When you're passionate about a car, nothing can really get in your way of having it. The road that gets you into the driver's seat may not be the one you expected or had hoped for, but, nonetheless, very little can thwart your dreams completely. Sometimes the long way around is even better in the end.

Shannon Erickson of Tempe, Arizona, hit that magical, all-important age of 16 in 1983--the same year the revolutionary, "space-age" C4 Corvette was introduced. At that critical age, it was terrific fortune for Shannon to have a neighbor who had bought one and let him and his older brother play with it. "It turned out to be everything we had anticipated and then some," remembers Shannon. "It had futuristic styling inside and out, aluminum suspension, 'gigantic' 16-inch directional wheels and tires, and an ultra-modern digital display dashboard. I fell in love with the car on that day, and knew some day I had to have one."

That day came much sooner than he expected. Upon graduation from high school in 1985, Shannon's parents presented him with an '85 Vette that was only a few months old. His brother had just bought the car new, but because he was getting married and starting a family, the Vette just didn't fit the budget. Since their folks had promised Shannon a new car, they bought the '85 and gave it to him.

The next three (short) months were the happiest days of Shannon's teenage life. But, because of a stack of speeding tickets, and finally a police pursuit after drag racing a friend in his '84 Vette, "I was forced by my parents (and their insurance underwriter) to sell the car."

During the ensuing 15 years, Shannon grew up a little, but he never grew out of his enthusiasm for early C4s. "I'd always wished I could have kept the car in storage until I was older and ready to drive such a car responsibly," he laments. But, after going through several high-performance driving schools, his interest in racing and his opportunity to get reacquainted with C4s fell perfectly in sync.

In January 2001, "I saw an '85 Corvette for sale at Phoenix International Raceway that was specially prepared for road racing," says a still speed-crazed but more mature Shannon. "I saw this car as a sign that it was meant to be." He realized after he bought it that the car needed a lot of work. It had been raced hard and everything was worn out, but it did have a 500-hp 406cid stroker, ZF six-speed, good rollcage, fuel cell, and a nicely fabricated interior. He went to work immediately rebuilding the racer, and began an impressive racing season in the National Auto Sport Association's Production Series 0 class, an essentially unlimited production car class using DOT racing tires. "Although I missed the first and last parts of the season, I was able to win the class points championship for 2001." This relationship definitely was meant to be!

After the 2001 season, Shannon tore the '85 racer apart for a complete rebuild. The 406 motor blew up during the last race weekend, so he built a new, even badder GM 414-cid stroker motor with a Callies crank, Oliver rods, JZ pistons, AFR aluminum heads, Canton oil pan, Hooker headers, Edelbrock Super Victor intake, and a four-barrel Barry Grant 750-cfm carb. Behind the motor, the six-speed and its clutch scattershield, is a 4.10-geared Dana 44 differential. Shannon's racer sticks to the track thanks to Bilstein coilover shocks all around, Guldstrand 30mm front and 24mm rear anti-roll bars, and AFS reproduction ZR-1 17x11-inch wheels endowed with Goodyear GS-C DOT race tires. Dick Guldstrand also supplied the camber struts, Heim jointed trailing arms, and toe rod kit. The R-D Racing Camber Brace absorbs much of the notorious C4 flex, while Baer Alcon 14-inch disc brakes with reverse slotted rotors and six-piston front calipers (four piston calipers out back) stand up to heavy punishment in the corners. Shannon has eased the braking burden some by devising a clever, fan-pressurized brake cooling system that feeds outside air directly into the front rotors.

Shannon's '85 looks beautiful, but above all it is a serious racer. A Motorola driver/spotter communication system keeps him in contact with his crew, and extensive silicone/fiberglass mat heat barrier treatment on the underside of the car protects him from too much track heat. Race cars always get hot, but during Hades-like Arizona summers, the K&P Tempsuit driver cooling system is a must. Likewise, serious powertrain cooling to promote the Vette's endurance on the track is mandatory and achieved from a Ron Davis custom radiator and ducting, Accusump oil accumulator with a Fluidyne oil cooler, and a Fluidyne power steering cooler. Both the windshield and rear hatch are made of Lexan to reduce weight, and the lightweight custom fiberglass hood from J&D does the same.

During the off season while Shannon had the racer apart for refurbishing, he stumbled upon a badly neglected '86 coupe. He bought the '86 with the intent of building a back-up race car, but instead decided to restore it to like--well, better than--new condition.

The '86 is now a regularly driven street car, with a Z51 suspension enhanced by Guldstrand front and rear stabilizer bars and rear camber strut kit. Shannon updated the'86s binders with 13-inch reverse slotted rotors and HD two-piston front calipers from a '96 Vette. The brakes are concealed behind chrome-plated factory 16x9.5-inch wheels that have an immaculate, mirror-like finish. It is a late '86 Vette with factory aluminum heads on its L98 motor, and Shannon has added a cold air induction kit, and a 52mm TPIS throttle body. He has eliminated the pre-cats, so spent gases flow directly through a Walker low restriction catalytic converter into a factory '91 GM cat-back exhaust. Like its race car twin, the '86 has a six-speed transmission plugging the powerplant to its Dana 44 with 3.45:1 ring-and-pinion. "I thought it would be a great idea to put a ZF six-speed in it and use the time driving around town to get some practice rowing the gears," says Shannon, "as I seemed to get a bit rusty at this between races." Also akin to the track car is a Ron Davis radiator, R-D Racing camber brace, and spectacular Torch Red paint.Whereas the racer's tubular rollcage stiffens the '85 enough to stand on three wheels, the '86 gets some extra rigidity from a custom convertible "X" brace. The '86 also enjoys a few upgrades for the road, including Dynamat soundproofing throughout the entire car, and to help ensure that Shannon doesn't have any more run-ins with the law, a K40 built-in front and rear radar/laser detector.

So despite Shannon's initial luck and misfortune as a teen, his C4 passion finally came full circle. Overdoses of adolescent adrenaline and testosterone got him in trouble, but the setbacks allowed him time for valuable experience and maturing. Now, with a matching pair of beautiful C4s for the track and the street, Shannon has all his bases covered, and his passion has matured like a fine wine. Yep, now he can get into twice as much trouble responsibly!