No Laughing Matter

Drifting a modified C6 at 100-plus mph is serious business, as Tim Wallin’s ’05 “Joker” coupe proves

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December 28, 2023

“Gnarly.” It’s a word stereotypically uttered by big-wave surfers to describe the wildest and unruliest swells. Yet it also applies to Tim Wallin’s extreme 2005 Corvette, and his harrowing exploits on the track. 

We’ll get to those risky feats in a moment, but let’s first go over some of the buildup details to set the stage. Wallin’s shop in Rancho Cordova, California is dubbed “Whiskey Throttle Racing,” referring to his experiences popping wheelies on a dirt bike and also his heavy foot while drifting. Incidentally, the slip ‘n’ slide sport of drifting just marked its 20th year, and it has clearly evolved into a serious motorsports endeavor in the that span. To wit: The winner of the Formula Drift series now receives a handsome $50,000 in prize money. 

That’s obviously a strong incentive for Wallin to participate. Since buying the C6 in 2018 for $16,000, he has modified it in multiple ways, not only for high performance, but also to rectify the damage from some “setbacks” suffered on the track. All told, he estimates having spent about $100K on various mods and repairs, not counting his many hours of labor.

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He initially built the car’s (non-original) LS3 engine with a forged bottom end, 12.2:1-compression pistons, and shorter rods to work with an extreme cam-lift figure of .650-inch. The CNC-ported heads received bigger valves and stiffer springs, which, along with ARP main and head studs provided the potential to rev past 8,000 rpm. All told, the naturally aspirated setup yielded 580 horses at the rear wheels.

“I actually intended on building this Corvette for my little brother when he was in high school,” Wallin relates. “But when he graduated he decided he wanted a Cadillac instead.”

With the need for street use removed from the equation, what started out as a fun project soon escalated into a car built for serious competition driving. “Race ready—built to handle the harshest driving conditions, while still aesthetically pleasing,” says Wallin.

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Hence the metallic Mamba Green paint over wide-body fenders from Supervettes. At one point Wallin also installed a splitter and side skirts, but those got chewed up in heavy track action. Most of the bodywork was handled in-house at his shop.

To further raise his game, Wallin next swapped out the LS3 for a Chevy Performance LSX 427 built by Texas Speed. The engine is claimed to have a potential supercharged output of 2,800 horses, but currently delivers in the neighborhood of 600 rear-wheel hp in naturally aspirated form. 

Upgrades under the hood include a custom air box with four-inch dual tubes and filters, a Holley Terminator X Max engine computer tuned by John Gibson, and 1700cc FIC fuel injectors. The valvetrain consists of Mast Motorsports Black Label 305 LS7 springs, Comp billet shaft- mount rockers, and a BTR cam.

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Anticipating much higher output with a supercharger in the future, Wallin had the Tremec TR-6060 transmission cryo-treated and built to handle 1,000 or more horses; it’s paired with an RPS billet, triple-disc clutch and flywheel. Other upgrades include a 1,200-hp driveshaft from the Driveshaft Shop, which eliminates the factory rubber coupler and has a clutch-delay valve to reduce the shock from the heavy on-off throttle application that occurs during drifting. An East Coast Supercharging trans brace and a 3.90-geared Z06 rear with G-Force axles round out the driveline.

Regarding the cockpit treatment, in addition to “halo” racing buckets from Status Racing, Wallin added Corbeau Racing five-point harnesses. He also pulled out the stock dash and molded it into a one-piece fiberglass form, installing switches to control the computer, fans, water pump, line lock, headlights, and windows. The prominent hydraulic handbrake protruding right next to the steering wheel—a drift-car must-have—is from FDF RaceShop.

For the gauge cluster, Wallin cut out the center and built a fiberboard box to mount an eight-inch Holley EFI Digital Pro Dash and secondary AFR gauge with four-parameter wide band sensors (measuring ethanol, fuel pressure, air/fuel ratio, and fuel temp). Finally, the custom dash setup was hydro-dipped in a Joker theme that can also be found under the Corvette’s hood.

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Additional fabrication included a six-point Formula D–legal roll cage. The cage itself was designed, pre-bent, and notched by Cage Kits, a company owned by Rob Parsons. Parsons is a well-known Formula Pro driver who has a specially built car with hand controls so that he can drive, even though his legs are paralyzed. The cage installation was done at Drift Cave Motorsports, a firm owned by Matt Field, another well-known Formula Pro wheelman.

Suspension setup is critical with a drift car, and Wallin consequently paid close attention to this area. The front and rear of the frame were boxed in for more support, and to accommodate bolt-on “bash bars” (essentially protective tubing designed to crumple on impact) from True Focus Fabrication. Parts Shop Max provided coil-over shocks and sway bars, while the rolling stock consists Kansei rims measuring 18×9 (front) and 18×10 (rear) and fitted with Accelera tires (245/40-18 and 265/35-18, respectively). For extra stopping power, C6 Z06 front brakes work in concert with Wilwood four-piston calipers on the hydraulic handbrake system.

Don’t Lift, Drift

All of which leads to Wallin’s heart-pounding thrills on the track. One of his favorite recollections has to do with the first time he slid the car at over 100 mph, at Crow’s Landing airstrip in Patterson, California, during a practice session. “I felt like Maverick from Top Gun,” he says of the intense g-forces he experienced.

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Another memorable moment occurred at Sonoma Raceway early in Wallin’s racing career, when the car was still half-stock and running the built LS3 noted at the outset.

“I was doing about 70 mph at full lock in Third gear, heading toward the back corner of the track where there’s a large dip in the ground,” he recalls. “When I tried to pitch the car further, it didn’t respond the way it usually does and went the opposite way, heading straight into the wall and hitting the driver’s side rear of the car.”

When Wallin got back to the pits, he found that the rear body of the car had been cracked in multiple places. The wheel was broken as well, and the control arms and tie rods were bent. Curiously, the pickup point on the spindle for the outer tie rod had broken off at the front of the car. This was confusing because the nose had never come into contact with the wall or anything else. 

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After ordering fresh parts from Sacramento, Wallin walked around the track, talking to various people to figure out what happened. Then someone came up and said they had a video to send him. 

“I got the video, watched it over and over, and saw that in that back corner, when I had driven through the dip in the track at full lock, tire smoke came out of the driver’s side front wheel well,” Wallin says. “Which could only mean that the wheel suspension bottomed out, bound up the wheel, and snapped the pickup on the spindle, which left me with no control of the steering.

“I was sort of relieved knowing my driving hadn’t caused me to crash, but rather [it was] my suspension needing adjustment to avoid this type of scenario.”

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Rectifying this mishap was no simple matter. When the replacement parts finally showed up, it was already dark outside and raining. But Wallin still got under the car and fixed everything so he could complete the weekend session.

Another wild story related to problems with the car going into “limp mode,” whereby it would cut throttle and essentially shut down. While at Hotpit Autofest, a pro exhibition competition held in San Bernardino, the problem got worse, and the C6 went into limp mode on five out of seven laps. 

“Which meant I got nearly no practice on the new layout and had to go straight into competition risking…the car with this issue,” Wallin says. “If you lose throttle, the person behind you is going to hit you.” Which is what happened.

On day one during practice, Wallin did a tandem lap with fellow drift racer Daniel Albrecht following him. After initiating the first turn, they were halfway through the bank when limp mode engaged again. Wallin’s C6 maintained its angle and line but started slowing down immediately, which caused Albrecht to hit the side of the car. Upon inspecting the damage, Wallin found several fiberglass cracks on the body as well as a bent rear upper control arm.

“I knew Parts Shop Max was an hour-and-a-half away, so I drove down that night,” he recalled. “I bought a new control arm and came back the next day to fix it and drive.” But when he got the car taken apart, he realized he had bought the wrong arm. With only four hours until comp, he got in the truck, drove back down to the parts shop, swapped it for the right one, and came back. He fixed the car and got in line for competition with 10 minutes to spare. 

That instance did not mark the end of Wallin’s mechanical issues, however. His first battle in the Top 32 category was against Rome Charpentier, a well known Formula Pro 1 driver. 

“We started the battle with me leading, [and] after initiating into the first turn everything seemed fine until transitioning into the second turn,” Wallin recalls. “When I let off throttle and went to get back on, the car went into limp mode again and Rome’s car slid sideways directly into the front of me.

“The damages to my car [couldn’t be repaired] at the track, so I was done for the weekend. Rome’s car’s frame was severely bent and couldn’t even drive straight, but he still managed to win Second Place.”

While Wallin is still on the hunt for a podium finish in Formula D, he has won Holley’s LS Fest West burnout contest three years in a row. At one event, after gunning the engine for a minute and 38 seconds to hit a 150-mph wheel speed, a fresh tire blew off the rim, throwing bits of rubber onto the hot exhaust where it promptly ignited. In that brief exhibition, the big engine consumed nine gallons of fuel.

“I need to become a millionaire,” Wallin laughs. Undeterred, he plans to add a centrifugal supercharger and a new fuel system to nearly double the LSX’s output for future competitions. All with the goal of adding his name and Joker drifter to the growing roster in Formula D’s Hall of Fame.

Also from Issue 167

  • 1960 Camoradi Racecar
  • Restored ’55 Driver
  • L46-Powered ’66 Roadster
  • Racing: Inside PME
  • Origins of the Grand Sport
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