King of the Hill

Also from Issue 62

  • Two Race-themed Z06s
  • Mid America Motorworks Funfest
  • 1958 Fuelie
  • Buyer's Guide: C1/2
  • 1966 Big-block Coupe
  • 1991 Coupe
  • Tech: Emissions Testing
  • 1971 LS6 Coupe
  • Race Report: Road America and Mosport
  • How-to: Power Steering
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Burelli then got serious. He had MTI build a 427-cid V8 using a C5-R block and LS6 heads. This was paired with a C6 Z06 transaxle. Shaeffer and Cooper have since added a twin-plate clutch, a plumbed-in fire-suppression system and rear brake ducts, and they also replaced the original Fikse wheels with Forged True alloys. The car currently has about 600 horsepower, which Schaeffer notes is about all you need, especially since it meets emissions standards so you can use it like a regular car.

There were a few street cars in the crowded paddock at Bogus Basin, but not many. Some had been race cars long ago, while others had been brought to life in the same way that Frankenstein’s monster had come to life, the product of resurrection from assorted automotive graveyards. All these cars were built by people who apparently had strong opinions about what it took to get up a short, winding section of pavement on a mountainside as quickly as possible—but who also apparently couldn’t quite agree on exactly what the formula should be.

Then there were the rest of the cars, which were scattered about the paddock next to piles of assorted stuff that had formerly lived in the car’s trunk, under the seats or even in the glovebox. These cars were driven by adrenaline junkies who were on the mountain to cut loose in their commuter cars. If they bent their machinery, they would be walking back down the mountain with an armload of stuff and thinking about who might be able to give them a ride to work on Monday.

At the drivers’ meeting, a guy wore a T-shirt that read (paraphrased to protect the squeamish), “Hillclimbers don’t need no stinking cones!” This was a perhaps vain attempt to raise hillclimbers above the level of autocrossers. Basically, the rules place very little restriction on personal expression. If you have seatbelts and a helmet, you are good to go, though open cars do require a roll cage. The classic racing warranty applies. That is, if you break your toy, you will be allowed to keep all the pieces.

You might think that all this means a hillclimb is harmless, but you would be wrong. There are no runoff areas or gravel traps, and the guardrails wear rusty battle scars from encounters with snowplows. The basic driving philosophy is, if you get into the kind of trouble that will take you off the road, try to pick the side of the road without a view. If you discover that your windshield is filled with a panorama of scenic wonders, you’ve made the wrong choice. In this case, your car might live out the rest of its days as an ornament on top of a lonely Christmas tree.

There are almost as many car classes in hillclimbing as participants, so almost everybody goes home with a trophy—kind of like little kids in a soccer league. In 2009, Cooper scored the overall victory, so he took home the most elaborate cup. However, he was required to bring it back this year, and while he was allowed to put his name on it, he had to pay for the privilege himself.