John Ottomano is not just another Corvette owner. While it's not difficult to find Vette owners who are enthusiastic about their cars, this Long Islander takes fanaticism to an all-time high. Strike up a conversation with him about his '08 Indy Pace Car, and you'll soon learn that his love for his sons and their shared passion for the family's Corvette truly sets the pace for all other parts of his life.
Having endured lean times raising two boys on his own, the time had finally come to realize the family's longtime dream of Corvette ownership. After catching a glimpse of the upcoming '08 Indianapolis Pace Car online, Ottomano and his sons, Johnny Jr. and Nicky, decided this was the car they had to have. A phone call was placed to the local dealership, which, unsurprisingly, had never heard of such a thing but would "check into it." The next day, the salesman called back with confirmation that the car would, in fact, be available. Ottomano wasted not a minute and immediately placed a deposit. And so began the long wait. When delivery day finally arrived, nearly a year later, Ottomano and his sons were delighted to learn theirs was number 86 of just 268 Pace Car Convertibles produced. "It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen," he reminisces.
Ottomano is not exactly a demure man. The guy's got a high-octane personality, and he was determined that the new Corvette was to be "the center of attention, everywhere I take it." While many new owners would pace themselves with some simple bolt-on modifications like cold-air induction or an underdrive pulley, Ottomano went right to the heavy-duty mods.
So, with just 800 miles on the odometer, he literally wrapped the car in bubble-wrap, inside and out, for delivery to Vette Doctors in Amityville, on Long Island. "I think Carmen, Dennis, and their staff were a little put off by my paranoia of having the car be accidentally scratched or scraped during the modification process. But I quickly found I had nothing to worry about, as these guys are absolutely the best in the business. I can't thank them enough for their patience and perfectionism when dealing with clients' cars."
The plan while at Vette Doctors was straightforward: more power and more attitude. Power came courtesy of a Vortech V-2 supercharger package, which provided 6.5 psi of boost, a pair of American Racing headers, and high-flow cats. After being tuned to perfection, the car stomped out 550 rear-wheel horsepower on the dyno. Further attitude was installed in the form of a Lingenfelter SV-1 Supercharger hood. While no one with a pulse is likely to overlook an '08 Pace Car's vivid graphics package, the hood guarantees they won't mistake it for a simple stocker. It definitely gets the point across. "When Johnny Jr. and I first saw the car when picking it up from Vette Doctors, our jaws hit the floor. We knew we were on our way to having the baddest Vette around."
Their next stop was Impressive Auto Body in Oceanside, for the installation of the Z06 quarter-panels. "Impressive did a masterful job of stretching and modifying the Pace Car decals to perfectly fit," says Ottomano. "They look factory installed, and I can't overstate how thrilled I am with the work Gabe at Impressive has done." Those bulging wheelwells were immediately filled with a handsome set of SP500 wheels (18x10 front, 18x13 rear) from Complete Custom Wheel (CCW) in Daytona Beach, Florida. To ensure that the LS3's power would not go to waste in the form of tire smoke, the CCWs were shod in Mickey Thompson ET Streets and a complementing pair of Nittos up front to point the way. Much happiness ensued.
Now, to most people, a Corvette Pace Car with such an impressive set of exterior mods, and the power to back them up, is a sufficiently wicked combination. Not surprisingly, John Ottomano wouldn't be among those people. After enjoying the car for two years, the never-ending quest for more power returned, and so the '08 was on its way back to Vette Doctors for even more power. This time, a custom Comp cam and valvetrain were installed, a methanol injection system added, and a pulley change made, bringing the boost up to an even 9 psi. Combined, the new combination was good for 694 rear-wheel horsepower–more than a 25 percent increase.
Ottomano now spends many hours hanging with his Corvette crew out at Captree State Park on Long Island, where he's broadly known as "Johnny Pace." He's also been known to stretch the car's legs from time to time in a non-sanctioned acceleration contest, but has yet to get it to the dragstrip. "I think the car is capable of running low 10s, no problem," he says.
While number-two son Nicky's enthusiasm may have waned slightly, Johnny Jr., who is currently deployed to Afghanistan, is more enthused than ever. "Every time he calls, he's got new ideas of what should be done to the car next. We obviously can't wait for ‘Johnny Pace' Jr. to get back." And when he does, there's little doubt the pace will be lifted yet again.