At the time of our visit,...
At the time of our visit, Specter's antiseptically clean headquarters contained two partially finished C5s, a Cadillac CTS, and a Pontiac Solstice. In addition to tweaking production cars, the firm does design and prototyping work for the OEMs.
Inside Specter Werkes/Sports
For the past 16 years, Jeff Nowicki has built a reputation crafting Corvettes from his facility in suburban Detroit. He founded Specter Werkes/Sports in 1990, and today it not only builds Corvettes and Corvette upgrades, but does design work and prototype building for the OEMs. The company also includes vehicles such as the Cadillac CTS in its enhancements repertoire. (The Pontiac Solstice is another possibility being considered.)
Not bad for a guy who started out working for various prototype shops, as well as GM Design, while taking side projects after hours.
"It all grew out of the work I was doing outside of my regular jobs," says Nowicki. "I had the shop going while I was at GM, and it just became clear that this is what I needed to do."
Photo by Jay HeathA former...
Photo by Jay HeathA former GM designer, Nowicki uses the labor-intensive clay-modeling process to design new body components.
Design work was in Nowicki's blood. His father, Ron Nowicki, worked at GM Design for 36 years and was the chief studio engineer for the C5. By January 1998, Specter Werkes built its first GTR, which is still owned by its original owner-Chevy dealer Jeff Cauley. About 30 of the exclusive cars have been built since, along with countless other special customer projects, race cars, and Group 5/Group 6 cars.
The Specter Werkes shop typically contains three or four cars in various stages of construction. On our recent visit, the projects included the GTR conversion of an '04 Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition, which, when finished, will still wear the factory-style blue paint and graphics. It is the third GTR Specter has built for an enthusiastic Colorado customer.
"Customers are extensions of our team," says Nowicki. "We invite them to track-day events and other get-togethers. It's like a fraternity of like-minded enthusiasts."
At track days, Nowicki is as much participant as host. He holds four SCCA divisional autocross championships, two SCCA road-racing championships, and has participated in everything from the World Challenge to the '04 Grand-Am Rolex series.
But even the best customers aren't privy to the OEM design work that goes on at Specter Werkes. In fact, there were parts of the Specter facility we couldn't photograph: the curtained areas that contained ongoing modeling and prototype work. We'd tell you more about it, but we'd have to kill you afterward-if Nowicki hasn't already killed us in the meantime. He is famously and rightfully protective of this work, and no one simply waltzes back to the shop's work area without his knowledge or escort.
Let's see . . . design work, Corvette construction, prototype building, and successful racing experience. Is there a downside to Nowicki's life?
"Well," he says, "My wife, Brenda, won't let me near her when I smell like fiberglass resin."