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GM High-Tech Performance / September 2011

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Jay McCardle’s 8-Second ’97 Corvette – The Fastest C5 You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

by Justin Cesler
Photography by Mike Galimi

Unless you run with the right crowd in the northeastern part of the United States or happen to follow supercharged Corvette records very closely, you’ve probably never heard of a guy from Stewertstown, Pennsylvania, named Jay McCardle … although we’re pretty sure that is all about to change. You see, Jay isn’t one of those Internet superstars who thrives on making the latest and greatest whiz-bang post, nor is he one to go out of his way to promote his accomplishments just to hear people tell him how awesome he is. Truth be told, we’re not even sure Jay liked talking to us on the phone about his gorgeous Corvette (he was actually loading it in the trailer to go race while we were talking), but after seeing it run race after race, year after year with the wheels up and the e.t.’s falling, we just couldn’t let the story of his nasty C5 go untold for any longer.

It all starts back in 2002, when Jay was just a fan sitting on the sidelines at local dragstrips in the northeast. “I used to watch the East Coast Supercharging (ECS) cars run all the time,” and like any red blooded American, Jay could only take sitting on the sidelines for so long. So, Jay took the plunge and went out and bought a ’97 Nassau Blue C5 whose very first trip around the block may very well have ended at ECS for one of the company’s world famous supercharger systems and a couple of simple bolt-on parts. “That was when the car started setting records.” Yeah, the guy that just bought a supercharger system and a C5 started setting records out of the blue and you can only imagine what that did for his addiction. Unfortunately, Jay’s stock motor days were short numbered, as a freak underhood fire actually melted some of the wiring harness in the engine bay, causing the car to have to be torn apart for the repairs.

Back at ECS, master builder Chris Coriel and Doug Ring made plans to simply repair the harness and get Jay back on the road, when they heard the magic words: “Well, if the engine is out, we might as well forge it.” And this, as they say, is where the slippery slide into history began. Believe it or not, the ECS team didn’t go crazy on Jay’s first motor, opting instead to just forge the 346 cubic-inch LS1 and turn up the boost on Jay’s already stout ride. Along with the new motor, the team at ECS also installed a new 4L60E transmission in the beast, hoping that it would be able to take the abuse Jay was going to throw at it. “I went through probably ten of those 4L60E transmissions,” trying to get the combination to work, when Jay and ECS finally decided it was time to step up the program to a real motor and transmission combination capable of setting the world on fire, without killing Jay’s wallet or street manners.

Enter the current 364 cubic-inch combination that has propelled Jay’s Corvette to 158 mph in just over 8.46 seconds. Right, we told you they were going to turn it up! What’s even more amazing is that the ECS crew built this motor using a stock LS2 block for the foundation, which they stuffed with a stock crankshaft, Diamond pistons and a set of R&R connecting rods. According to Chris “this is a simple combination that we just kept tweaking over the years to make everything work.” Simple indeed, so much so that Jay actually ran a set of LS6 heads up until last year, when they finally made the switch over to a set of Trick Flow 225cc cylinder heads that ECS matched with a new custom camshaft designed specifically for the combination.

Of course, the engine isn’t really the main act in this show. That is a role that belongs to the ECS designed supercharger kit, which, depending on the class Jay is running, houses a NOVI 2000 or 2500-series Paxton supercharger head unit designed around a stout 10-rib belt system. This system, flowing through an ECS front mount air-to-air intercooler, delivers up to 24 pounds of boost at wide open throttle, more than enough to get even the most diehard all-motor or nitrous guy interested in the machine.

Behind the motor, ECS slid a carbon fiber driveshaft down the stock torque tube and mounted a Coan 4.000-stall converter to a custom ECS rear mounted Powerglide transmission, a modification that was designed and tested for the first time on Jay’s Corvette. “The ‘glide is a great transmission and actually runs really well on the street,” notes Chris. This is an important attribute, as not only does Jay’s car have to perform on the track, but it still has to run well on the way to local car shows and cruise-ins. Mounted behind the ‘glide is a stock CS rear end housing stuffed with 3.73 gears and an ECS spool, which drive a set of Drive Shaft Shop axles. Okay, well, the spool isn’t exactly the most streetable choice here, but a man has to make at least one sacrifice when building a reliable race car!

And, reliable it is. In fact, unlike many one hit wonders or e-racers, Jay’s Corvette has logged over a hundred 8-second passes in the last couple of years. Yes, you read that correctly-over 100 8-second passes since 2009, a testament to both Jay’s dedication to getting out on track and tearing it up and ECS’s attention to detail and ability to build a car for the abuse it will see every day. Most amazingly, however, is this Corvette’s ability to 60-foot like a full-blown tube chassis race car. We hadn’t mentioned it until now because you would’ve probably stopped reading and jumped on YouTube (http://bit.ly/jtzUUH), but Jay’s IRS-equipped, stock housing CS has covered the first 60-feet of track in just 1.200 seconds, an amazing feat considering the mild engine combination and supercharger system on this incredibly quick land rocket.

Of course, that seems to be the entire idea behind this build, a one of a kind record setter with humble beginnings, modest hardware, and a track addiction that can’t possibly be stopped. What does the future hold for Jay and his ECS powered machine? He gave us some clues while loading his car onto the trailer, but we’d rather wait and see what Jay does before we give up his secrets. Who knows, Jay might sneak into a future LSX event and take names in a certain class, but only time will tell for this down-to-earth racer who hails from the Mecca of supercharged track records.

CAR: 1997 Corvette
OWNER: Jay McCardle
BLOCK: LS2, 361cid
HEADS: Trick Flow Specialties 225cc, 2.055 intake, 1.575 exhaust valves
CAM: ECS custom hydraulic roller
ROCKER ARMS: Jeset 1.8-ratio
PISTONS: Diamond, forged
RINGS: Total Seal
CRANKSHAFT: Stock LS2, nodular iron
RODS: R&R, forged
THROTILE BODY: Nick Williams 90mm
FUEL PUMP: Aeromotive Eliminator
IGNITION: Stock coil-near-plug, NGK TR6 plugs
ENGINE MANAGEMENT: Stock PCM, tuned by East Coast Supercharging
EXHAUST SYSTEM: American Racing 2-inch long-tube headers, B&B 3-inch exhaust
SUPERCHARGER: ECS/Paxton NOVI 2000 & 2500
TRANSMISSION: Powerglide built by Coan
CONVERTER: Coan 4000-staJI
DRIVESHAFT: Drive Shaft Shop, carbon fiber
FRONT SUSPENSION: Stock upper and lower control arms, Strange shocks, Hypercoil springs, Pfadt swaybar
REAR SUSPENSION: Stock upper and lower control arms with Pfadt spherical bushings, Pfadt coilovers, Pfadt sway bar. ECS torque tamer
REAR END: Stock, 3.73 gear, Drive Shaft Shop axles, ECS spool
BRAKES: Strange front and rear; ECS spindle kit
WHEELS: Weld Prostar 15×4 front, 15×10 rear
FRONT TIRES: Mickey Thompson Front Runner 26×4.5
REAR TIRES: Mickey Thompson ET Drag 28xl1.5
FUEL: ‘P Racing C 16
BEST ET/MPH: 8.46 / 158
BEST 60-FT. TIME: 1.20
MILEAGE: 50,000