When the performance-bred ZR1 was put to bed in 1995, Chevrolet needed to fill the gap left in the upper echelon. New for 1996 were two different options: the Grand Sport, which utilized the high-revving LT4 with 330 horses (a noticeable dip in power from the previous model's LT5, rated at 405 hp) and signature paint scheme, as well as the one-year-only Collector Edition. Available in special trim and Sebring Silver, the Collector Edition sported the previous year's ZR1 17-inch rims painted silver to match the body. Aside from three selections of interior colors and accruements, the Collector Edition didn't offer much over the stock Vette, both using the 300hp 350 LT1 in automatic versions. Buying the optional six-speed, equipped the Collector Edition with the Grand Sport LT4 mill. Special embroidery and badging distinguished the silver Collector Edition from the rest of the Corvettes. It is difficult to mistake a Collector Edition for a standard Corvette when every panel sports specialized markings.
When it came time for Dick and Jill Countryman of Belvidere, Illinois, to begin enjoying their retirement, Dick had a different idea than Jill as to what retirement meant. Dick discovered this silver Collector Edition in a local newspaper. The '96 was in good, straight condition, and only sported a couple of modifications that didn't sit well with Dick's tastes. Dick convinced his wife the Corvette would prove to be a good investment. She went along on the trip to look at the car, thinking they were just going to look. Jill thought her husband would look over the car, stew over the price, and go back home. But Jill misjudged her husband's love for these cars. the coupe only needed minor TLC, and immediately got under Dick's skin. He paid the owner the money and brought the Corvette home.
Puzzled at her husband, Jill watched as Dick jumped head first into what he claimed would only be a "winter project." Dick is no stranger to Corvettes; he owns a '77 Stingray that is more a toy for him than her. Jill, this time around, wanted to drive this Corvette. Making sure the modifications didn't veer from drivable and stock to wild and crazy, Jill OK'd the removal of the Flowmaster exhaust system that was installed by the previous owner. Dick then installed a brand-new Magnaflow exhaust and restored the original LT1 manifolds while he was at it. Dick dedicated a winter's worth of labor into restoring the factory originality of the Collector Edition, swapping out fluids, replacing tires, changing the brakes with new aftermarket rotors and pads, and flushing the brake lines. There are many tricks that husbands do to Corvettes that allow for more power without letting their wives know.
Dick allowed the small-block a little more breathing space with a K&N filter kit and air foil. In addition, Dick sprang for a Hypertech programmer, drastically altering the computer control on the LT1's fans and heat control. Dick noted a noticeable improvement in the Corvette's throttle response. Other modifications include chroming the ZR1 rims and mounting aggressive Firestone Firehawk rubber to the 811/42- and 911/42-inch wheels. Dick left the light grey interior alone since it was in such immaculate condition when he bought it; it only needed some minor detailing and cleaning.
What brought Jill around was the final product of all Dick's efforts. Their Collector Edition is now regularly driven when the weather clears and the roads are open. Not only is it driven to shows, but it's been the traveling vehicle for road trips and vacations, as well. And it's not just Dick who gets to sit behind the wheel, Jill has been known to mash the pedal to the floorboards as often as she wants!