48-hour Corvette showcases custom parts makers

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Don’t feel bad the next time that shade-tree mechanic project takes you longer than you expected. It happens even to the experts.

“We didn’t finish the car in 48 hours,”said Mike Copeland, vice president of operations for Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, the Indiana-based but Michigan-owned company that was one of nearly two dozen such specialists taking part in the “Forty Eight Hour Corvette” project.

It was in 2010, at the annual SEMA Show (the aftermarket automotive showcase held each fall in Las Vegas) that a conversation led to building, from the ground up, a complete early-generation Chevrolet Camaro that would be ready to hit the track in just 48 hours.

The project was coordinated and done at Ridetech, the Indiana-based suspension specialist, and Ridetech got the band back together a few weeks ago, this time to see if it could do a third-generation Corvette build within 48 hours.

“We worked three 16-hour days,” Copeland said of the Corvette build. “We got the car running within 48 hours, but the wiring proved to be a more difficult task (than expected).”

One reason, he said, is that the team “got carried away adding stuff to the car,” some of it involving prototype parts and additional sensors and wiring.

“Everything from an electrical standpoint was much, much more involved,” Copeland said.

And, he added, “All of us underestimated that it was a Corvette. We did the Camaro last time and we could get four or five people in a Camaro (working at the same time).”

But that wasn’t the case with the tighter confines of a Corvette.

However, he added, “In 48 hours we had it running and could have stuck a seat in it and been just a half-hour late doing a burnout,” Copeland said, “But everybody was just so beat.”

And almost everybody had commitments that involved being somewhere at that point, so folks such as Copeland headed back to their offices and garages while the Ridetech staff finished the car the next day and drove it to the new race track at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for its shakedown laps.

The 48-Hour Corvette makes its official public debut at a Goodguys Rod & Custom Association show later this month and then heads out on the autocross circuit, where it will join the 48-Hour Camaro, which has been racing some 40 weekends a year since its build.

“They’ve put 22,000 miles on it at race tracks in four years,” Copeland said, adding that Lingenfelter recently “freshened” the engine in the Camaro so it’s ready to return to the track this season.

One reason the C3 Corvette was chosen for this 48-hour build was that owners of early-generation Corvettes see the extreme performance potential in the more recent versions of the car and wonder if they can upgrade their own cars’ dynamic potential.

The goal was to show how it can be done — and quickly — by using aftermarket parts from the likes of Ridetech, Lingenfelter, Bear Brake Systems, Optima Batteries, Racepak, QuickTrick, American Autowire, Magnaflow, Holley and others.

Copeland said that while some of the parts used were recently developed prototype components, two of each such parts were on hand — one to be installed on the 48-Hour Corvette and the other a duplicate to be used as the basis of a production component. Those new components will be available for Corvette owners as soon as the parts can be produced and distributed.

For more details on the 48-Hour Corvette project and the companies involved, visit the www.ridetech.com website. For more on Lingenfelter and its products, visit www.lingenfelter.com.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.