We wondered if Skunk Werkes was concerned about how this radical change would affect the car’s safety. “It’s not really altered in areas where it would impact safety or structure,” answers Cafaro. “In some ways it has less structure—we took ten inches of glass and aluminum out of the car.” Still, the duo decided to install a pair of roll hoops behind the seats, just to be on the safe side.
Exterior modifications went beyond just the low roofline. Cafaro designed a number of new body panels aimed at heightening the Corvette’s visual impact and reducing aerodynamic lift. These enhancements included a raised hood, front and rear spoilers and side strakes. After being modeled in clay, the pieces were laid up in fiberglass in Iovino’s basement shop, which also served as the staging area for final assembly. The glass work was farmed out to a third party.
The car’s rolling stock was upgraded with HRE split-spoke alloy wheels (9.5 × 19-inch front, 10.5 × 19-inch rear) wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (275/30ZR19 front, 285/30ZR19 rear). While the LS1 mill was left stock, the engine bay did receive some visual enhancements in the form of carbon-fiber trim. Corsa Performance Exhausts developed a unique cat-back exhaust system for the Speedster. Other performance upgrades, such as reworked heads, a hotter cam, headers and possibly a supercharger, were envisioned once production was ramped up.
Critics usually consider the interior to be the late-model Corvette’s weak link. Cafaro wanted to change that perception by creating a cockpit that rivaled anything being offered by Ferrari, Porsche or Mercedes-Benz. Instead of attempting to tackle this project down in its underground lair, Skunk Werkes contracted Ontario-based Caravaggio Corvettes to handle all the interior enhancements. “John Caravaggio was the first guy that I called because we wanted to tap into his handcrafted capability,” says Cafaro. “He and I have similar tastes.”
The cockpit featured Caravaggio sports seats with increased bolstering and covered with red leather and black Alcantara upholstery. A similar combination of materials adorned the steering wheel. While the door panels got red leather inserts, the center console and parts of the dash were treated to carbon-fiber trim, creating a racy look. Same goes for the Simpson five-point harnesses; these, combined with the roll hoops, gave the Speedster a track-ready appearance.
Skunk Werkes crafted the Speedster to be as production-ready as possible if GM showed interest. Explains Cafaro, “We did the car in such a way that if Dave McLellan or somebody at Chevrolet said, ‘Hey, this is a neat opportunity, why not try and run a couple of these down the line at Bowling Green,’ they could do it. We didn’t take the car so far beyond the capabilities of the architecture that it couldn’t be introduced as a fourth body style.”
Although many people within GM saw the completed car or were at least aware of it, Skunk Werkes never made an explicit sales pitch to the company. Before selling itself, the fledgling tuner needed to sell some vehicles to customers.