The name John Lingenfelter has become a legend in the world of performance engineering. For over 30 years, it has been synonymous with world-class performance, taking great cars and trucks and reinventing them.
Lingenfelter has twice worked his magic on this 1999 Corvette, adding twin turbochargers and beefy internals to its 346-ci LS1 and taking the car to 226 mph for a Motor Trend cover story, which called it “the fastest, meanest street-legal car we’ve ever tested.”
Now the Torch Red coupe, serial number 001 in that first series of Lingenfelter C5 Stage II twin turbos, is faster and meaner than ever, because the original LS1 has been replaced by another Lingenfelter-built powerhouse. Displacing 427 cubic inches, the specially prepared, all-aluminum LS7 is fitted with a 4340 forged steel crank, JE forged aluminum pistons on forged Manley rods, and the entire assembly computer-balanced. A custom Lingenfelter hydraulic roller camshaft works stainless steel intake and Inconel exhaust valves in CNC ported-and-polished heads.
The turbocharging system was developed by John Lingenfelter and has been proven in hundreds of reliable installations. Comprising two liquid cooled, engine-oil-lubricated Garrett true ball bearing turbochargers, Lingenfelter compressor, and exhaust housings with integral waste gates, twin high efficiency air-to-air intercoolers and 304 stainless steel 4-into-1 custom exhaust manifolds, the system generates over 905 fire-breathing rear-wheel horsepower.
Carefully considered upgrades were performed on the drivetrain, suspension and brakes to compensate for the increased power. A triple-disc carbon fiber clutch was installed, along with a hardened, high-strength driver’s side half shaft for durability and Hotchkiss sway bars for handling response. The original LPE-designed Lingenfelter Signature Series wheels were sent back to manufacturer HRE and reinforced with stronger hubs to handle higher torque loads, then fitted with the latest high-speed Michelin tires. Six-piston front and four-piston rear Baer calipers with vented and slotted rotors are capable of slowing the car from well over 200 mph in little more than a heartbeat. Occupant safety is thoroughly addressed with a bolt-in roll bar, safety harness, and fire extinguisher.
Custom-built and later upgraded by Corvette performance guru John Lingenfelter, this overwhelming performer is well documented with detailed records, videos, dynamometer performance sheets, and autographed memorabilia.
|Vehicle:||1999 Lingenfelter LS7 Twin-Turbo Coupe|
|Number Produced:||10 Lingenfelter coupes (18,078 C5 coupes) in 1999|
|Original List Price:||$48,725 with options LPE mods for $90,000 total. $70,000 more spent on LS7 conversion|
|Tune Up Cost:||Same as new LS-7; less than $350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Driver’s side dash at windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad forward of cylinder head on right side|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society|
|Alternatives:||2010 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, 1997–2001 Callaway C12|
This car sold for $84,800, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Original Spring Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana, on May 17, 2009. With its extensive aftermarket alterations and an interesting history of performance upgrades and documentation, the sale price seems healthy enough for a ten-year-old Corvette. However, the two upgrades to the car over the past ten years cost prior owners close to $100,000, not counting fuel, routine maintenance, and insurance. Or the initial purchase price of the car.
Dick McKee, a Florida resident, owned this Torch Red Corvette and sent it to Lingenfelter Performance Engineering in early 2000 for the 650-horsepower, twin-turbo upgrade package—cost at the time, $40,000. LPE used the original block, heads, and intake, although their special technologies, engineering, and performance internals readily doubled the factory horsepower.
Other than the addition of Baer brakes, a dual-disc clutch (to hold the 600 ft-lb of torque), adjustable Penske shocks, and narrower tires, the car was stock.
Previous record in Callaway Sledgehammer
In 2000, just after the work for McKee had been completed, Motor Trend magazine suggested that John Lingenfelter attempt a street-legal speed record run at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio with this car. John had previously set a world record driving for Reeves Callaway in the 1988 Callaway Sledgehammer, going through the clocks at 254.8 mph.
At the track, on the day of this attempt, the air temperature was just above freezing, with a slight tailwind. In order to keep the back end of the car on the ground, 300 pounds of sand bags were stuffed into the rear compartment of the car. Instrumentation showed 6,050 rpm in fifth gear, and it made 226 mph. It was undoubtedly quite a ride, but still 30 mph shy of the Sledgehammer’s ten-year-old record, so the team and the magazine reporters went home disappointed. The gap between the Lingenfelter’s 640 hp and the Callaway Sledgehammer’s 898 hp was too big to bridge. In fact, nothing challenged the Callaway record for 16 years until the 1,000-hp Bugatti Veyron came along in 2005. It had a claimed top speed of “only” 253 mph, and it wasn’t until 2008 that the Shelby SSC squeaked by its 20-year-old rival with a top speed of 255 mph.
McKee kept the car for many years, but eventually sold it to another Florida resident, Talmadge Dobbs. As if the first LPE modification was not enough (can it ever be too fast?), the new owner sent the car back to Lingenfelter for a second upgrade.
This time, an all-aluminum, 427-ci LS7 with twin Garrett turbochargers was installed. The price tag was close to $70,000 and constituted Lingenfelter’s 725-horsepower engine package. Baer six-piston front/four-piston rear brakes were added, as were remotely adjustable Penske shocks, an octane boost controller, a Ron Davis radiator, special wheels, and Michelin Pilot Sport IIs. To accommodate the fat tires riding on 19″ x 12″ rear wheels, the car was “mini-tubbed.” The octane boost controller has settings for 93/100/109 octane. With 93 octane fuel, the 8.5:1 compression motor puts out 750 horsepower; with 109 octane fuel, the horsepower is 905.
Between McKee and Dobbs, they enjoyed over 40,000 miles of high-performance drivability before Dobbs put the car up for auction.
The new owner gets a great driver with only 1,800 miles on the “new” engine, a three-disc carbon fiber clutch, Hotchkiss sway bars, roll bar, safety harnesses, and the fact that his Corvette is most certainly one of one. If he has a mind to pursue the Sledgehammer’s 254.8 mph record, it would seem to be attainable.
However, while a fast car, it was clearly a financial disaster, as are nearly all custom performance cars. In fact, for the money the new owner spent, he could have his pick of a new Z06 with change left over, or be two-thirds of the way to a new ZR1—either of which represent new technology and, wonder of wonders, a factory warranty.
In that light, I call this car very well sold. The new owner has an unusual, one-off car with an interesting history, and if you equate thrills with dollars, this was a good buy. If you’re merely counting greenbacks like Mr. Scrooge in his vault, the sellers didn’t recover much of their investment, and the new owner shouldn’t expect to get his money back when he goes to sell it himself