Joe Anciello is a bit of a mystery: I don’t know the guy from Adam, and despite the fact that this story is about his car, I’ve never spoken with him. I don’t know if he voted Romney or Obama, prefers oatmeal or Raisin Bran, or rocks out to the Stones or Zeppelin. For all I know, he might save stray kitties in his free time—or hunt wild boar with a bow and arrow. And believe me, this unfamiliarity isn’t from a lack of trying: When VETTE decided to feature his LSX454-powered C5, we were psyched to hear from the man himself regarding the wicked LSX engine, the tuned suspension, and, of course, the killer exterior look. But Anciello wasn’t talking.
Thankfully, there are ways around this particular problem. Just as your wife’s hairdresser knows her much better than you ever will (it’s called “paying attention,” gentlemen, and…are you listening to me?), chances are that your favorite mechanic is pretty intimate with that beauty in your garage. Anciello’s mechanic happens to be Greg Lovell, owner of AntiVenom Racing in Seffner, Florida. So I did what every intrepid journalist on a deadline does: I went and bugged Lovell about Anciello’s ’99 Corvette.
“Joe is a very private individual,” Lovell starts. “I met him when he showed up at one of our dyno days. And this is his first Corvette; he bought it new on a whim when it was sitting at the dealership.”
What kind of guy buys a new Corvette on a whim? A filthy-rich collector of fast toys? A lifelong Vette lover who woke up one day and decided to pull the trigger? Some random dude who was sucked in by the C5’s sexy, curvy siren song? Beats me.
Lovell continues: “He started attending car shows with it, and one thing led to another…”
Definitely a lifelong Vette lover.
“At first it was a bolt-on car. Then we did a heads/cam package. And then it got a 402. Joe has always given us creative freedom with it. So after he talked to us about making even more naturally aspirated power, we decided to stop making small steps and simply go to the biggest [engine] available. This time out, it had to be unreal.”
Unreal? GM Performance Parts’ LSX454 has got that covered. Anciello and AntiVenom may have gone the crate-engine route, but the LSX454 is no run-of-the-mill mill. GMPP starts with a beefy iron block with 4.185-inch holes, and adds six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps. The all-forged rotating assembly comprises a 4.125-inch crank, 6-inch rods, and aluminum pistons. GMPP’s 236/246 hydraulic roller cam commands 1.8 rockers, and aluminum, LS7-port heads blow big air through 2.20/1.61-inch valves. Combined with the dished pistons, the result is an 11:1 compression ratio.
A host of peripheral parts were bolted up to enhance the big V-8: When those intake valves open, an AntiVenom cold-air intake, a Comtech throttle body, and a FAST LSXR manifold are ready with a big shot of cold air. Once the Racetronix pump and 42-pound injectors do their thing, MSD wires help ignite the charge. Finally, spent fuel exits through 1.875-inch long-tube headers, an “X” crossover pipe, and a Borla exhaust system.
Making a Gen IV engine work in a Gen III car always involves a few tweaks. For Anciello’s build, Lovell and company used a custom AntiVenom 8-bolt C5 flexplate, and they did some machining on the motor mount pedestals for a perfect fit. The factory wiring harness was modified to Gen IV engine specs with EV6 injector plugs, a front-mounted cam sensor, and relocated knock sensors. AntiVenom converted the Vette’s EFI to speed density, and with HP Tuners software dialing in a 12.8:1 air/fuel ratio, we’re told that 620 horsepower arrives at the flywheel.
01 Slatted ACP hood helps vent excess heat from the big-inch LS engine. 02 That mirror-like paint is ’09 Victory Red…and how cool is the C6.R-style, all-black rear fascia? 03 Chrome C6 wheels are of the split-spoke, ’08-up variety. They front C6 Z51 brakes at each corner. 04 You may not know mysterious C5 owner Joe Anciello, but the LSX454—one of the biggest crate engines on the planet—needs no introduction.
Backing up this serious engine is an equally serious auto trans. The 4L60E is built to Level V specs by RPM and complemented with a 3,400-stall FTI converter. “We chose RPM’s trans because it is a direct fit, and they don’t fail, even behind big engines,” Lovell explains. Once power flows through a Driveshaft Shop ’shaft, it makes its way through a swapped-in Z06 rear. After that, around 600 lb-ft of twist is Michelin’s problem.
Speaking of putting rubber to the road, Lovell offered up a few more clues as to the mystery man’s goals for the C5.
“This car was to be an all-around superstar. Sure, Anciello wanted the largest commonly available engine, along with a cubic-inch number to brag about. But the plan was not to simply do one thing well—it was to do all things very well.”
On that note, let’s talk suspension. While AntiVenom was dropping in the big crate, the shop was also enhancing the C5’s already formidable cornering prowess. Pfadt coilovers were added front and rear; in addition to more-precise handling, they lowered the car by 1.25 inches. The factory 23mm front and 19mm rear sway bars were replaced with 34mm/28mm units, and the wheels were upgraded to chrome WCC C6 rims wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires. C6 Z51 brakes are a powerful upgrade over the stockers, and they fill out those big rims well.
A handful of tasteful exterior effects—ACP hood, fascia, spoiler, and black accents—were added for a more aggressive look. When it hit the paint booth, the ’99 was drenched in ’09 Victory Red, with the rear getting straight black. Topping off the flawless paint, contemporary “LSX 620 HP” and classic “454” badges warn would-be competitors of impending danger.
But as we hear it, Anciello doesn’t get many takers—and those who try soon regret it. “Joe said that anyone who has ever tried him gave up very quickly,” Lovell says. “We found that the car will break the tires loose at 120 miles an hour.” Yeah, adding nearly 300 ponies to a low-13-second sports car will do that.
And about that horsepower: The LSX454 is rated at 620 ponies from the factory—and GM has been known to be a touch conservative. With all of Anciello’s extra mods and a solid custom tune, we have to wonder: Is he sandbagging on the power numbers? Just like its owner, that will remain a mystery.
|Owner||Joe Anciello; Tampa, FL|
|Heads||GMPP LSX-LS7 aluminum|
|Valves||2.20-in titanium intake/1.61-in hollow exhaust|
|Camshaft||GMPP hydraulic roller (236/246-deg duration at 0.050, 0.648/0.648-in lift, 110-deg LSA)|
|Pistons||GMPP forged aluminum|
|Crankshaft||GMPP 4340 forged steel; 4.125 in, eight-bolt flange|
|Rods||GMPP 4340 forged steel, 6-in|
|Intake Manifold||FAST LSXR with 100mm Comtech Performance throttle body|
|Fuel Pump||255-lph Racetronix in-tank|
|Fuel Injector||GM 42-lb/hr|
|Ignition||Hidden stock coils with MSD wires|
|Engine Management||Stock PCM|
|Exhaust System||American Racing 1.875-in headers and “X” crossover, 3-to-2.5-in Borla Classic S-Type “Stinger” exhaust|
|Transmission||Level V 4L60E by RPM Transmissions|
|Torque Converter||FTI with 3,400-rpm stall speed|
|Rearend||’02 Z06 with 3.42 gears|
|Front Suspension||34mm sway bar, Pfadt coilovers|
|Rear Suspension||28mm sway bar, Pfadt coilovers|
|Front Brakes||13-in C6 Z51 rotors, polished calipers|
|Rear Brakes||12-in C6 Z51 rotors, polished calipers|
|Wheels||West Coast Corvettes chrome C6; 18x9 front, 19x10.5 rear|
|Front Tires||Michelin PS2 255/35ZR18|
|Rear Tires||Michelin PS2 305/30ZR19|
|Miles Driven Weekly||50|
05 The interior was redone prior to the 454 build. Red-leather accents separate this ’99 Vette from the pack. 06 Skull-and-crossbones seat embroidery lets gawkers know there’s power behind the flash. 07 Classy throwback “454” emblems adorn the hood and front fascia. 08 Additional interior enhancements include a Pioneer stereo/nav system mounted in the factory dash.