The forward march of time is rarely kind to those it tramples underfoot, be they flesh or fiberglass. Along with the physical indignities of the aging process--the loss of outward luster, the deterioration of vital substructures, the dulling of one's "performance edge"--there's a far more insidious development to contend with: the inexorable retreat of relevance. Today's hero is tomorrow's has-been, and so it has been since time immemorial.
The upside to dealing with impending senescence in the vehicular realm stems from the ease with which automobiles--and particularly Corvettes--yield themselves to the process of creative rejuvenation. Remove a fastener here, pop a retaining tab there, and pretty soon you're well on your way to a fresh, new look--no pills, unguents, or liposuction cannulae required.
With that in mind, we decided it might be instructive to take a not-quite-over-the-hill Corvette and treat it to an aesthetic overhaul using an assortment of top-quality aftermarket parts. While our test subject--a '99 fixed-roof coupe--was still in fine shape cosmetically and mechanically, this onetime performance flagship was starting to look a little dowdy next to newer offerings such as the Grand Sport, the Z06, and the ZR1. Let's examine the items we selected to bring it up to date.
Lewis Five Motorsports Body Kit
We'd featured cars equipped with Lewis Five Motorsports hardware in the past, so we were aware of the company's reputation for building Corvette body components that fit properly and look great. For our FRC, we drew liberally from L5's parts arsenal, selecting a set of flared front fenders and rear quarter-panels, along with a quartet of matching fiberglass splash guards. (The latter items are also available in genuine carbon.)
The fenders and quarters embolden the C5's looks considerably, while avoiding the "tacked on" look that afflicts some competing offerings. Up front, the additional 3/4-inch of width per side is subtle enough that it might be missed by a casual observer. There's no overlooking the rear quarters, however, which swell the car by 2 inches per side--enough to swallow virtually any wheel/tire combo one might choose to fit (more on that in a moment).
For the truly committed, L5 also offers a full wide-body kit that includes the aforementioned bits, along with new front/rear fascias and side rocker panels. We might take that step in the future, but for now, the fenders, quarters, and splash guards have our FRC on the path back to head-turner status.
In keeping with our focus on top-shelf quality, we chose a set of Forgeline's new CF3C Concave forged wheels to fill out our FRC's newly tumescent fenders. Like the company's popular racing wheels, the five-spoke CF3C uses a three-piece design that's held together with hidden stainless-steel ARP fasteners.
In sizing our new rims, we thought it important to one-up the current crop of Corvette supercars. Fortunately, the L5 rear quarters provide sufficient clearance for wheels of up to 12 inches in width--the same as on a new ZR1. Since the CF3C's modular nature makes it fully customizable, we were able to specify the precise size and offset required to occupy the available space and clear the C6 Z06 brake conversion that was recently installed on the car. You won't get that from just any old molded-aluminum rim. (We did stop short of specifying race-style center locks, though Forgeline offers them as an option.) Factor in a wide range of available finishes, and the 3F3C is a superlative wheel choice for any style- and performance-conscious Corvette owner.
Nitto Invo Tires
With our Forgelines spec'd out, it was time to select a tire. Naturally, we elected to use the widest rubber our new wheels would accommodate, in this case a 275/35-18 up front and a steamroller-size 345/30ZR19 in the rear. (For comparison's sake, the ZR1 wears 285/30ZR19s and 335/25ZR20s, respectively.)
Nitto's Invo is one of a handful of tires available in these sizes, and by far the most affordable. It's said to offer an ideal balance of performance and ride comfort, which sounded like a perfect fit for our mostly street-driven FRC. It also has a wild-looking geometric tread pattern that's sure to further enliven the car's looks, especially from behind.
Now that you know a little more about the individual elements, let's take a closer look at how the entire ensemble will come together on our subject car. In a future issue, we'll cover the final installation and paint processes, and unveil the finished product.