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Corvette C5 Performance mallett435.jpg (25715 bytes)


I don’t 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 isn’t to say that a good thing can’t be made better, and I’m sure that many of you out there are the sort who like to tinker with their Corvettes. You have probably also realized that there isn’t much available yet for the C5 in terms of high-performance equipment. This isn’t 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, we’ve been working on the C5 since before its public introduction. With this head start, we’ve been able to more fully explore the C5’s performance envelope than most other tuners, and have been researching what works and what doesn’t 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 doesn’t work, we don’t put it on our cars, and we don’t sell it. It’s that simple. We sell high-performance—you guys who want taillight covers and chrome wheels will have to shop somewhere else.

Don’t 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 C5’s 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 it’s factory parameters can result in reduced horsepower and driveability, not more performance, and certainly nothing you’ll 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 driver’s seat. If anyone makes claims of big power gains through a pair of mufflers, ask to see their test data. You’ll 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 60’s, 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 I’ll wager it’s 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 won’t make you faster, but sooner or later, you’ll be glad they’re there. When building your Corvette, please remember that horsepower alone doesn’t 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, we’ll 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:

Mallett Cars, LTD.
484 Geiger St.
Berea, OH 44017
FAX: 440/243-6211
Matt Harwood
Mallett Design Engineer

e-Mail: mallett.cars@pcohio.net

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