Fourth generation Corvettes

I’m replacing the stock ZR-1 front brakes with an updated design from a C5 ‘vette. The C5 calipers are stiffer and better at heat management, they also have a bigger pad area and so provide an increase in braking of around %30. Pretty good for a cheap upgrade. The calipers came from my good friend, Ron, for free. I just need some rebuild kits – seals and so on to make them as good as new.

I’ve looked at various options for updating the brakes. There are a number of systems available but the prices are high – anything from $2k and up! If this were a track car I’d certainly be looking at these alternatives but it’s basically a cruiser, so the C5 is a good cost-effective upgrade.

I’m going to finish them with caliper paint from G2. This is a high ceramic, high temperature paint especially designed for this application. Many people get their calipers powder coated but I don’t have anyone who can do this for me locally so the paint looks like a good option. The G2 system has great reviews from lot’s of people so I’m confident it will work.( Just as a note, this isn’t the caliper paint you can buy in places like Canadian Tire – their’s is a much less durable, lower ceramic content paint that get’s pretty awful reviews.) I had to order the G2 specially, using good old E-Bay.

The C5 calipers had already been painted but not with G2, so the first job is to get this off. I tried various wire brushes and so on but they weren’t very effective. So my next approach is going to be chemical; acrylic thinners to break down the paint and strip it from the metal.

This is the new C5 front caliper:

Dirty C5 Z06 Front Caliper

Pretty dirty right now, Hopefully stripping will take care of that.

This is the C4 rear, also looking pretty rough:

Dirty C4 rear brake caliper

My plan right now is to swap the rear caliper, these are some used ones I picked up. The aluminium is fairly deteriorated though so I may just use the existing ones on the car instead. I’ll decide once I’ve cleaned them up some more.

Here’s the C5 Abutment bracket also in the rough, these are going to be painted in black:

Unpainted C5 Abutment Bracket


And finally, the conversion brackets that make it all possible. I’m going to hit these with the black also:

C5 Conversion Brackets


Enduring the winter off season is never easy for anyone as crazy about driving his Corvette as I am. This year is particularly hard because of the problems with getting my garage done last year. That means that the Dragon is sleeping in a temporary garage in the cold. Not my idea of ideal.

Despite this I have a list of tasks that I am determined to try and get done for 2012. Some of these have been hanging over me for a while. At least having the car on site it means that I can get some jobs done as soon as the weather breaks in Spring and it get’s warm enough to work on.

The upgrades are:

  • C5 Brake upgrade
  • Header installation
  • Catback Installation
  • Top end porting and polishing

All of these jobs will be done by me with the exception of the porting and polishing. That I will have to send out as I don’t have the tools or experience for that kind of work. Another job that will have to be sent out is ceramic coating for the headers – again a specialized job that I can’t do.

As I work through these I’ll write them up and take photos to show progress.

I’ve known about the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask!) ‘Gatherings’ for several years, even before I bought my ZR-1 and it has always been my intention to make the trip at one point or another. 2009 was a possibility but I wasn’t sure I’d want to go two years in a row and so we postponed until this year. This also coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the ZR-1’s ‘birth’ which made it even more special.

The drive down was through some terrible weather, rainstorms beat around our ears all the way and the Dragon looked almost as bad as when he’d been delivered to us in the middle of winter – despite having done an extremely thorough detailing job over the weeks before setting out.

The Gathering always has lots going on and the anniversary version no less so. There were presentations, Q & A sessions and the opportunity to meet some of the most famous people in the history of the Corvette and in-particular the ZR-1. It made choosing what to sign up for very hard – simply not enough hours in the day.

Our first event was a guided trip through the Kentucky back-roads by no other than Jim ‘Jingles’ Ingle himself. Jim was one of the original drivers at the ZR-1 press launches and entertained the crowd with his tire shredding ‘grenade’ exercises. Not only that, but Jim was in charge of the test drive and quality check program that GM put the ZR-1s through.

Jim’s quiet exterior is at complete odds with what he can do behind the wheel. On the first leg of the journey there were a few grumbles about ‘not going fast enough’ – but with a dozen or so ZR-1s travelling in convoy we were a rather conspicuous group! On the second leg, Jim turned his 2010 ZR1 up a notch to power through the gorgeous and challenging Kentucky roads, which quickly silenced everyone. Certainly no-one was complaining at the speed at our second stop!

The trip itself was a delightful romp through the countryside to the Z06/ZR1 chassis assembly plant where we were treated to a guided tour of the amazing Dana plant. The painstaking attention to detail and the technology that goes into putting together the aluminium chassis is remarkable. I tried to persuade the Plant Manager that they out to put together an aluminium chassis for the C4 ZR-1, but unfortunately he seemed to think I was joking!

The next highlight of our trip was the special barbecue hosted by Jim Van Dorn at his Automasters shop just across from the museum. JVD is the man who put together the Corvette Pirate Racing team in the 90s and effectively served as the test-bed for what became the official Corvette racing team. Not only that but JVD’s outfit was one of only three teams to officially race the ZR-1.

Due to the late return of the Jingles Tour, we ended up getting to the barbecue late as well. This didn’t seem too significant until we queried the whereabouts of our specially ordered veggie-burgers. JVD takes regular burgers and cuts them into Chevy bowtie shape before barbecuing them to perfection. We’d requested veggie-burgers and arranged with Jim to have them there.

After a detailed investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Sherlock Holmes it became clear that the burgers had been eaten by those nasty meat-eater types. Jim was appalled at this and more annoyed than we were!

At the barbecue Jim showed a video detailing the ZR-1 anniversary run, an amazing feat that still is unrivaled by any production car, what made it an even more incredible event was that in the audience were Dave McLellan, Tommy Morrison, John Heinricy, Stu Hayner, Jim Minneker and Hib Halverson the key men who were involved in the development of the ZR-1 and the record attempt.

After the video finished, all the people involved took part in an ‘after-hours’ discussion on the attempt and the car, led by Dave McLellan. In that they revealed a lot of fascinating new details about the car’s unique development, the battles with GM corporate to get the car out and insights into what had been planned for future development.

When the discussion stopped Jim held an auction in aid of soldiers on duty in Iraq and again the ‘celebs’ led the way, showing entertaining skills (Jim Minneker and Tommy Morrison could probably do a stand-up routine if they ever wanted to!) as auctioneers. I managed to snag an LT5 cam-cover and took it around to all the guests for their autographs – a ‘trophy’ that is now the pride of my ZR-1 memorabilia collection.

With more discussions and talks and side events than you could imagine it was impossible to see everything. I focused on the technical presentations and the talks with the former GM people gaining a huge amount of information and insight into the car’s development. Sadly that meant I missed seeing John Heinricy resoundingly taking first in the autocross event, but with so much going on how do you choose?

One of the best moments was taking around my copy of ‘Heart of the beast’ and getting each of the celebrities to sign their part of the book. It’s hard to believe that these people would spare so much of their own time to talk to an enthusiast like myself and yet they made me (and everyone) feel like old friends. At the Gathering dinner Dave McLellan actually asked everyone there to sign a commemorative poster for him as a memento!  It truly brought home the community feeling associated with the Corvette and the ZR-1 specifically.

The museum itself is amazing. The number and rarity of the cars on display is incredible. From details of the early designs and designers all the way up to the latest and greatest, the presentation is world-class. Cars that belonged to Harley Earl, Zora Duntov and Ed Cole nestle in-between displays of modern C6Rs and concept cars. In reality you probably have to go around a few times for everything to sink in properly.

For the Gathering a number of cars had been brought in specially to form a display in the Main Hall, this included Tommy Morrison’s race Corvettes, “Queenie” a prototype ZR-1 from 1988 that was crushed only to later rise from the grave, not to mention the world record running ZR-1s.

As we were reluctantly loading the car to return home we spotted a gold coloured ZR-1 sliding up beside us. To our amazement it turned out to be Tommy Morrison himself who had been staying at the same hotel, unknown to us. I paid complement to Tommy’s one-of-a-kind custom ZR-1 which has some incredible unique details and he returned the same about our car. The thing was you could genuinely feel that he meant it.

Going down I wasn’t sure if I would want to go twice in a row. Coming back I was sure I would!


My goal for this weekend was to swap the amplifiers in my ‘vette and thereby restore the functionality of the stereo system. The 90’s Bose system is somewhat notorious for failure; some of the capacitors were of dubious quality and basically turn to powder with age. This leaves you with a system that howls like a banshee, brays like a donkey and squeals like a 5 year old on acid – often all at the same time!

The choices are simple. Buy a set of new amps from Bose, or one of the Corvette parts suppliers – this costs between $125 and $150 per amp. As there are four of them altogether this gets to be a pretty expensive solution.

The other option is to keep an eye out for a good deal on Ebay, which is what I did; a complete set of amps, tested working, for $100 – less than a quarter of the new cost. That had to be a bargain.

Removal of the speakers to access the amps is fairly straightforward, though requires a certain element of contortionist skills in places – especially when removing the front speakers. Despite this I had the two back speakers out in about an hour (mostly because I was deliberately working slowly to avoid any problems).

The two front speakers, well they took about an hour and a half, due to the aforementioned contortion issues. The driver’s side came out easily once all the trim was removed, the passenger side… well that was a little different.

Though removing the passenger side speaker was actually slightly easier than its mirror twin, as I pulled the unit out it snagged the carpet slightly and this was enough to tear off two of the plastic ‘tabs’ where the screws go to hold it in place.

You often hear about plastic becoming brittle with age, but this was ridiculous. There’s always something to bite you when you least expect it!

So… a quick trip to the local parts store for a number of alternative possible fixes, including some ‘plastic weld’. I tried this first and to my complete surprise it made a strong fix that was perfectly usable.

I was a little cautious re-installing the speaker unit, half expecting the weld to fail and the tabs to fall off again; but it worked perfectly and in about another thirty minutes everything was back reinstalled.

A quick test showed the amps to be doing their job perfectly and ‘The Dragon’ now has his voice back! How’s that for a successful weekend?

Now? It’s Miller Time!

Yesterday was a beautiful day here. The snow has largely gone, the roads are pretty clear (so long as you stay off the side streets) and the temperatures are hitting the pluses with reasonable frequency.

I couldn’t resist any longer. We picked up the gear necessary and went to wake The Dragon from it’s long Winter slumber.

After re-installing the battery he cracked into life first time and purred contentedly. Out on to the streets the beast rumbled sedately, stretching himself in the warm Spring sunshine as we made our way across town.

The first run is always fairly sedate, the tires aren’t really at operating temperature and I spend most of the journey listening to noises from the car, watchful for any telltale warning signs after the Winter hibernation.

There were no concerns. The Dragon was in fine shape, rumbling pleasantly all the way home.

At one point I couldn’t resist, dropping a couple of gears to bring the revs up and ‘exercise’ the secondary injectors. The Dragon reared forward, eager to pound the highway content to do my bidding, whatever that might be. A tingle of excitement jumped up and down my spine and the ‘permagrin’ settled on my face.

ZR-1s are pure excitement!

Dave standing by 1991 Black Corvette ZR-1


Last year I was finally able to get The Dragon on the track, something I have wanted to do ever since getting him. It was an awesome day at the Dunnville Autodrome enjoyed by everyone. The ZR-1 acquited himself perfectly, besting cars almost 20 years younger and entertaining everyone with his distinctive roar.

Sadly the Dunnville facility has been closed down and I thought that as a result of this I would be denied the opportunity to get on the track again, at least for this year. Luckily an opportunity has come up to drive the famous Mosport International Raceway track and get instruction from qualified drivers. This is a charity event and will benefit from the attendance of several ‘vette  celebrities, not least Ron Fellows from the Corvette Racing team. Continue reading

It’s definitely winter here in the Great White North, as attested to by the -20+ temperatures and the fact that my dog doesn’t want to spend much time out on the deck! One of the benefits of the long winter though is that at least it gives you time to do some update projects without having to sacrifice seat time.

At the moment projects are somewhat problematic. My garage isn’t built yet; I had hoped to get it done last year, but that was taken up almost entirely by wedding plans and preparation, leaving virtually no time for anything else (including driving the vette!). So, at the moment, the car is tucked away in a friend’s heated garage (thanks Ted!).

This is a great improvement on the first winter of having the car (I still have nightmares about putting the car in storage the way I had to then), but it also provides limited access and space for working on any projects. Reviewing the work I would like to do on The Dragon, it’s clear that most of it requires long hours of access not available without my own garage. Continue reading

Just found out that an article I submitted for the ZR1 Registry magazine has been published in this issue. It’s a great feeling and I hope people find the piece entertaining.

The Registry has been an incredible source of information and very supportive both before and after getting ‘The Dragon’ and I have to thank everyone there for helping and answering my sometimes dumb questions.

So at the moment I’m feeling pretty chuffed!

It looks as though it’s official and the new 2008 Supercharged Corvette C6 will be known as the ZR1.

It’s hard to describe how I feel about this. In some ways it’s flattering I suppose, that the new super-vette will have a name closely related to the car I own – the car that I waited 17 years to own. Many people even within the ZR-1 community seem to feel this is a good thing, that it will generate interest in the ‘old’ ZR-1 (and many people who bought them as an investment hope it will lift prices too).

Firstly, the new car is the ZR1, not the ZR-1. This name originates back in 1971 when a highly limited production of eight cars were built as special race cars and not really intended for street use. The new car has no connection with the ZR-1 from the ’90s, either structurally, in design, or in intent. The ZR-1 was most definitely a production car, despite GMs attitude towards it.

Continue reading