heater helps this, but the NANO system optimizes pressure for virtually the entire life of the bottle's contents.
Also helping manage the nitrous system is the NOS progressive controller, which offers a tunable range of activation to enable a "softer" hit when the car is launching, and gradually allows the full capability of the nitrous as the car is rolling and-with luck-the rear tires are hooked up. If this setup seems very elaborate, it is. There are fuel lines, nitrous lines, electrical connectors, and solenoids peppered throughout the engine compartment-and they still don't convey the nearly endless amount of fine-tuning Katech's technicians invested in tuning the system.
Supporting the engine and nitrous system are a heavy-duty Ron Davis radiator, a Corsa exhaust system, and an Exedy twin-disc clutch. There's also a Koolmat drivetrain tunnel heat shield. When the nitrous-boosted horsepower finally hits the pavement, it does so through Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires wrapped around black-painted Z06 rims. A set of Racing Brake brake pads replaces the factory pads for greater stopping power and fade resistance.
The black wheels are complemented by black body accents, including the hood and rear fascia, giving the car a decidedly track-ready appearance. There's also an extractor-style carbon-fiber hood from Hi-Tech Custom Concepts and a rear diffuser, both of which further contribute to the car's racing aesthetic.
The competition theme carries over to the interior, where a pair of A-pillar gauges monitors the all-important fuel and nitrous pressures. There are also system activation buttons and a big, red purge button located at the forward edge of the center console. Caravaggio racing-style seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel replace the stock Z06 items.
We took the Vette out for a few miles for our photo shoot and can attest that the Katech-built engine delivers great driving manners in normal traffic-another of Miklavcic's goals for the car.
"I didn't want daily driving to be affected," he says. "What I love about the car is that the large nitrous shot is there when I want it, but the car drives basically stock otherwise. It's the best of both worlds."
If there's one thing the car doesn't have, it's invisibility. When you take a black-and-silver Z06 with a barking exhaust system out for a drive, heads swivel, fingers point, and police cars linger just a little bit longer at intersections. Hit the purge valve and it invites another type of attention-namely the other throttle jockeys who hear the loud "psshhtt" sound as a challenge. But this isn't a bolt-on, quick-hit nitrous system, and this car can answer such challenges with overwhelming authority.
It may have taken him a few years to come around to this weapon of choice, but since Ed Miklavcic turned to chemical attacks, the result has proved devastating to the competition.
Spec Sheet: '08 Z06
Owner: Ed Miklavcic; Ontario, Canada
Block: LS7 aluminum
Displacement: 427 ci
Compression Ratio: 11:01
Heads: LS7 aluminum
Valves: 2.20 titanium/1.61 sodium-filled
Camshaft: Katech LS7 Torquer
Rocker Arms: Stock LS7, 1.8 ratio
Pistons: Katech LS7 with DLC wristpins
Crankshaft: Callies Dragonslayer forged steel
Rods: Callies H-beam forged steel
Intake Manifold: FAST 102mm LSXR
Throttle Body: Stock 90mm LS7
Fuel Pump: Nitrous Outlet
Ignition: Stock with Katech coil-relocation kit
Exhaust System: Kooks long-tube headers, Corsa exhaust
Transmission: Stock six-speed manual
Clutch: Exedy twin-disc
Front Suspension: Stock
Rear Suspension: Stock
Brakes: Stock Z06 with Racing Brake pads
Wheels: Black Z06
Front Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, 275/35ZR18
Rear Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, 325/30ZR19
Fuel Octane: Premium
Weight: Approx. 3,132 lbs.
Best E.T./MPH: 11.2 at 131 mph (without nitrous)
Best 60-ft. time: 2.1 (without nitrous)