A Turn of Fraze: How to Safely Wake a “Sleepy Looking” C6 Corvette

Every now and then, you have to break a few things to realize what isn’t working in your life. Take this C6 Corvette Grand Sport, for instance. Not too long ago, this black beauty was little more than a crippled slab of Kentucky-bred obscurity. But even after being repaired, this Vette had issues, some of which made it darn near impossible to operate. But we’ll get to that portion of the tale here in a few.

The goal with this Grand Sport wasn’t to make it look flashy, for it already had that in the bag straight from the factory. No, the purpose here was to make the ultimate C6 sleeper. Yet despite all of its impressive power numbers, 1,204 rwhp to be exact, the owner of this C6 tells us that it can still be driven on the open road without becoming a handful, just as long as you don’t goose the throttle too hard. But this Corvette wasn’t always such a breeze to drive, and it was not until recently that its owner was finally able to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Break, Fix, Race, Repeat

All 2012 Centennial Edition Corvettes featured a special “100” design on the right side of its hood badge, where normally the Fleur de Lis symbol would reside.

Dennis Fraze is a 56-year-old president and engineering manager of Key Industries, a Knoxville, Tennessee based international trading and robotics automation firm specializing in foreign and domestic “turn-key solutions.” All told, Dennis has spent well over two decades building an automated empire. In recent years, this diligence has brought with it a plethora of different “turn-key solutions,” including today’s ultra-rare slab of automotive engineering.

Like many of the world’s more enthusiastic automotive enthusiasts, Dennis’ infatuation with mankind’s preferred mode of mechanical transportation began at home. His dad was a gung-ho muscle car man — the kind of guy who liked to fill his kid’s head with wild stories of automotive adventures long past in lieu of bedtime stories, with tales of tomfoolery while behind the wheel of an old 440-powered Dodge RT and a potent Plymouth Roadrunner being two of the more memorable petrol-powered parables.

But when it came time to drive, Dennis broke from his father’s Mopar mindset, opting to own a Triumph GT6+, which –surprise, surprise — broke down all the damn time. However infuriating this may have been at the time, that old Triumph taught Dennis quite a few things about working on cars, and with knowledge comes power.

Unfortunately, the headaches that came with the Triumph eventually became too burdensome, and its meager motor left Dennis yearning for more torque. He ditched the British jalopy and replaced it with a fire-red 1974 Camaro with a hopped-up 305 under its bonnet. This machine provided its owner with precisely what he craved: swift straight-line speed. But this machine was doomed to failure, as well, with a verbal warning from a local police officer being all that was needed for Dennis to sell the GM hell-raiser. 

Since all the cops in town knew Dennis’ old Camaro, and were well aware of its street racing exploits, he decided to change things up a bit and buy a brand new Buick. It was a 1987 Grand National, and it was fast, allowing Dennis to conquer every street race he entered. At the time, street racing was all that the young man wanted to do, and any given day of the week, you could clearly see the vehicle’s plate “TERROR” pulling away as you struggled to keep up.

Quickly, to the Future!

Wheels on Centennial Edition corvettes were always a satin black hue, and were sized 18-inches in the front and 19-inches in the rear for Coupe, Convertible, and Grand Sport, models. Z06 and ZR1 models gained an inch in wheel diameter front and rear, respectively, while all versions received bright red brake calipers.

Over the following decades, Dennis retained his obsession with fast cars, with vehicles like a Lexus RCF and both a 1992 ZR1 and 1972 454 Corvette adorning his garage. But despite the joys provided by these new toys and the modifications he made to them, Dennis not-so-secretly yearned for the feel of a 1,000-plus horsepower Corvette. 

After a bit of time and research, the entrepreneur decided it was high time that he brought his vision to life. But before he could even begin the shopping process, everything was sidelined due to the discovery of an ultra-rare, 1991 Callaway CR-1 Corvette C4, which upon closer inspection proved to be one of only two ever produced. This detour seemed like a wonderful distraction, all the way up until a nasty divorce caused Dennis to lose almost everything, including his cars and home.

This setback didn’t keep Dennis down for long, though, and in no time flat, he had successfully launched his startup, Key Industries. His business was soon accompanied by a second marriage, this time to someone that Dennis fondly refers to as a “…wonderful crazy woman who allows me to pursue my passion for cars.” And just like that, Dennis Fraze’s fantasy of owning a 1,000-plus horsepower Corvette came lurching back to life, and it was not alone.

100 Years in the Making, One Day of Breaking

The Centennial Edition Corvette came coated in an exclusive “Carbon Flash Metallic” pigment.

Fraze came across his C6 Vette while perusing online inventory at a Lexus dealership up in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a 2012 Grand Sport model, with only 11,000 miles on the odometer, and save for an exceedingly rare “Centennial Edition” package upgrade, completely stock both inside and out. Dennis was downright infatuated. But being that the vehicle was located a few hours away, the entire purchasing process had to be conducted over the phone, thus making the car a bona fide “sight-unseen impulse buy.” 

The car made 373 rwhp bone-stock, so Dennis had a local shop install a P1 ProCharger kit, which once equipped, netted just over 500 rwhp. A few months later, the blower upgrade was joined by methanol injection for a respectable 582 horses. After that, the blower was swapped out for a D-1SC unit for even more power gains, with 766 rwhp being the new benchmark. Paired with an upgraded intercooler and an 8-rib pulley system, 802 horsepower was officially on the books for Dennis’ C6 build. 

But no sooner had these numbers been reached, tragedy struck. The stock LS3 block decided it was done, and two pistons failed while on the dyno. Miraculously, Dennis was able to limp the car back to his warehouse before putting the entire project on ice. The only thing to do was recoup and rebuild, which is precisely what happened, as the crippled LS3 was pulled to make room for a fresh motor featuring a fully built bottom end and even more displacement.

Build It Bigger… And LOUDER

After his expensive snafu, Dennis decided to have Fastech Motorsports of Louisville, Tennessee (not Kentucky) handle a full-blown LS3 engine build. The V8 was bored and stroked, and its squared decks were properly aligned, honed, balanced, and blueprinted. The compression ratio jumped to 9.0:1, which brought with it Callies Ultra I-Beam connecting rods, a set of JE Pistons with steel wrist pins, as well as a Callies Magnum LSX crankshaft. Dennis’ LS3 had metaphorically evolved from a 376 cubic-inch engine to a 416 powerplant, and it was about to get all manner of an upper-end upgrade.

To do so, Comp Cams was tapped to provide a camshaft solution, with a .615-inch intake/.615-inch exhaust configuration controlling lope. Both cylinder heads were decked, ported, and polished before being reinforced with “extreme duty” valves and springs. A Fore Innovations regulator and a trio of Fore fuel pumps were then installed to channel Ignite Racing 114-octane race juice to a set of 1340cc injectors. A FAST LSX-R 102 intake manifold sits atop of the engine that’s been paired to a 102mm throttle body specifically built for blowers.

Headers were sourced from American Racing Headers and then tied to an X-pipe setup that was augmented with Quick Time Performance electric cutouts and 2.5-inch pipes running to twin Borla mufflers. While there isn’t any nitrous oxide on board, you will find a massive F1-X supercharger system from ProCharger running 22-pounds of boost, all cooled and vented via a ProCharger Race Intercooler and BOV, respectively.

Upgrades made to the GM six-speed consisted of little more than a SPEC triple-disc clutch with a matching flexplate/flywheel combo from the same brand. The rear end and everything within it were left untouched, a testament to the fortitude of GM’s engineering. The same stock approach is retained in the chassis and suspension, steering box, wheels, brakes, and body. Come to think of it, the only modification made to this vehicle that is not powerplant oriented is a boost gauge and air-to-fuel ratio meter stuffed into an A-pillar.

Losing Control, and Regaining It Again

Once complete, Dennis’ C6 blasted past the 1,000 horsepower mark with ease on February 12th, 2019. The man had achieved his dream of owning a seemingly stock Corvette that could safely crank-out 1,117 ponies to the rear rubber. 

However, the shop that had conducted all of the work on the vehicle, along with its tuning, was unable to make the machine manageable under heavy throttle, and Dennis was hesitant even to drive the damn thing. And so the unassuming Centennial Edition C6 slept, dreaming of a day when it could safely stretch its lithe legs. It was not until he came across a shop, Lethal Performance, outside of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, that things finally began to get under control.

While driving down the highway one day, Dennis noticed a metric ton of C5 and C6 Corvettes parked outside of what appeared to be a well-maintained dyno and race shop. So he pulled in to talk with the shop’s chief tuner, who just so happened to be the owner. His name was Brandon, and the man was quite familiar with Dennis’ Corvette due to this crazy invention called “the internet.” When Dennis told the tuning mastermind about the drivability woes he was experiencing, Brandon’s response was nothing short of optimistic.

To tackle the overpowered C6’s drivability issues, Brandon had to first flag and then fix a number of ECU-oriented tech glitches before dropping a fresh map tune into the ECU on March 17th, 2020. Once remapped and moderately tweaked, the car safely made 1,204 horsepower to the wheels, with 907 foot-pounds of torque backing it up. 

When asked about these impressive figures, Dennis laughs and says that he has since grown tired of people not believing that his stock-looking Corvette puts down as much power as it does.This is why he now carries a dyno sheet from Lethal Performance in his glove box at all times: tangible proof that this seemingly stock-looking GM machine is indeed a hardcore hellion.

Even more impressive is the fact that Dennis had the self-control to not go all-in on ultra-wide forged alloy rollers, vibrantly colored brake conversions, adjustable aero, or any number of handling and aesthetic upgrades. The man merely wanted a vehicle that would look and behave like a bone-stock Grand Sport when bumping around town and be relatively refined while doing so up until he hammers the throttle down and opens-up those exhaust cut-outs.  

Sleepy Little C6 Wants to Play

We’re not overexaggerating about this car’s mileage either, as today this C6 only reads a modest 12,950 miles on its odometer.

All told, between downtime between amidst rebuilds, winter storage, and that time it was undrivable due to a challenging tune, Dennis Fraze’s Centennial Edition Corvette C6 has been under the knife for the better part of the past three years. But all of that waiting finally paid off last year, and the results are nothing short of ear-splitting.

But outside of being insanely loud, especially when those Quick Time Performance electric cut-outs are wide open, Dennis says the car really does drive like a stock C6 Corvette. Climate controls, cruise, and all of the other Grand Sport power options work flawlessly. Dennis has even gone as far as fooling a few passengers into believing that the vehicle is just a bone-stock C6, all the way up until they piss themselves due to pure shock and adrenaline. 

Was this what Dennis Fraze had dreamed of all those years ago, passengers wetting themselves due to a mixture of fear and delight? Perhaps. But to do so, he had to first find a way to regain control of what may be the rarest, sleepiest Corvette C6 ever created.

Both the wheels and the B-pillars of 2012 Centennial Edition Corvettes received exclusive “Louis Chevrolet 100th Anniversary” emblems bearing the founder’s likeness.

 

About the author

Micah Wright

Raised on LEGOs by grandfathers who insisted on fixing everything themselves, Micah has been a petrolhead in training since age four. His favorite past times include craft beer, strong cigars, fast cars, and culinary creativity in all of its forms.
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