Doug Rippie Motorsports C500/RSR

Doug Rippie Motorsports C500/RSR Doug Rippie Motorsports C500/RSR
Specialty File

"Back in 1970, I wanted to race sprint cars," remembers Minnesota native Doug Rippie, "but my mom said, 'Forget it! It's too dangerous!'

"So I said fine-if I can't race sprint cars, then I'm going road racing."

Young Rippie had little idea of the power of his mom's guidance. True to his word, in 1971, the 21-year-old Rippie bought a 1963 split-window Corvette and entered his first race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He finished third of eight racers in that debut event, but the impression would last a lifetime. "I've been hooked on Corvettes ever since."

What started as a hobby soon dominated the family's body-shop business in Windom, Minnesota. In 1984, Rippie sold the body shop to devote his attention to modifying and racing Corvettes.

A long way from that first split-window coupe (long since sold) is the Corvette C5-based Doug Rippie Motorsports (DRM) C500/RSR, which we recently flogged on DaimlerChrysler's 1.5-mile straight at its Chelsea proving ground. The $42,900 engine-and-chassis conversion leaves few of the Vette's vital organs intact, and we were excited to see what it would do at the track.

Rippie hedged: "This car is meant to give the customer a serious kick in the ass yet be tough enough to do successive track sessions without having to do anything but put gas in it. So go ahead, wring the shit out of it. You won't hurt it."

We did an even-dozen drag-strip launches, in the process whittling down the acceleration times to Porsche 911 Turbo territory. We ripped to 60 in 3.9 seconds, a huge 0.9 second quicker than we've done in our quickest non-Z06 stock Vette coupe. The quarter-mile flashed by in only 12.2 seconds at 119 mph. By the time a Jeep Liberty Limited Edition has reached 90 mph, the DRM Vette is doing 150.

Rippie says his engine pumps out 500 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. "Basically, there are no stock parts left in the block. We start by installing a longer-stroke crank for an added 36 cubic inches of displacement, 382 total. Then we go with lighter and stronger connecting rods, pistons, valve springs, and bearings. This car also has Z06 heads, which we ported. Then we balance the rotating parts, reprogram the computer, and install a lighter aluminum flywheel. And finally, we install a high-capacity radiator with an integral oil cooler and a tranny and differential cooler. Vettes get hot once you start upping the power, and the coolers make the thing bulletproof."

For suspension, he removes the stock leaf springs and installs coil springs, a move he says makes for easier chassis tuning. He also replaces the stock Goodyear run-flat tires with BFG g-Force tires mounted on HRE aluminum wheels.

Next, he swaps the Corvette brakes for six-piston front and four-piston rear AP calipers, a setup that Rippie says "will not fade. It all goes to my vision of an all-day track car. With the coolers and these big brakes, you can pound on the car all day and don't have to worry about making it home at night."

Thankfully, the big brakes did not turn the brake pedal into a hair trigger and the new springs are not so punishing that we would hesitate to drive the C500/RSR on the street. The braking distance was three feet better than in the last Z06 we tested, stopping from 70 mph in only 157 feet.

There's a small bump in skidpad grip over that of the Z06, 0.97 g versus 0.96 g. The DRM car feels stable and not spooky and is less bothered by midcorner bumps than is the stocker. At the skidpad, Rippie noted, "Understeers, doesn't it? We can dial in any sort of handling balance we want, but we find that a touch of understeer is safer without being significantly slower."

Rippie's kit is also available for Z06 and convertible Corvette models. He estimates that a Z06, which comes from the factory with shorter gearing, with his kit would be about 0.4 second quicker to 60 mph and through the quarter-mile than the coupe pictured here.

Those Z06s might be Rippie's toughest competition when it comes time to separate the well-heeled from their cash. After all, the new 2002 Z06 is nearly as fast (0 to 60 in 4.0 seconds and 12.4 seconds through the quarter-mile) and costs $50,844. The total for our 2001 Rippie test car came to $84,790.

That doesn't faze Rippie. "The Z06 is an excellent car, but even with the coupe's taller gearing, my car is faster. And as stout as a Z06 is, it won't survive the track abuse my car will. And everyone who owns a Corvette should take his or her car to the track, at least once."

Doug Rippie Motorsports, 5767 Highway 55 S.E., Buffalo, Minnesota 55313; 763- 477-9272;