Among the defensive players in the National Football League, the cornerbacks (or "corners") are known for their speed and agility, as they cover receivers, defend against pass offenses, and make tackles.
Speed and agility? Aren't those words also synonymous with the current-generation Corvette Z06?
"I'm definitely an American-muscle-car guy," former Philadelphia Eagles corner Lito Sheppard tells VETTE in an exclusive interview. "My first Corvette was a C5, which I later supercharged, but my weapon of choice against my NFL friends' and foes' exotic Lamborghinis and Ferraris is a custom '06 Z06, which puts a hide-roasting 700-plus horsepower to its rear wheels."
Sheppard recalls catching his first glimpse of the C6 Z06 sometime in the 2005 season. "I thought it was a good design change, and the fixed-lamp headlights were pretty cool," he says. It wasn't long before he special-ordered a brand-new black '06 Z, fitted with the standard 505hp LS7 engine and six-speed manual, along with the optional 2LZ interior package.
Sheppard admits he enjoyed his new Z in stock form for only two or three months, before two words kept finding their way into his brain: "More power!"
"I researched to find the best company to bring my Corvette to the next level," he says. "Eventually, I chose Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (LPE) because it had upgraded a lot of Corvettes, and I felt its credentials would be appreciated by anybody who knows cars."
In December 2006, Sheppard delivered his Z to LPE's facility in Decatur, Indiana, and asked the company to upgrade it with its C6 630hp package.
"That includes our signature GT-19 cam, CNC ported and polished LS7 heads, high-flow air intake with 4-inch mass airflow sensor, port-matched intake manifold, ported 90mm throttle body, and custom tune," LPE Sales Manager Tim Dyer explains. "We also installed a 3-inch Borla aft-cat exhaust, per his request."
"Upon check in, it recorded 439 rwhp and 411 lb-ft of torque on our Dynojet dynamometer. After the package installation, those numbers increased to 535 and 472, respectively," Dyer reveals.
Good? Yes, but not nearly enough for a professional athlete who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and benches 315 pounds of pig iron. "I drove it for a little while and felt I needed more power," Sheppard says.
Before his next play, Sheppard enlisted the expertise of John Green of Xtreme Auto Interiors in Rosyln, Pennsylvania, for a complete black-suede cabin makeover. "It was a customization not only to give my Corvette a personal touch, but also a necessity because factory leather seats had me slipping and sliding on every power shift," he says.
In 2008, Sheppard delivered his Corvette to LPE again. "I asked them to upgrade my Z again, but this time to their 800hp package," he says.
That trick entailed transforming the superjock's Z into a forced-induction terror, using a pair of Garrett ball-bearing turbochargers, super-high-efficiency air-to-air charge coolers, 304 stainless-steel custom exhaust manifolds, a beltdriven turbo scavenge pump, and molded-silicone air ducts.
To eliminate all possibility of the Vette quickly sending its stock trans off the playing field and to the sidelines, Sheppard opted for an RPM Transmissions Level 5 upgrade backed by an LPE twin-disc ZR1 clutch and billet-steel flywheel.
"All in all, it was a game-changing upgrade: 703 rwhp and 626 lb-ft of torque," Sheppard says. "From a power perspective, it was on par with Lamborghinis and Ferraris."
How did the famous cornerback celebrate?
"Every night before I went home, I'd find an empty parking lot and do donuts," he confides for the very first time. "I wanted to get a feel of what it was like when the car got loose. You really can't do that a lot on the streets these days," he laughs.
Less than a year later, Sheppard approached The Paint Shop and Body Works in Ledgewood, New Jersey, and asked owner Fred Ciccarelli to create a stunning new custom look for his Z, one that borrowed inspiration from the new Corvette ZR1.
"A lot of people have a say-so in what vehicles look like before they're actually produced," Sheppard says. "This was my chance to put a little Lito's niche into my Corvette."
Ciccarelli disassembled all of the Vette's body panels (and much of its interior) for a color change. He liberated the factory paint, then applied an unnamed custom- mixed hue, which he describes as "a silver base with a gold pearl flip-flop to give it a multidimensional titanium look." After the paintwork cured, he wet sanded and buffed the body panels to a mirror-like finish so bright in the midday sun "that it can hurt your eyes if you look directly at it," he says.
Then Sheppard and Ciccarelli tossed ideas back and forth as to how much carbon fiber the Corvette should wear. Their final in-huddle decision was to install an authentic ZR1 carbon- fiber roof, halo, and front splitter sourced from General Motors' parts bins, along with ZR1-style carbon-fiber rockers, rear wing, rear diffuser, and other trim pieces from APR Performance.
Ciccarelli's other custom design cues included painting the headlamp-assembly inserts to match the new body color and changing the "Z" in the stock Z06 cloisonné fender emblems from red to black. He extended the one-off hue into the engine bay, too, painting the coil covers and intercooler airbox to match the exterior, and applying black-colored callouts to the former.
Finally, he bolted up Brembo Gran Turismo brakes and Forgeline SP3P wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport run-flat rubber.
"I think my Corvette is complete, but I'm considering a rollcage for street safety," Sheppard says. He drives it 50-70 miles two or three times a week.
"My friends in the NFL definitely respect it. They know how fast it is because I've tapped into a lot of their exotics," he laughs again.
"I took American muscle and set out to do modifications to put it on the par with exotics," Sheppard concludes. "This Corvette is a piece of my emotions, my feelings, and my thoughts. I want the Corvette to be respected among the Lamborghinis and Ferraris, so I gave it the extra power and design I thought it needed to get there. For a defensive player, I guess I play pretty mean offense."
|Owner||Lito Sheppard; Jacksonville, FL|
|Heads||LS7 aluminum, CNC ported and polished|
|Valves||Stock 2.205-in titanium/REV 1.615-in Inconel|
|Camshaft||Stock hydraulic roller|
|Rocker Arms||Stock 1.7:1 ratio|
|Pistons||JE forged aluminum; 4.135-in, -41cc dish|
|Crankshaft||Callies Dragonslayer 4340 forged steel, 4.00-in stroke|
|Rods||Manley I-beam forged steel, 6.125-in|
|Intake Manifold||LS7 composite, port matched|
|Throttle Body||Stock 90mm|
|Fuel Injectors||ARXS-107FM, 63-lb/hr|
|Fuel Pump||Stock, in-tank 255 lph with Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump|
|Engine Management||Stock ECM with custom tuning|
|Power Adder||LPE twin-turbo system with Garrett GT-30 ball-bearing turbochargers|
|Maximum Boost||12 psi|
|Intercooler||Twin LPE super-high-efficiency air-to-air|
|Exhaust System||LPE tubular manifolds, 2-in primaries, GM catalytic converters, Borla 3-in after-cat|
|Transmission||TR-6060 six-speed manual, Level 5 upgrade by RPM Transmissions|
|Clutch||LPE twin-disc ZR1 with billet-steel flywheel|
|RearEnd||Stock with 3.42 gears|
|Front Brakes||Brembo Gran Turismo six-piston|
|Rear Brakes||Brembo Gran Turismo four-piston|
|Wheels||Forgeline SP3P; 19x10 (front), 20x12 (rear)|
|Front Tires||Michelin Pilot Sport 285/30ZR19|
|Rear Tires||Michelin Pilot Sport 335/25ZR20|
|Best 60-ft. Time||NA|
|Miles Driven Weekly||Approximately 50|