As a member of Washington, D.C.'s ultra-elite United States Navy Band, Andrew Wheeler has played saxophone for six presidents, from Ford through Bush, and has performed at three presidential inaugurations, including, most recently, President Barack Obama's.
Given this impressive resume, perhaps it's no surprise that one of America's most talented military musicians also owns a Corvette. "I was in search of a low-mileage, bone-stock C5 Z06 for my next adventure," Wheeler says. "I had owned several LS1 F-bodies over the years, and even a Lotus Esprit S4. They were all great in their own ways, but I was ready for a car that could deliver more. I wanted the handling of the little British exotic, as well as the quarter-mile performance and dependability of the late-model F-bodies. That's why I decided on a Corvette."
Wheeler found his Corvette in 2006 through a local classified ad. "It was owned by a longtime enthusiast couple who would purchase a new Vette, drive it for a few years, and then buy a new one again," he explains. "The C6 had just been introduced, and they were looking at a new coupe, so their '01 Z06 was for sale. I bought it with 21,000 miles on the odometer. They were able to go purchase a C6, and I had the Z06 I was looking for."
Real Power In Washington
Describing his stock Z as "a blank canvas," Wheeler set out to customize it to match the excitement of his high-profile career. His vision was a Corvette that packed "real, usable power [and] looked good doing it."
He began his project as do many Corvette owners, by opening up the exhaust with a set of headers and better-flowing pipes. "I chose American Racing headers with 1 3/4-inch primaries, an x-style crossover pipe, and a 3-inch stainless steel B&B Bullet system," he says.
But these bolt-ons were simply the prelude to a more sophisticated plan to achieve real power in the Capital City. "I decided to pull the trigger and add a supercharger," Wheeler says. "I contacted A&A Corvette in Oxnard, California, and realized that owner Andy Green's intercooled, Vortech-equipped C5 system was exactly what I was looking for."
"Because air management is the key to an effective intercooler system, A&A utilizes a 'ram air' design that allows for the largest intercooler possible, while not impeding airflow to the radiator," Green says. "The intercooler has an aluminum enclosure and an interchangeable 3-inch street or 5-inch track scoop to grab cool air and force it through the core. Additionally, our heavy-duty, CNC-machined bracket-and-tensioner system offers maximum belt wrap and grip to prevent slipping issues, the nemesis of many supercharger systems."
Wheeler installed the A&A blower kit himself, a job that took around a week and was completed in his garage. To safeguard his engine's stock block, he then added a trunk-mounted 2-gallon methanol-injection setup sourced from Alcohol Injection Systems (AIS) in Columbus, Ohio. An AIS progressive controller and cabin-mounted control switch activate the methanol at a user-specified boost level. "It offers fuel stability under higher-boost conditions, and I run it from 3 to 10 psi," he explains.