Oxymorons-those odd combinations of opposites like "jumbo shrimp" or "controlled chaos"-come naturally to some Corvette owners. After all, it's their car, so they can mix things up anyway they want, right? Steve Katonis and his C5 supercharged 2002 Chevrolet Corvette fit this attitude to a "T." Reflecting Katonis' own contradictory nature, it's a car with a serious supercharger under the hood, but engine covers embellished with the Looney Tunes' twirling Tasmanian Devil. (And we haven't even gotten to the electric wine rack in the back yet.) But these jumbled elements all seem to fit together in some strange way, just like what he does for a living.
By day, Katonis machines precision fittings for NASA's space shuttle, along with other high-tech aerospace applications. Odd thing is, he also makes beverage dispensers for liquor bars. (We can just imagine him staring at a titanium valve for rocket fuel, and, in a sudden, crazed moment of paradoxical logic, saying to himself, "Hey, wouldn't this doohickey be a heckuva way to pour a shot of scotch?")
Getting back to his Vette, when we saw all these different aspects tossed into a bundle and shaken, not stirred, we went with it. Not only that, his daughter Tracy was a good sport about posing with a rifle on her hip (we just happened to have one in the back of our photo truck, but that had nothing to do with the car, other than making for a catchy title).
This unusual combination just seemed to fit after we saw the motorized sliding rack deploy a bottle of vintage wine from "Rolling Audio," the name of the shop that installed the car's home-theater-quality audio/video system. We also got a kick out of the emergency corkscrew mounted behind a pane etched with the words "In Case of Good Times, Break Glass."
All of which brings us to our title, "Guns n' Rosé" (actually, the bottle was Merlot, but you get the drift). It's a jungle out there in the performance world, but all for some fun 'n' games, as Axl's lyrics suggest. To make sure his C5 had a wild streak for taking on the great outdoors, Katonis went to Roseville, California's, Motor Sport Image (MSI) and selected all the parts he could think to give his rocket a speedy liftoff. (Alert students of English, like our esteemed editor, will spot the mixed metaphor that's entirely fitting in this case.)
"I was looking to build a Pro Street, but wanted an American car that handled-good, fast, and dependable," says Katonis. "This yellow C5 was the fit for me."
After purchasing the car new in 2002, he got that Pro Street firepower by having the capable crew at MSI feed more airflow through a Halltech Trap intake to a Magnuson intercooled blower. MSI has done more than three-dozen engine installations like this one, so its techs knew how to make the most of the package.
"We've found that the larger TPIS headers create more backpressure," explains MSI's Terry Fong. "So we went to a slightly smaller Magnuson pulley, from 3.3 to 3.5 inches, in order to compensate." Since the LS6 internals are still stock, the boost is set at a streetable 6 pounds.
In addition to a Superchips reflash of the factory computer, Romans Designs optimized the tune to squeeze out an extra 30 horses, for a grand total of 490 hp at the wheels, along with commensurate torque figures. Fong says the standard tune from Magnuson is fairly conservative, with a fat, rich fuel map for the included 50-lb/hr injectors. This allows for additional tweaking by Romans, which requires a few extra hours of data-logging and drive time.
Igniting the pressurized mix of fuel and air is a set of Taylor Thunderbolt 50 HP wires. Once lit, the exhaust gasses flow furiously through the TPIS long-tube headers and into a GHL exhaust with an X-style pipe. A Griffin radiator with oil cooler keeps a lid on the temps, while the hot fluids flow through stainless-steel braided lines. The six-speed tranny is factory, but upgraded with a Hyper Single Disc clutch and a B&M Ripper shifter.