When I was growing up, the year 2000 seemed unimaginably far in the future. To the ten year old Paul, the idea of being an old man of 32 was hard to grasp. Of course the reality of the year 2000 was somewhat different than what anybody expected. Computers kept right on working, you could still carry nail clippers on an airplane, and the last year of the 20th century was nothing all that special. And yes, it was the last year of the second millennium, not the first year of the third since there was no year zero, so just keep the ill-informed emails to yourself.
The year 2000 was also fairly uneventful for the Corvette. No Z06 model yet – just the hatchback, convertible, and fixed roof coupe. All three shared the same 345 horsepower LS1 engine, and the only real difference came from how the cars were optioned.
Which brings us to what we have here. Project Y2k, our 2000 Corvette and the newest addition to the CorvetteOnline and LSXMAG fleet. This car left the factory optioned out with just about everything on the menu; 12-disc CD changer, Z51 suspension, both the solid and glass roof panels, magnesium wheels, you name it. About the only spendy RPO’s it doesn’t have are the F45 Selective Real Time Damping shock absorbers, which turned out to be troublesome, and special paint.
All that hardware came at a price. This car stickered north of $45,000, putting it at the high end of the scale for a hard top Corvette. Of course, depreciation is a bitch, and 11 years later, we managed to pick this car up for $17,000, with just 50,000 miles on the odometer. Bargain hunters can pick up a 2000 C5 with more mileage for as little as 10-12 grand.
That seems like a lot of money for a decade old used car, until you think about what you’re getting. It’s rare for even a high mileage Corvette to have led a hard life compared to most cars of a similar vintage, and even spending as much as we did, you’re still getting a lot of car for the money. The comparison is even more favorable when you look at what you could have spent on something right off the showroom floor.
Corvette Versus Transportation Appliance
What will a $17,000 bill buy you new? A FIAT 500 “Sport” for example. 101 horsepower, a 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty, and that new car smell. Of course, unless you are a circus clown or primarily attracted to other men, the FIAT isn’t much of a competitor for the C5 (though if you want to transport a pair of legless, headless human torsos, the FIAT does offer a back seat where you can prop them upright instead of laying them flat under the hatch like you would have to do in the Corvette…)
Then, there’s that “Corvette tax” when it comes to parts, or so they say. But since the LS1 under the hood is in most ways identical to the same engine found in its lesser F-Body kin, there are a whole lot of things that can be done to boost performance without killing your bank account. That’s our mission with Project Y2k – take America’s Sports Car and make it better on a blue collar budget, turning this decade-old platform into a car that’s good at a little bit of everything. Trips to the dragstrip, turning laps on the road course, cruising across the interstate, and of course profiling at car shows are all on the agenda.
The first thing you do with a new toy is take it out of the box and play with it, and that’s what we did – our in-house DynoJet dyno revealed Y2k was one of those “factory freaks” registering on the upper end of the stock horsepower bell curve with 324 horsepower and 337 pound-feet of torque.
After carefully checking the car to make sure it didn’t have anything unexpected that might bump the horsepower (missing air filter, flash tune, tiny hidden turbocharger) and consulting the interwebs, we were forced to conclude that we just happened to have a “good one” – factoring in a 12% drivetrain loss, our little LS1 is making more than 360 horsepower at the crank without a thing done to it.
At the dragstrip, we discovered that A) it’s been a long time since I’ve launched a car with a clutch and B) the lining of the stock organic clutch will “come back,” more or less, if you give it time to cool down after going through it in first gear due to bad technique. With some practice, and favoring bog off the line over wheelspin to save the clutch, I managed to squeeze out a 13.480 at 105.43 MPH despite a 2.027 60-foot time.
On the freeway, the double-overdrive transmission keeps the revs around 1500 while turning 70 MPH, and the trip computer says, a little bit optimistically, that Y2k is getting something north of 25 miles per every gallon of 91 octane gas. We are keeping track of the fuel consumption via Fuelly.com, so you can follow along in real time as we upgrade the power to the wheels.
So where do we go from here? Well, we have a lot of things planned, starting with some basic fixes for the inevitable problems you find on a 50,000 mile, 10 year old car, and a staged engine upgrade series with Corvette Central Performance that should take us up to and past C5 Z06 horsepower.
From there, tires, suspension, safety, and cosmetic improvements are all on the radar, but the most important goal of Project Y2k is to make sure we don’t screw up the basic goodness of this car. Whatever we end up doing, this blue collar supercar will remain comfortable and enjoyable on the street, quick at the dragstrip, and agile on the road course.