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When droves of GIs began returning from World War II with sleek European two-seaters, GM's infamous VP of Design, Harley Earl decided it was time to create the first original American sports car. Begun in 1951 as a secret project code named "Opel," the first Corvettes were hand built at Chevrolet's Customer Delivery Center in Flint, Michigan, and finally introduced to the public at 1953's Motorama. Although the Corvette's fiberglass body was considered revolutionary, performance wasn't the best, and sales were lackluster. GM considered shelving the car until Soviet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov took Chevy's newly designed 4.3 V8 and married it to a three-speed manual transmission, transforming the Corvette into a genuine powerhouse.
Over the years, Corvette has worked hard to earn its reputation as the working man's supercar. Criticized for a perceived lack of refinement as compared to some European sports marques, the fifth of Corvette's six generations debuted in 2001, silencing critics with its power, efficiency and affordability. Instead of the heavy double-overhead cam engine of its predecessor, the Z06 used a high-compression, low-reciprocating-weight version of the V8, dubbed the LS6. By the following model year, the Z06 produced an astounding 405 hp, capable of 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of around 176 mph. All this while getting about 28 miles to the gallon. The Euros can't touch that, and you can't easily fix those exotics at your local Chevy dealer, either.
A Corvette worshipper since childhood, Jay bought his 2002 Z06 when it first came out in 2001. Since there's probably more accessories available for the Corvette than any other car, Jay couldn't resist customizing his inside and out. When Chevy produced a seven liter engine for its sixth generation Corvette, Jay plopped one under his Z06's hood, instantly upping his hp to 505, and later tweaking it to 514. Check back for a future piece on the next Corvette Jay plans on acquiring - the ZR1.