Nuclear Proliferation

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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However, Balducci had by no means ordered a conservative engine. The Sick Stick II camshaft was swapped for Vette Doctors’ even hotter Sick Stick III grind. While replacing all the valves and springs was done as a precaution, bolting on an NEX nitrous-oxide system definitely was not. The switches for this 100-shot power booster are neatly concealed inside the ashtray. The exhaust system was retained, but a larger FAST 102 intake manifold was needed to keep up with the requirements of the heavy-breathing motor.

Balducci didn’t get his Z06 back until the end of January. It may have been in the shop nine months, but the actual work only took about two. This was the result of Vette Doctors being busy and Balducci taking time to decide exactly what he wanted—not an easy task considering the wide range of options. “The nitrous was a last-minute decision,” he says. In the end, the engine work set him back a heady $23,500. In return, he got a Z06 with an estimated 625 horsepower at the rear wheels—that’s before unleashing the juice. With that in mind, Balducci’s goal of achieving an output of 700 horsepower appears well in hand. Once the engine is fully broken in, a dyno test will hopefully confirm that fact.

Proof in the Pudding

Dyno sheet or no, this Corvette is brutally fast. “As soon as the vehicle starts, not only do you hear the rumble of the cam, you can feel it—the fenders shake,” says Balducci. “Once the clutch engages, you feel the power. After 3,500 rpm, it just becomes a beast, the sound is something very distinct—my wife says it sounds like steel breaking. Makes those fine-tuned Lamborghinis sound stale.”

Translating all those naturally aspirated ponies into forward movement can be a little tricky. “It gets loose in the first three gears,” says Balducci. “It takes total concentration and an experienced driver to handle all that power. It’s like trying to tame a wild animal.”

Initially, Balducci was concerned that the Corvette wouldn’t be as fast as his other wild animal, the Pro Street pickup, which happens to have a blown 502-cubic-inch V8. “I wasn’t sure that the Vette would feel even more powerful than that truck, which has tons of torque,” he says. “But the doctors did their job and that Vette pulls harder than any other vehicle that I’ve ever been in. Even at speeds of 150 mph, it still pulls hard.” All these comments are based on standard gasoline, not the nitrous-oxide enriched variety, flowing through the engine.

Balducci is also very pleased with how the car goes around corners. “It handles like it’s on rails,” he says. “The suspension keeps the car planted to the ground. When it was stock, it was a little scary at higher speeds; the rear end would skip around. This is how the Z06 should have come stock from the factory.”

While Balducci admits that some ride quality was lost as a result of the stiffer springs, he says that the Z06 is still very streetable. “My wife and I have gone on two-hour rides and we’ve had no discomfort issues,” he says, quickly adding, “I’ve been lucky to have the full support and encouragement from my wife on everything I’ve done, and even plan to do, to the Vette.”

Wait, plan to do? Balducci isn’t done yet? As with most project cars, this Z06 is destined to be an eternal work in progress. There are some more finishing details he wants to add to the dashboard, and he’s eyeing some new rims. Then there are the racing seats, harnesses and roll bar he’s considering adding. Getting the car on track is definitely part of the plan.

One thing he doesn’t plan to do is sell the Corvette anytime soon; he’s definitely not grown tired of it. “I’ve had this car for four and a half years, and I still feel that adrenaline rush each time I get in,” Balducci says. Plus there is the fact that his 8-year-old son already has designs on it.