Corvettes always make an impression, but there’s more than just the factory styling and engineering in Ron Reali’s ’03 50th Anniversary Edition convertible to make it truly unforgettable.
To start, there’s the conversion work by Callaway Cars to make this C5 not only stand out among the other 7,545 Anniversary drop-tops, but stay out in front of them as well.
The car didn’t get the Callaway treatment right away, however. “I got it new in 2003, as a birthday gift from my wife, Maria,” Reali recalls. “Each of us turned 50 that year, so she figured that would be the best way, after 22 years of marriage, to make me feel good.”
Another family connection helped him turn it from a distinctive, limited-edition C5 into a memorable, outstanding one. “My son, Jonathan, was reading all sorts of Corvette magazines, and little by little, we started putting it together.”
The conversion work began in 2004. “We started with the Power Groups at that time—Power Groups I, II, and III,” says Reali. Those Callaway-engineered packages, designed to work as a system, consisted of the company’s “Honker” air inlet and cat-back exhaust system (Power Group I), a big-bore throttle body and tubular exhaust headers (Power Group II), and CNC-ported LS6 cylinder heads plus a special-grind camshaft with high-ratio rocker arms (Power Group III). Add them all together, and they bump horsepower from 350 to 453.
But Reali—and Callaway—didn’t stop there. “They said we could do a supercharger on the car, so we did that,” says Reali. That led to a Callaway blower going on top of the engine, along with its integral intake manifold/air-to-liquid intercooler. At 7 pounds of boost, the much-modified LS1 reportedly now cranks out 600 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel.
Those mechanical upgrades weren’t the only ones that went on and in Reali’s 50th Anniversary drop-top. “Little by little, I also customized the interior with two-tone Alcantara, which brings the external color scheme inside,” says Reali, who thanks Jersey Wu at APsis and Greg Bowsher of Autodynamicswest for their help. Callaway brakes, front and rear antiroll bars, and larger, Hankook-shod wheels also went on.
If those were the only things Ron Reali did to his C5, it would still be an outstanding car. But he had a greater purpose in mind for his C5, signified by the murals that grace the hood’s and trunk’s undersides.
“Because of 9/11, we had the mural done on the inside of the hood,” he says. “A few of my friends were among the many people lost on that tragic day. In the back, under the trunk lid, is a mural about fallen soldiers. This car is dedicated to those who died on 9/11—NYPD, FDNY, the Port Authority, and the EMTs—and to our brave men and women who are fighting the war on terror.”
When he’s shown his C5, Reali’s taken it to events that honor fallen soldiers and police officers. “Recently, we were at a car show in New York that was a benefit for the families of two police officers who were killed in the line of duty,” says Reali. “The car won First Place, but everyone realized what the car was all about. It has nothing to with getting trophies, or anything like that. It’s trying to bring awareness to what happened on that day, and what’s going on in the world with our brave men and women, who put their lives on the line so we can enjoy what we do every day.
“It’s a reminder, because a lot of people may have forgotten, or don’t remember, what happened on 9/11, and that that day changed the lives of everybody in this country.”
If driving a stock C5 is memorable, then this one’s on-road performance is impossible to forget, according to Reali. “You can drive it like a normal car, if you want,” he says. “Obviously, the supercharger doesn’t kick in until about 2,500 rpm, [but] if you want to go from 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, you can. If you just want to cruise to Carlisle from New York, you can do that also.”
Speaking of Carlisle, Reali took his modified C5 there a couple years back and heard from a GM engineer who was at the show. “He looked at it and said, ‘I guess this was the way we should have done the 50th Anniversary,’ and I said, ‘It’s an idea.’”
If you’ve got an idea like Reali’s, to upgrade a C5 Vette the way he did, there’s one key to doing it. “Patience. Have a lot of it—and money.” He adds, “If you really want a true supercar, you don’t have to go out and buy a ZR1 and spend $120,000. You can buy a good used Corvette [and] bring it to Callaway in Old Lyme, Connecticut. They can put in a supercharger, and you’ll have a car that’s equal to a ZR1, for about half the money.”
True, but you still wouldn’t have one imbued with the patriotic spirit of Ron Reali’s tribute C5. An accomplishment like that takes vision, hard work—and an enduring belief in the nobility of sacrifice.
Ron Reali would also like to thank Matt Jaworoski of Perfect Ten Auto Body, Lou Poloumbo of Worldwide Auto, and Ben Roberts for their assistance on this build.
'03 50th Anniversary Convertible
|Owner||Ron Reali; Dix Hills, NY|
|Block||Stock LS1 aluminum|
|Power Adder||Callaway supercharger, 7 psi boost (max)|
|Heads||LS6 aluminum, Callaway CNC ported|
|Valves||Callaway large-diameter stainless steel|
|Camshaft||Callaway hydraulic roller|
|Rocker Arms||Callaway high-ratio|
|Pistons||Stock hypereutectic cast aluminum|
|Crankshaft||Stock nodular iron|
|Rods||Stock powdered-metal steel|
|Intake||Callaway aluminum with integral air/liquid intercooler and “Honker” cold-air induction|
|Fuel Injection||Callaway-modified EFI with 48-lb/hr injectors and electric pump|
|Ignition||Stock coil-on-plug with Callaway UHC-8 ultra-high-current ignition wires|
|Exhaust System||Callaway “Double D” stainless steel|
|Transmission||Stock six-speed manual with Callaway shifter|
|Suspension||Stock with Callaway front and rear sway bars|
|Brakes||Callaway four-wheel disc with six-piston (front) and four-piston (rear) calipers|
|Wheels||Custom Callaway aluminum; 18x8.5 (front), 19x10 (rear)|
|Tires||Hankook EV; 275/35ZR18 (front), 325/20RZ19 (rear )|
|Miles Driven Weekly||Approximately 50|