Let me tell you a little story. Last Christmas, I needed to get a tree, and the only vehicle at my disposal was a silver Chevrolet Corvette Z06. So, I bungeed my chosen evergreen to the roof, and I was on my way home when I decided to roll into the throttle at about 40 mph in second gear. That supernova of an LS7 engine pulled into the meat of the powerband, and with cold tires, the car's rear end began lazily crabbing sideways as if I were on a frozen pond. I went with it, modulating the throttle, countersteering, and wondering if any bystanders were around to appreciate the spectacle of a sideways Corvette with a Christmas tree on its roof.
I mention this because it seems that the last thing the Corvette Z06 needs is more power. As it stands, the Z06 represents Ferrari F430 performance for sub-Porsche 911 money. With 505 hp crammed into a car that weighs barely more than 3000 pounds, the Z06 is a terror on the track and a weapon at the drag strip. There's only one problem: that other domestic supercar icon, the one with ten cylinders and all the nuanced subtlety of a WWE cage fight, just got a major horsepower infusion aimed at taking the Z06 down a peg. With the Dodge Viper now packing an even 600 horses, the volley is back to Chevrolet, and it appears the company's preparing a hell of a return.
Let's assume for a moment that Chevy does not intend to receive a daily power-wedgie while Dodge marches around the hallways thumping its chest and yelling "Mopar rules!" Let's assume that Chevy is readying the baddest Corvette ever built, and this impending dreadnought will extract about 650 hp from a supercharged V-8. Well, that's something that we'd like to compare with the new Viper, isn't it? Unfortunately, we're guessing that you won't see that hypothetical showdown until next summer, and we can't wait that long to find out how a 600-plus-hp Vette compares with the 600-horse Viper. That's why we got a hold of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and their four-wheeled, 626-hp crystal ball.
Lingenfelter offers a range of modifications for the Corvette, but the Z06 package is the one that appears most germane to predicting the potential performance of Chevy's upcoming flagship. When I first saw that Lingenfelter squeezed more than 120 extra horses from the Z06, I figured that forced induction must be involved. But, in general, the bigger the engine, the more latent power there is to unlock, and the LS7 is the Andre the Giant of modern V-8s.
Thus, Lingenfelter is able to break the 600-hp barrier through old-fashioned hot-rodding tricks, and it all comes down to better breathing. The engine is removed and partially disassembled. The cylinder heads are ported and polished. There's a multiangle valve job, new induction plumbing, exhaust headers, and, most obviously, a more aggressive cam. I say "most obviously" because the cam is responsible for the Lingenfelter car's defining personality trait--a stuttering, ragged idle that's so mean it belongs in Michael Vick's kennel. Fire up a Lingenfelter Z06 in Toledo, and you set off tsunami warnings in Taiwan.
All this gratuitous bad-assedness costs a bit more than $10,000 installed, and fears of fragged LS7s are assuaged by a three-year/ 36,000-mile warranty. The blue beast loaned to us by Lingenfelter customer and all-around fine American Bob Sullivan also has a few extra goodies, including gooey Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires that stick like a flip-flop on hot chewing gum but also follow every imperfection in the road, so the total bill is $13,212. That would put it right in the same mid-$80,000 ballpark as a certain car that begins with "V" and ends with "iper." However, this car carries 7440 dollars' worth of supersize Brembo brakes, which push the total price over the $90,000 mark but are probably strong enough to stop a Freightliner headed down the ski jump at Lillehammer.