Life is too short not to live every moment like you mean it. How many people wake up in the morning and want to spend their day doing something boring. Not Scottsdale, Arizona's Vern Gamble. Vern has never been one to sit idly by and let life slip past him. Whether he's restoring or riding one of his vintage motorcycles, spray-painting or airbrushing custom cars, or making his living with the Phoenix Fire Department, Vern is always doing something that he finds fun and exciting.
Vern used to own a '77 that he bought brand new. It was Corvette Light Blue (metallic) with a Smoked Grey leather interior, which he sold (in mint condition) in 1984 with only 16,000 miles. Back then, he was preoccupied with motorcycle racing and didn't have much time to enjoy the Corvette.
Now, however, Vern is back into having fun on four wheels. For several years, he has headed out to L.A. for his birthday, where he would rent a Viper for the weekend and cut loose on the Sunset Strip or cruise Pacific Coast Highway. "I thought I really liked them and wanted to get one," Vern reminisces, "until I drove a C5 Corvette." One fateful year, the Viper Vern planned on renting was in the shop, so they insisted that he accept a C5 on the house until the Viper was fixed. "It was a black-on-black convertible. The first mile out, I knew this was a car I had to have. I kept the Vette for the whole weekend even though the Viper was fixed." Of course, if he was going to buy another Corvette, Vern had to go all the way to ensure no Viper could outrun it. Thus, his '00 Bowling Green six-speed coupe got special treatment from Doug Rippie Motorsports, who applied their full DRM Signature Series C500/RSR package to it. Vern's car is DRM C500/RSR number 006, and has received ample enhancements to the powertrain, braking, and suspension systems, as well as numerous purposeful upgrades inside and out.
The Rippie conversion began by rebuilding the LS1 into a 382-cid stroker motor with billet connecting rods, forged pistons, and CNC-ported cylinder heads with a racing valvetrain and titanium retainers. A bigger MAF sensor, custom DRM camshaft, cold air intake, and computer programming were combined with custom exhaust manifolds, and a Tri-Flo stainless steel exhaust to produce serious power. Vern added an '02 Z06 intake manifold and a ported throttle body to his C5 in addition to Rippie's tweaks to produce a reported 512 horsepower that is backed up by lots of torque. Rippie upgraded the clutch and installed a B&M Ripper Shifter to improve power transfer. Any serious performance car needs serious cooling power to ensure its longevity, especially in Arizona's notorious triple-digit summer heat. An engine oil cooler is integrated into the high-capacity aluminumradiator to protect the mighty Gen. III small-block, while transmission and differential oil coolers with braided stainless steel lines are slung under the rear bumper.
Likewise, it needs to stop as well as it can accelerate for both safety on the street and dominance on the road course. DRM custom front brake cooling ducts chill the 14-inch front rotors with their six-piston AP racing calipers. A DRM custom master cylinder and adjustable brake bias control allow Vern to dial in exactly how much of the work he wants to put to the four-piston, 13-inch rear brakes.
Custom front and rear Bilstein shocks with Hyperco coilover springs have lowered the C500 RSR an additional inch or so from stock, and GM Performance Parts T-1 competition stabilizer bars combined with polyurethane suspension bushings all but eliminate any tendency for the Vette to roll through turns. Fiske 18x10s and 18x11s three-piece aluminum rims mounting 265/35 and 295/35ZR18 BFGoodrich G-Force KD street tires provide grip with whatever surface, street or track, the Rippie is running upon.
DRM's Heat Extractor hood looks menacing while fulfilling its practical function, as does the body-color rear lip spoiler. The cockpit is also stylishly functional, the focal points being a pair of heavily bolstered Momo seats with cam-locked five-point racing harnesses. The belts attach to a custom, prebuilt DRM chassis bar that stiffens up the passenger and hatch areas considerably. As far as Vern is concerned, "the Corvette, in my opinion, is a great all-around car," and the DRM C500/RSR package just makes it that much hotter. "This year, I rented another Viper," he says. "Nice car, but I wouldn't trade my Corvette for it." Vern jokingly refers to the C5 and himself as "Beauty and the Beast," but with the Vette's vast capabilities, including an estimated 200-mph top speed, 3.9-second 0-60's, and over 1 g on the skid pad, the car takes both titles!
Egads, this doesn't look like 512 horsepower! What doesn't show is 382 ci (6.3L) displacem