|Corvette C5 Performance|
|I dont think there are many people out there who will dispute
the claim that the C5 is the best Corvette ever. With its combination of strong, smooth
engine, rigid structure, and terrific chassis dynamics, even in stock form it is generally
more than a match for its older brothers. However, that isnt to say that a good
thing cant be made better, and Im sure that many of you out there are the sort
who like to tinker with their Corvettes. You have probably also realized that there
isnt much available yet for the C5 in terms of high-performance equipment. This
isnt because nobody cares, but because the C5 is different in so many ways that it
is taking the aftermarket a while to get back on the learning curve.
Here at Mallett Cars, weve been working on the C5 since before its public introduction. With this head start, weve been able to more fully explore the C5s performance envelope than most other tuners, and have been researching what works and what doesnt longer than anyone. In addition, we have almost 40 years of racing experience, and have built high-performance cars ranging from the record-setting ZR-1 on display in the Smithsonian Institution to the Hot Rod Magazine 1996 Hot Rod of the Year 1967 Camaro. When we produce a product for the C5 it is based on race testing, not hype, not seat-of-the-pants guesswork, but documented, scientific, race-ready engineering. If it doesnt work, we dont put it on our cars, and we dont sell it. Its that simple. We sell high-performanceyou guys who want taillight covers and chrome wheels will have to shop somewhere else.
Dont worry, the performance parts will come. However, they will probably be different parts than most enthusiasts are accustomed to bolting onto their Corvettes. For example, there will not be a wonder chip for the C5. The design of the C5s computer is different than any previous unit, and does not have a provision for a chip interface, particularly with the new OBD-II code. The computer itself may be considered a chip, and without reprogramming the unit itself, there are virtually no parameters that can (or should) be changed. The factory has done an outstanding job of tuning the LS-1, and moving it too far outside its factory parameters can result in reduced horsepower and driveability, not more performance, and certainly nothing youll feel.
Another good example is the exhaust system. The advice I give our customers who are interested in exhaust systems, Mallett or otherwise, is to buy based on sound and appearance alone, since no exhaust system for the C5 will produce any significant power gains. You can probably expect 10 horsepower or so, but that will be more apparent on a dyno than from the drivers seat. If anyone makes claims of big power gains through a pair of mufflers, ask to see their test data. Youll probably find that a lot of claims are more "guess-t-imates" than dyno-proven fact.
So what does work? Well, you can always count on the old standbys: cubic inches, cams, and ported heads. They worked in the 60s, and they work even better today with the computer-controlled engine systems on new cars. EFI makes big torque numbers easy to find, and the computer can easily compensate for the airflow that a larger cam or ported heads can generate. Try that with a carburetor.
Also bear in mind that a car is a collection of SYSTEMS working together. Sure, a hot-rod motor will make the car faster, but Ill wager its not as fast as a car with a big motor and a fully developed suspension to hook it up. And my personal motto is: Brakes Save Lives. They wont make you faster, but sooner or later, youll be glad theyre there. When building your Corvette, please remember that horsepower alone doesnt a fast car make.
If you have any questions about the C5 or C5 components, or comments about this article, we would like to hear them. If enough questions about the same topic come in, well add it to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the Mallett Cars web site (www.mallettcars.com). We can also be reached at 440/243-8550 or by mail at:
484 Geiger St.
Berea, OH 44017
Mallett Design Engineer