With the L88 427 engine and other big-blocks on the order sheet, the Corvette generation launched in 1968-commonly called "sharks" today-seemed promising. But as the '60s gave way to the '70s, the sharks began to lose their bite.
By the mid-'70s, the big-blocks were gone, leaving only smog-equipment-laden small-blocks to carry the crossed-flags banner. Things began to look up at the dawn of the '80s, but incremental horsepower increases and new technologies, such as the induction experiment known as Crossfire Injection, failed to rekindle the performance experience of a decade earlier.
Regardless of their performance heritage, shark Corvettes have an endearing quality. Their aggressive, blistered bodywork carried over largely intact through 1982, and a big-block engine swaps easily into any '68-'82 chassis. That's an enticing prospect for the enthusiast who wants big-time performance without incurring the cost or the political firestorm that comes with modifying a more collectible early-model car.
That's exactly what Ed Orzetti did with his '82 Corvette. It's a low-mile car that wears its original paint, and with its L83 350 rated at only 200 hp, there was certainly room for improvement under the hood. He formulated a plan to build a stock-looking, but high-powered, Vette-and he turned to ACCEL DFI (www.accel-dfi.com) to give it a modern twist.
Orzetti is the president of Keystone Automotive Operations, which was founded by the family of legendary drag racer Joe Amato and is currently the largest distributor of automotive specialty products in the country. More than a corporate "suit," he's a longtime enthusiast and active participant in the industry, including SEMA.
At first glance, there's nothing to suggest Orzetti's Corvette is anything more than a stock '82 model with some wider rear tires. There are no aftermarket wheels, no graphics, and no wild body appendages. But with the twist of the ignition key and the resulting reverbera-tion of a big-block's bellow bouncing off your chest, it's clear this shark has replaced its original teeth with a new, sharper set.
Supplanting the original CFI small-block is a GM Performance Parts ZZ572 crate engine rated at 620 horses. But even that wasn't enough to satisfy Orzetti's yen for power. Rather than sticking with the 572's factory four-barrel induction setup, he installed ACCEL DFI's Thruster Electronic Fuel Injection and 8 Channel CD coil-on-plug ignition system. The engine swap, injection conversion, and subsequent chassis upgrades were performed at Cleveland, Ohio's Corvette Conspiracy, one of 180 ACCEL DFI Engine Management Installation Centers (EMICs) around the country whose technicians are trained in the setup and tuning of the company's injection and electronic control systems.
Thruster EFI And The ZZ572
The GM Performance Parts ZZ572 uses a four-bolt iron block and aluminum rectangular-port heads with 2.25/1.88-inch valves. Typically, it breathes through a Dominator-type carburetor, but in Orzetti's Corvette, it's been swapped for the Thruster EFI injection setup. The sheetmetal intake for the injection system is similar in design to a tunnel ram, with a large plenum on top and a gaping throttle body feeding long intake runners that house the injectors and fuel rails. The intake was designed to fit beneath a subtle, 1.5-inch-taller hood from AC Products.
The Thruster EFI sequential fuel-injection system is partnered with ACCEL DFI 63-lb/hr injectors that are fed by an ACCEL DFI in-tank fuel pump. Adapting the Thruster's distributorless system to the ZZ572 gives it a uniquely modern twist and surprising efficiency.
Thruster EFI is a high-feature, affordable system that is adaptable to just about any automotive engine and popular ignition systems. It's suitable for engines ranging from 200 to 2,000 horses and running superchargers, turbochargers, or nitrous. Like production-style systems, it's volumetric-efficiency-based, allowing for excellent startup, idle, and driving characteristics. And like many OEM systems, it uses crankshaft- and camshaft-position sensors-instead of a conventional distributor-to trigger the ignition system.
The Thruster EFI system offers wide-band O2 tuning in closed-loop operation, via a laptop that can be plugged into a communication port inside the Corvette's interior. The system features real-time ECU programming for instant operation and performance changes. It also provides many OEM-type features, including knock control, torque-converter lockup, and self diagnostics. It even offers a "limp home" mode and data acquisition.
When it comes to firing the Thruster EFI-controlled ZZ572, the job falls to ACCEL DFI's recently introduced 8 Channel Programmable Multi-Strike CD ignition, which utilizes a coil-on-plug system. Like a modern LS engine, the ACCEL DFI system allows the mounting of individual ignition coils on the valve covers, over each cylinder. With 150 millijoules of spark energy available at the plug, the 8 Channel CD module can fire almost any engine combination producing up to nearly 2,000 hp.
The ignition controller is wired to the Thruster EFI's Dual-Sync replacement for the conven-tional distributor. It contains both crank- and cam-position sensors, and it mounts in the original distributor hole in the intake manifold. It's an ingenious development for classic Chevy engines, giving them greater ignition and timing control without sacrificing space or aesthetics.
The Thruster EFI system broadens the torque curve of the ZZ572 engine's already healthy output, but more importantly it delivers a modern driving feel, easy tuning capability, and an unmistakably exotic aura. Another benefit is a significant increase in fuel economy-a much-appreciated attribute for any enthusiast looking to squeeze a few more miles per gallon from his or her performance car.
Additional underhood modifications to Orzetti's Corvette include a custom cold-air induction system, Corvette Conspiracy-built headers, a March serpentine accessory-drive system, a three-row Be Cool aluminum radiator (with dual electric fans), and a Corsa exhaust system.
The engine is backed by a performance-built 700R4 overdrive transmission equipped with a 3,000-stall torque converter and a custom shifter configured to fit the Corvette's center console. The transmission channels nearly 700 lb-ft of torque to a tough Dana 44 rearend filled with a "just right" 3.55 gearset.
Since the C3's chassis was never designed to absorb the brunt of almost 700 lb-ft of twist, Corvette Conspiracy literally pulled the body off and started from scratch. First, the frame was gusseted and reinforced in key areas to resist the bending power of the 572's torque. The chassis' original suspension components were either upgraded or replaced with more-modern components, including QA1 coilover shocks and springs at all four corners, Van Steel adjustable rear strut rods and trailing arms, Jim Meyer tubular front A-arms, and Energy Suspension urethane bushings throughout.
When it was completed, the refurbished frame was powdercoated in black. The fiberglass body also required some work to accommodate the new suspension parts, including the fabrication of new pockets in the front fenderwells for the coilover setup.
The Corvette sits on polished stock wheels, but the rears were sneakily widened by 1.5 inches, giving them a 9.5-inch overall width. The aluminum rims are wrapped in BFG rubber all around, including 325/50R15 Drag Radials in the rear and 275/60R15 g-Force T/As in the front.
Orzetti didn't skimp in the braking department, either. The stock four-wheel-disc system was replaced with Stainless Steel Brakes rotors and aluminum calipers that are actuated by a Hydratech Braking Systems hydra-boost power-assist system. We experienced this combination firsthand and can report that it gives the Vette eye-popping stopping capability.
Because of its sedate appearance, it's difficult to convey the extraordinary level of workmanship and attention to detail that's gone into this bad, black Corvette. Apart from the custom shifter and a set of Dakota Digital gauges, the interior is as stock as the exterior-and that's all part of the charm of this sneaky shark.
The exhaust note certainly gives away there's something more than stock under the hood, but few would guess it's a 600-plus-hp big-block with port fuel injection and coil-on-plug ignition. With its updated suspension, brakes, and, of course, powertrain, this subtle C3 is more than capable of hanging with its C6 cousins.
Just like the great white in Jaws, which gave little warning before a terrifying strike, Ed Orzetti's '82 Corvette lulls the unaware into assuming there's nothing to worry about lurking beneath the surface. You may not need a bigger boat to catch this shark, but you're definitely going to need a bigger engine.