Jeff Nowicki is a designer at heart. He’s also an accomplished Corvette racer, but deep down he’d rather be in his studio, shaping clay, studying proportion and balance, and crafting new, racing-inspired identities for America’s Sports Car.
He’s been doing it for about 30 years, starting as a sculptor at GM Design and proceeding through his previous venture, Specter Werkes/Sports, where he channeled his creativity to craft the C5- and C6-based GTR models. Specter built about 40 of them, along with a well-received line of Group 6 bolt-on components.
Nowicki Autosport (www.nowickiautosport.com) is his current venture, and it’s focused on enhancing the looks and performance of late-model Corvettes, including the game-changing, mid-engine C8. Some would argue there’s not much left to add to either category, but Nowicki’s new Concept8 “statement vehicle” suggests otherwise.
“The C8 is the Corvette we’ve all been waiting for, and dynamically, it’s a stunner,” says Nowicki. “But personalization and performance enhancements are also part of Corvette culture, so it was only natural that we dug in to see what we could do with it.”
Nowicki started by ordering a Blade Silver Z51 coupe from Detroit-area dealer Bowman Chevrolet, driving the car straight into his studio after taking delivery. There, he identified various factory components he could replicate or embellish in carbon fiber, while also shaping in clay a set of fender flares that—along with some wider Michelin rubber and Forgeline/Dymag carbon wheels—would recast the car’s stance and overall appearance.
“A wide-body look has always been one of our signatures, and applying that to the C8 was something we planned to do from the very beginning,” says Nowicki. “It gives the car an all-new, even more aggressive look.”
It also enhances the car’s road-holding capability, thanks to a wider footprint, but more on that in a moment. First, let’s review the roster of Concept8 carbon-fiber components developed for the car, which currently includes a front splitter, side-intake door bezels, a Targa-top “bow,” a deck-lid overlay (situated between the removable roof panel and rearview camera), a camera-housing cover, end plates for the rear wing, a rear diffuser, and Stingray badges for the door and deck lid. Under the transparent hood there’s also a carbon engine cover.
That’s a healthy lineup, but Nowicki says it will soon become even more extensive thanks to the addition of rockers, front-grille bezels, mirror caps, an entire rear wing, and more. And while the carbon-fiber elements and wide-body flares are the most tangible and noticeable styling elements of the car, they’re complemented with a custom, matte-black center graphic, outlined in red, created by Image Quest, with callouts to Nowicki Autosports’ longtime racing partners such as Brembo, Michelin, SKF, and Mobil 1. There’s also a red pinstripe on the outer edge of the front splitter that adds a restrained, yet very effective, accent.
An OE-level supplier produces the parts for the Concept8, using lightweight, premium-quality 3K twill carbon material, along with vinyl-ester–infused resin. That’s industry-speak for carbon-fiber cloth with 3,000 filaments per strand and the classic, rich-looking layered-twill pattern rather than a more basic—and cheaper—checkerboard pattern. And for those without a chemical engineering degree reading this, the vinyl-ester–infused resin gives the parts exceptional strength and appearance attributes. These items are clear-coated and hand-polished, too, for that deep, wet look.
Now, about those aggressive-looking fender flares. They add more than 1.5 inches in width per side, enabling the installation of wheels that are a full 2 inches wider in front and 1.5 inches wider in the rear than the stock Z51 rims. (And for those wondering, the answer is yes: The stock fenders do require trimming in order to install the flares and ensure sufficient room for upsized rolling stock.)
The wheels themselves are Forgeline/Dymag CF203 matte-finish rims, measuring 20×10.5 inches in the front and 21×12.5 inches in the rear. These high-tech rollers feature Forgeline aluminum centers mounted on Dymag-produced carbon-fiber “barrels.”
It’s a lightweight combination, with each wheel about 10 pounds lighter than its O.E. counterpart, for a significant 40-pound reduction in un-sprung weight overall. These wheels will also lighten one’s checkbook balance by a not-insignificant sum, but when it comes to the ultimate in form and function, they’re it.
They’re wrapped with Michelin PS4S sticky street rubber, sized 285/25ZR20 in front and 355/25ZR21 in the rear. That makes them 40mm and 55mm wider, respectively, than the stock rubber, for more contact patch on the asphalt. Factor in the added and improved aero elements, and the Concept8 promises to stick harder in corners than those speeding tickets in your insurance agent’s computer.
Nowicki Autosport also worked with Hotchkis to develop unique, adjustable stabilizer bars that further contribute to the car’s cornering capability, which was already at a pretty lofty threshold from the factory.
“Adjustable ‘stab bars’ are great tuning tools that we will refine on the track,” says Nowicki. “The C8 is already a very impressive performer, so the nuance with the Hotchkis parts will be optimizing them with the grip delivered by the wider wheels and tires.”
Admittedly, the Concept8 has up until now spent more time in the design studio than on the track, but Nowicki has made sure to rack up the requisite break-in miles to prep the car for those critical tuning laps. As part of that process, he’s also changed the engine oil from the standard dexos2 synthetic to Mobil 1 0W40 ESP. Additionally, the stock air filter was swapped for an Attack Blue low-restriction filter, and the original header-style exhaust manifolds replaced with real high-flow headers from American Racing Headers. The latter items are purportedly good for 18 additional horsepower and up to 30 lb-ft of torque, all without the need for tuning. Fifty-state certification was pending at press time.
The car wasn’t dyno-tested to confirm those numbers, but we can report the new tubes definitely add a satisfyingly raspy edge to the exhaust note, albeit without being distractingly loud inside the cabin. Of course, it helps that the engine, headers, and exhaust system are all behind the cockpit. Finally, the exhaust pipes are wrapped with Design Engineering’s titanium heat wrap.
More performance enhancements are planned, as the aftermarket performance and tuning community grows for the car.
“Like everyone, we are still exploring the capabilities of the C8 Corvette and where we can take it,” says Nowicki. “It’s very exciting, because we’re just getting started and the possibilities seem almost endless.”
Indeed, that’s the tantalizing prospect for all enthusiasts at the moment. We’re only at the launch of the C8’s design and performance trajectory, but with stunning early examples such as Nowicki Autosports’ Concept8, it promises to be a hell of a ride.
Interesingly, Nowicki didn’t even touch the Corvette’s suede-and-leather-trimmed cockpit, an upgrade that would have been de rigueur on previous models. But the C8’s details, from the contrast stitching in the seats, steering wheel, and leather-wrapped instrument panel to the track-capable sport seats and their built-in pass-throughs for five-point harnesses, left little on which to improve. There’s even authentic carbon-fiber trim from the factory.
“Chevrolet really upped their game with the [C8] Corvette’s interior,” says Nowicki. “It has a truly premium, custom-trimmed look and feel that’s pretty difficult to improve upon at the moment.”
That affords Nowicki’s company time to focus more on the exterior look and performance aspects of the car, and by the looks of things, they’ve been busy.
“We’ve been working literally every day since bringing this car into the shop, designing and producing new parts that will allow enthusiasts to elevate the look and feel of their car,” says Nowicki. “It’s been a fast ramp-up, but an exciting and fulfilling one, as the C8 has reinvigorated enthusiasts everywhere. It’s the best Corvette ever, and I believe we’re doing our best work ever with it.”
Indeed, Jeff Nowicki is hoping that he and his new brand will remain closely linked to the Corvette and the enthusiasts who want to take what the factory gave them to a higher level. For now, the Concept8 represents a rolling portfolio of those possibilities.