When the fifth-generation Corvette was introduced in 1997, it was an instant hit with enthusiasts. New owners quickly discovered that hidden under the slick John Cafaro-designed body was a true high-performance sports car. Today, many C5 owners drive their cars during the week and go to track events on weekends.
A critical part of a C5's handling excellence can be found in its shock absorbers. But as the miles pile up, the factory-installed shocks slowly lose their ability to keep the wheels firmly planted on the road under spirited driving conditions. Replacing worn factory shocks with a set of high-performance adjustable shocks is money well spent.
Our fixed-roof coupe's factory shocks were beginning to show their age, so we contacted Pfadt Race Engineering and spoke with company founder Aaron Pfadt. Pfadt related that the company had recently introduced an Adjustable Inverted Sport Shock package for a quite reasonable $890 (retail).
"This is a product we developed for customers who aren't ready to convert their Corvette to coilover shocks but want to make a significant improvement to their handling," Pfadt says. "We developed an inverted-body adjustable shock absorber that is packaged for the C5, the C6, and the C6 Z06. Compression and rebound are adjustable with a dampening dial built into the shock body.
"The important point about the dampening adjustment is it covers two driving scenarios. The first is for street driving, [so] you can turn the dampening on the shocks down and have a great ride. The second is when you go to an autocross course or racetrack and need a firmer ride. You can reach under the car and make a quick shock-valve adjustment-you don't even have to pull the wheels to make the change. These shocks also allow the driver to tune the car's suspension. For example, if you want to tune out a little corner-entry understeer, you can soften the front shocks to get the car to work better."
Pfadt felt these shocks would be a perfect match for our C5, so he shipped a set to one of his vendors, MTI Racing in Marietta, Georgia, for installation. We arrived at MTI the same day the shocks were delivered. They came in a neatly packaged box with a complete set of instruct ions and all the parts required for installation. Making things considerably easier was MTI's rotary four-point lift, which quickly got the car up to a safe working position. Everything bolted on as advertised, and the job was completed without hitch.
With the new shocks installed, Pfadt and Cox recommended we start with a street-oriented setting: four clicks at the front and six at the rear. For track use, they recommended setting the shocks to 10 at all four corners. From there, reducing understeer is simply a matter of softening the front and/or stiffening the rear settings.
We've put more than 1,000 miles on the car since the install, and we're happy to report that the suspension sticks like glue in the tight stuff and is very neutral when thrown into a corner. Even better, the ride is now much more compliant over harsh road surfaces. With no discernible downside, and an easily palatable price tag, Pfadt's Adjustable Inverted Sport Shocks are an excellent way to dramatically improve your Corvette's suspension.