The APS turbochargers fitted to the Corvette were originally designed to produce about 8 psi of boost. Brandt was not satisfied with this, so he cranked them up to 20 psi, resulting in a monumental 863 horsepower and 845 lbs-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Predictably, the turbos failed in less than a year, necessitating a comprehensive rebuild. At about the same time the turbos got fixed, Brandt decided to go through “The Tuning School” in Odessa, Florida. This intensive two-day course taught him both the underlying theory and hands-on mechanics of extracting the most power from today’s advanced, electronically fuel-injected engines. It did not, however, convince him that moderation was a prudent tenet to live by, so he continued to run 20 psi of boost. Not surprisingly, the turbos failed again less than a year after the first rebuild.
By 2009, APS was out of the turbocharging business and parts for its systems were getting rather scarce. This, combined with the obvious fact that another rebuild would lead to another failure as long as he continued to run with such high boost pressure, led Brandt to seek another solution. He found a vendor who was making custom exhaust housings for the APS kit. This allowed the installation of larger, precision ball-bearing turbos.
The bigger and stronger turbos delivered 20-psi boost without self-destructing, but the blindingly fast Corvette was certainly a long way from its initial role as an everyday driver. One big reason for this was the car’s fueling requirements. “Because of the high boost I was running,” Brandt explains, “I had to fill the tank with racing fuel. At $16 per gallon it was way too expensive to use the car with any regularity.”
One possible solution was to reduce the boost and Brandt did that, sort of. He set up the engine to operate on 10-psi boost most of the time, while incorporating an AMS-1000 electronic boost controller that doubles boost to 20 psi with the push of a button mounted on the front of the shifter. Of course, this didn’t really solve the problem of extraordinarily high fuel cost because he still had to run race gas all the time so he could crank up the boost some of the time. So Brandt came up with another solution to his dilemma.
“I decided to use my knowledge of tuning and switch the car to run on E85 ethanol gas,” he says. “E85 pump gas delivers 105 octane and does an excellent job of cooling the engine’s incoming air charge. It costs me about $3.19 per gallon for E85, and there are more and more stations selling it so it’s relatively easy to find.”
Ethanol does have a drawback, however. As many people in the Rust Belt noticed when the government began mandating that ethanol be blended into regular pump gas in an effort to reduce pollution during the cold winter months, it takes more ethanol than oil-derived gasoline for your car to go the same distance. So while E85 costs a whole lot less than race fuel, you have to buy more of it to travel the same number of miles—up to 30 percent more. “But that difference is more than erased by the fact that racing fuel costs nearly five times as much as ethanol,” says Brandt.
The economics clearly argue in favor of ethanol, but the reduced efficiency of the corn-based fuel does create another problem. Because it takes more of the stuff to power the car, the engine’s fuel system has to be capable of delivering all that added volume. Brandt’s Corvette already had dual Walbro pumps that could be dialed up to move more fuel to the engine, but the injectors weren’t capable of handling it once it got there. To solve that problem Brandt turned to Injector Dynamics; the company’s ID 2000 fuel injectors are well suited to a high-powered engine running E85.
With fuel costs reduced by about 75 percent, Brandt drives the car a lot more than he used to. While still preserving the luxuries of a stock C5, this Corvette offers up astounding performance, thanks in large measure to the chassis, drivetrain and brake system modifications—and, of course, the highly tuned twin-turbo engine.