Nuclear Proliferation

This 2007 Z06's engine has experienced a dramatic buildup of power and Atomic Orange paint has infiltrated its cockpit—exactly the explosive appeal its owner was looking for.

June 17, 2011

Also from Issue 67

  • 1986 Malcolm Konner
  • ZR1's Future
  • Sub-$50K Collectors
  • Corvette Tire Technology
  • 1972 Restomod
  • 1973 Big-Block Coupe
  • Power Steering Rebuild
  • Racing: Tommy Milner
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Just 987 miles. That’s how long Adam Balducci could keep his newly purchased 2007 Z06 stock. At that point, in March of 2008, the Elmwood Park, New Jersey resident handed his Atomic Orange Corvette over to the folks at Vette Doctors in Amityville, New York. The car wasn’t in for a few bolt-on mods a bit of carbon-fiber trim. The engine was opened up, headers were bolted on and the leaf springs were tossed; it was given the full performance treatment. “I don’t like stock vehicles,” says Balducci. “After driving for a couple of months, it just didn’t have the power that I anticipated, and I needed more.”

The first-time Corvette owner got bit by the Z06 bug when he drove an ’04 C5 version from Pennsylvania to New York for his father, who had just purchased it used. Knowing the new, C6 version was coming out soon, Balducci bid his time and saved his money. He missed the first year of production, but placed an early order for an ’07 model. Since most of the ’06 Z06s he’d seen were yellow, Balducci ordered an Atomic Orange one, sight unseen. “When I placed the order, the car was being built in two weeks and I kept nagging my wife whether this was a good choice or not,” he recalls. “We decided to stay with it. The day we showed up at the dealer and I saw the car, I knew we’d the right decision.”

Balducci may have been happy with his paint choice, but as already mentioned, he quickly lusted after more engine output. He also wasn’t entirely pleased with the cockpit, either. “The interior of a stock Corvette is not up to my standard,” he says. “I wanted it to match my Range Rover.” Balducci also admits he was looking for a new project to tackle: He’d already transformed his ’93 Chevy 454SS pickup truck into a supercharged Pro Street drag machine.

The first call was to Vette Doctors in neighboring Amityville, New York. Balducci soon worked out a custom engine upgrade catered to his specifications. Knowing that he’d be putting a lot more power to the pavement and not being entirely happy with the stock Corvette’s handling, Balducci also sketched out a thorough suspension upgrade. In March of 2008, he brought his Z06 to Vette Doctors; three months and $13,000 later, he drove home with a distinctly better-performing machine.

Engine Work

As with most engine upgrades, the aim of Balducci’s build was to allow the LS7 to take in more air and discharge spent gases more quickly, but instead of just attacking the intake and exhaust systems, Vette Doctors opened up this small-block V8’s heart. Out came the stock camshaft, in went an RX Sick Stick II. The heads were removed for milling work; when they went back in, they were wearing uprated springs and push rods. The pistons were modified to increase the compression ratio from 11.0:1 to a lofty 12.2:1. A Callaway airbox was paired with a 160-degree thermostat on the intake side, while American Racing headers, high-flow cats and mufflers handle the exhaust.

A conservative pull on Vette Doctor’s chassis dyno—remember, the car still had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer—resulted in 565 horsepower and 515 lbs-ft of torque at the rear wheels. Assuming driveline losses of 15 percent, that’s a 135-horsepower boost over the stock powerplant.

During its stay in Amityville, the Z06 was also given its suspension treatment. The stock leaf spring and shocks were removed and replaced with Pfadt adjustable coil-over dampers. Pfadt also got the nod when it came to the front and rear anti-roll bars. The brakes were left as-is, but the gearbox received a Kirban short-shift kit.

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