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1996 Coupe - Legal Weapon

Isaac Mion Apr 9, 2012
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When they see the cherries flashing on top of this fully functional C4 police car, you can bet the bad guys will opt to pull over.

High-performance police cars are nothing new. Border-patrol agents began using L98 Camaros in the mid-'80s, after drug smugglers started simply outrunning them with various big-block-powered vehicles. State troopers also had to acquire high-power machines, thanks to the advent of superbikes and heavily modified street cars. And as much as some of us may cringe at the thought of a traffic ticket, you have to admit that there's something undeniably cool about a police-issue Hemi Charger, 5.0-liter Mustang, or, in this case, a C4 Corvette. While those other police cruisers have their own roles to play, this Vette is meant to provide a formidable foe for young drivers who are willing to race the police on the track--without the risk of being put behind bars.

Vemp 1207 1996 Coupe Legal Weapon 001 2/6

The Denver Police Department's "Take it to the Track" program started eight years ago. A few officers, among them Detective Bart Malpass, realized that kids might be encouraged to race legally, on a dragstrip, if they had a common enemy--namely, them. Rollie Purifoy, of Purifoy Chevrolet in Fort Collins, donated the Vette, and the rest of the build was covered by donations of money, parts, or labor.

"We have a good group of sponsors. Without them, the Corvette would not be possible," says Malpass. "A lot of the work on the car is done by mechanics from the DPD garage." When they got the car in 2007, these dedicated mechanical philanthropists added headers, stickier rubber, and a shift kit for the automatic transmission. They also changed the gears in the Dana 36 differential to 3.73s. With these upgrades, the Vette ran mid 14s in the thin Rocky Mountain air--respectable, but a little too easy for high-school seniors in heated-up Subarus to catch. To remedy things, the boys in blue did what wrestlers and bodybuilders have been doing for years: They hit the juice. With a 120-horse shot of nitrous, the car promptly ran mid 13s.

Vemp 1207 1996 Coupe Legal Weapon 002 3/6

"People are amazed that [it's] a fully functional police car, including lights, siren, radio, and police badging," says Malpass. "While we try not to make it common practice, the members of the Denver Police Corvette race team have all had to make a traffic stop or two while driving to or from a racing event. Needless to say, the people pulled over are very surprised." (No word on whether or not they use the nitrous during traffic stops.)

Just last winter, the team, whose members also include Sergeant Ryan McGinty and Corporal Devin McGinty, decided it was time to up the ante on the 100,000-mile LT1. They had the engine rebuilt with 0.030-over forged pistons, port-matched the heads, and added a ported intake manifold from Dettmer Automotive Racing Engines. Purifoy, meanwhile, kicked in an LT4 "Hot" cam from the GMPP catalog.

The DPD mechanics did their part by rebuilding the tranny to withstand 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque; they also added a 3,000-rpm stall converter. As they had recently blown the Dana 36 rearend, it was replaced with a stronger Dana 44 from a six-speed car. With the nitrous jetting now upped to provide a total of 150 additional horses, the car has posted a best time of 12.44 at 110 mph "on the spray."

Detective Malpass hears stories from teenagers at the track describing street-racing accidents that resulted in property damage, physical injury, and even death. He also says he's seeing a positive evolution in the mindset of the program's participants. "Kids have expressed how [it] has changed their view on street racing. Besides, they like racing at a real track with a real 'Christmas tree' and a timer." Race cars can do a lot of things. They can be thrill rides. They can win championships. They can also end lives. But the Denver PD's C4 race car just may have saved some.

OWNER Denver Police Department; Denver, CO
BLOCK LT1 iron, bored 0.030 over
HEADS Ported LT1 aluminum
VALVES 1.94/1.50
ROCKER ARMS Crane 1.6 Gold Race
PISTONS Speed Pro forged aluminum
CRANKSHAFT Stock cast iron
RODS Stock powdered-metal iron
INTAKE MANIFOLD Port-matched LT1 aluminum
THROTTLE BODY Trick Flow 58mm
POWER ADDER 150hp NOS Sniper nitrous system
EXHAUST SYSTEM Hooker "shorty" headers, MagnaFlow catalytic converters, custom pipes and mufflers
TORQUE CONVERTER TCI with 3,000-rpm stall speed
REAREND Dana 44 with 3.73 gears
WHEELS 17x8-in Grand Sport– style reproduction (front and rear)
TIRES Kumho 255/45ZR17 (front), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/40-17 (rear)
BEST E.T./MPH 12.44/110



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