Conquest Sale

A Corvette convert cooks up one of the fastest, most lavishly optioned tuner cars in marque history—then tosses us the keys

November 10, 2016
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When Chevrolet set out to design and develop the seventh-generation Corvette, it had one main goal in mind: to create a truly world-class sports car, one that could compete with European models on all levels. But Chevy didn’t just want the bragging rights of winning comparison tests, it wanted to win over new customers, specifically those who bought Porsches, BMWs and Ferraris. People like Vince Gilbert. The C7 Z06 on these pages is his first Corvette. “I’d never even thought of buying a Corvette until this car,” says the Oregon resident. Not even a top sixth-generation model like the ZR1? “I would never have bought it,” he replies without hesitation.

Up until buying this Chevrolet, Gilbert’s only experience with Corvettes was crushing them. Make that recycling them. Gilbert owns Environmentally Conscious Recycling, a company whose exponential growth over the past 30 years has made him a wealthy man, allowing him to indulge a healthy automotive habit. He’s owned dozens of cars, with expensive European models being his preference. Corvettes simply weren’t on his radar screen. In fact, the idea of purchasing one didn’t come to him until he happened to sit next to a Chevy dealer on a flight to Hawaii. The gentleman told Gilbert he not only needed to buy a new Z06, but the recently debuted Callaway SC757 version of it. He said the 757-horsepower supercar had Ferrari-beating performance with the styling and sophistication to match. The argument the dealer presented was convincing enough that Gilbert decided right then and there to buy the car, never having seen one in the flesh.

Not the type of person to do anything halfway, Gilbert was “all in” on the Corvette, and he wasted no time ordering the SC757 once he had touched down. His high-altitude consultant suggested he call up Harchelroad Motors in Imperial, Nebraska, one of the top-selling authorized Callaway dealers in the U.S. Gilbert got Dillon Harchelroad on the phone and made a very straightforward request: “I want the best Corvette you’ve ever sold.” The implication was clear: Gilbert was giving Harchelroad permission to check all the boxes when it came to ordering the Z06 from GM, as well as everything Callaway had to offer. Price was no object. Not versed in option and paint codes—the lingua franca of the Corvette hobby—Gilbert left the nitty-gritty research to Harchelroad, implicitly trusting the longtime dealer’s expertise and taste. Beyond stating his preference for a black Z06 convertible and insisting the car look “badass,” Gilbert offered little in the way of specificity at the outset.

One thing Gilbert was adamant about, however, was the delivery date of the vehicle: He absolutely had to have the SC757 by the first day of November, 2015. Gilbert lives part of the year at Bighorn, an exclusive community and golf resort in Palm Desert, California—Palm Springs’ upscale neighbor. A group of car enthusiasts at the club had decided to build a large facility to house and display their prized automobiles on the property. Two years in the planning and building, The Vault, as it had been dubbed, was having its grand opening on November 1. As a founding member and investor in the project, Gilbert wanted his new Corvette to be a featured part of the festivities. There were no two ways around it: The car had to be done on time. Having gotten the ball rolling at the end of March, this seemed like an entirely attainable goal. Still, the clock was definitely ticking.

Checking all the Boxes

As he describes it, Dillon Harchelroad was the “architect” of the ordering process. He sketched ideas of how he thought the car should be ordered and presented them to Gilbert. Although Harchelroad says that all the ordering decisions were ultimately Gilbert’s, he doesn’t downplay the influence he had in the process. “He put a lot of trust in me,” he admits.

Harchelroad walked Gilbert through the various equipment groups he felt the $84,395 Z06 convertible would need to achieve “ultimate Corvette” status. These included the $7,995 Z07 Performance Package (carbon-ceramic brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires); the $2,995 Stage Three Aero Package (deep front splitter with winglets, rocker panel extensions, tall rear spoiler with adjustable “Gurney flap”) and $1,995 Competition Sport seats. To balance all that performance with top-flight luxury, he further suggested the $8,395 3LZ full-leather interior, complemented with swatches of suede. Gilbert was on board with all these suggestions. As it turns out, that was the easy part of the process.

Also from Issue 110

  • Owner-Restored '56 Driver
  • Direct Injection Explained
  • Supercharged Midyear Fuelie
  • Buyer's Guide: C2
  • 1970 LT-1 Coupe
  • 1996 Collector Edition
  • Hendrick Heritage Collection
  • Corvette Racing: Then and Now
Buy Corvette magazine 110 cover