For a reliable indicator of the general state of the Corvette hobby, one could do worse than to look to the aftermarket. Consider the 1970s, when a vitiating mix of regulatory constraints and changing buyer preferences reduced onetime performance peddlers to hawking everything from seemingly Mad Max–inspired fender flares to full-on limousine conversion kits. The worst of these cars represented the brand’s fat-Elvis-in-Vegas moment: garish, lamentable and often unintentionally hilarious.
Thanks to the introduction of the revolutionary “Gen III” engine architecture in 1997, the world of modified Corvettes took a decisive turn toward respectability during the C5 era. A cottage industry of speed-parts vendors quickly sprung up around the thoroughly tweakable LS1, and leading tuners began vying to one-up each other with ever more remarkable feats of acceleration and output. By the time the C6 era came to an end in 2013, 1,000-horsepower Vettes were prowling the streets from Dallas to Dubai.
As the owner of Redline Motorsports in Pompano Beach, Florida, Howard Tanner understands the value of staying at the very forefront of the rapidly evolving Corvette-performance scene. It’s not surprising, then, that he was among the very first customers to take delivery of a 2014 Stingray when the new model went on sale in late 2013.
“We were excited about the new ‘Gen V’ [LT1] small-block, and anxious to get our hands inside the new E92 processor that was controlling…the direct-injection technology,” Tanner says. “The car was ordered very early, and with a little help from inside the GM corporate machine, we received car number 95 on November 3.”
Getting a jump on the competition was especially important with the C7, given the comprehensive nature of its redesign. Unlike the C6, which shared its basic chassis and engine layouts with its immediate predecessor, the seventh-generation car retained just two inconsequential bits from the former model. As such, it was effectively a “clean slate” for aftermarket tuners, the most industrious of whom recognized an opportunity to be first to market with popular power-boosting parts like headers, cold-air induction packages and even internal engine components.
Perhaps more important, the Stingray furnished shops like Redline with a prime opportunity to log the kind of performance “firsts” that generate valuable buzz in the Corvette community. And since the new car was already capable of high-11-second quarter-mile times in unmodified form, Tanner decided to set his sights on a more ambitious bogey: the 10s. As it turned out, not all of the factory hardware was on board with his plan.
“Upon arrival the car was brought directly to Palm Beach International Raceway to see what GM had whipped up,” Tanner says. “With 65 miles on the clock and plastic still on the seats, we managed to scatter the differential all over the starting line.”