Want stronger acceleration from your Corvette? Who doesn't! The traditional prescription to modify any car is by adding horsepower, stickier tires, and, perhaps, more favorable gearing. But there is another path to faster acceleration, and it's cheap by comparison. It's learning to drive the car better, by adopting optimal driver techniques that can extract all the performance Chevy has already built into your car.
This is part one of a Corvette Fever special three-part series focusing on driving techniques for maximum acceleration in a six-speed Corvette. John Armstrong, well known as "Ranger" on the Corvette Forum and other Internet fast-driving communities, has set quarter-mile records in three different Z06s. And last fall in his '06 Z06, he set the all-time record for stock Corvettes on drag radial tires at 10.85 at 129.50 mph. He's also run 11.24/127.03 on the stock run-flat tires, five-tenths of a second under the Chevy specification for the Z06-that equates to about a six car-length improvement.
In part one, we have asked John to share with Corvette Fever readers his background driving Corvettes. In part two, he will describe his specific techniques for achieving maximum acceleration. Part three, hopefully, will be a shootout featuring John driving a stock C6 Z06 against some legendary Corvettes set up for the dragstrip. This last segment is still in the planning stages at this printing so keep your fingers crossed.
John shares,My life changed for the better back in 1960 when someone at Williams Chevrolet in Milford, Ohio, neglected to lock a door on a newly arrived Corvette. The car was white and hypnotically beautiful in the moonlight. I dropped the kickstand on my bicycle, tried the driver's door, squealed yippee when it opened, and climbed in. I was only 14 years old, but I spent a long time that night shifting through the gears, clutch in, clutch out-1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and then repeated the process, over and over. I shifted until my clutch leg got tired, rested, and did it all over again. From that day on, I knew Corvettes were in my future.
Light 'em up Ranger heats...
Light 'em up
Ranger heats the tires on his '02 Z06 at Atco Raceway, Atco, New Jersey, November 2004.
In The Beginning Ranger in...
In The Beginning
Ranger in his 427/435hp '68 Corvette near West Point, New York, in March 1968.
Pit Boss Ranger in the pits...
Ranger in the pits after setting the record for a bone-stock Z06: 11.81 at 117.26. Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek, Maryland, November 2003.
The Corvette dream became a reality as graduation from West Point approached, and I bought my first car. My choice was a new '68 Corvette convertible with the 427/435hp engine, four-speed transmission, and 3.70 rearend. It was among the fastest production cars of the day. That summer I drove the '68 427 on my first ten passes at the dragstrip, old Edgewater near Cincinnati. My best runs, all stock including the tires, were 13.4-13.5 seconds e.t. at a trap speed of 109 mph.
The L71 Corvette demanded finesse with the clutch and throttle because its narrow tires were easy to blow away on launch and shifts. I learned to focus on traction to avoid losing match races with the 427 Fords and the Hemi Dodges I encountered on the street. I also experienced the perils of driver error, trashing one transmission by a missed shift. The root cause: wearing slick, leather-soled shoes while hammering through the gears. Fortunately for me, Chevy covered replacement of that M21 transmission. that incident remains my only driver-induced breakage in a Corvette.
On departing to fight in the Vietnam war, I left the Corvette for my mother to sell. Turned out she sold it to Roger Penske, a legendary racer even then. He flew into town, inspected and testdrove my car, wrote mom a check for the asking price, and then drove that Corvette away . . . all in 20 minutes. Penske moved fast.
Thirty-three years later, my interest in drag racing was rekindled quite accidentally. In the spring of 2001, while on a Sunday solo cruise in my Z06 (stock except for a cold-air intake), I happened by a Maryland dragstrip called Capitol Raceway. In a fateful, spur-of-the-moment decision, I turned in the gate and went through technical inspection successfully. I just had to promise the inspector I'd scrounge up a helmet the rules required.