Having learned a very expensive lesson, Wilson called Magnuson and asked the company to recommend a shop to oversee engine build number two. After reviewing a few options, he narrowed the field to Motor Sport Image (MSI) in Roseville, California. MSI's techs began by performing a diagnostic check to find out what had happened to the first motor.
"They impressed me with the quality of workmanship, the professionalism of the facilities, and their level of competency," Wilson relates. "I bought an LS2 402 block to replace the destroyed LS1 block. MSI did the install, and I drove the car for almost a year. I liked the LS2 but still wanted more power. I also had a problem with losing belts and the harmonic balancer. MSI contacted Callaway with the issue, and it recommended an upgraded tensioner."
A club member had also recommended the GM Performance Products LSX cast-iron block, an ideal choice for anyone considering a big nitrous system or a healthy shot of forced-induction boost. Among other heavy-duty upgrades, the LSX features a six-bolt-per-cylinder design to increase the clamping force of the head onto the block's deck surface.
Another thing that makes the LSX so tough is the hefty amount of high-strength iron in the casting. Even so, it weighs just 85 pounds more than an aluminum LS unit, according to MSI. That extra mass reinforces critical areas around the cam tunnel and bores, under the deck surface, and surrounding the head-bolt holes.
Starting with this stout piece, the folks at MSI built a 427-cube engine loaded with forged pistons, rods, and crank; a high-lift Comp cam; and AFR 205cc heads. Incredibly, the blown combo produced 510 lb-ft of torque at just above idle.
"The goal was to produce a bulletproof big-cube motor," notes MSI's Mark Stein. "In the past we've seen problems with a stroked LS2 at around 402 cubic inches. There's too much side load on the bottom of the piston skirt, so it gets scuffed and scores the cylinder wall oil, causing oil-consumption issues. The LSX block is way more rigid."
Good thing, since the 7 psi of boost pumped in from the MagnaCharger twist the dyno needle to the tune of 575 horses, according to MSI. To improve the giddy-up even more, the MSI techs tacked on another 100 horses with an NOS nitrous system.
With the performance mods and a high-rise carbon-fiber hood from Motor City Mold in place, the next step involved customizing the body color with a base of Magnetic Red, a coat of magenta (to dull the brassiness), and a coat of pearl white (to "milk it out"). There are 15 coats total, each one sanded after application for a deep gloss finish.
"I wanted a true depth of color and gloss, not shine or sparkle; something to really hold the eye and draw it along the bodyline," Wilson explains. "I'm now in the process of putting in front and rear flared fenders."
The interior was also redone with black leather and a checkered-flag design on the console. The piping was executed in the same custom hue as the body to maintain the color theme. And to overcome the reduction in aft visibility caused by the flared fenders and roll-bar placement, Wilson added a rear license-plate camera with a dash display.
The rims are Savini three-piece forged wheels with three layers of chrome, but as with all project cars, Wilson says there's more on the way. "I put 19x9.5s on the front and 20x10s on the rear, but I'm in process of replacing the rear tires with even wider, lower-profile 345/25R20s."
Not surprisingly, Wilson's Vette has taken home a slew of awards. The one that sounds the most fitting, however, is the "Best Bitchin' Car" title earned at the Pleasanton Good Guys event. Not only that, it's also a two-time winner at the Hooters Sacramento Corvette Event. Ah, the rewards of doing the right thing.