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Corvette Magazine's - Extreme Makeover

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2012 💯 4LT GS Roadster
35lfbzp.jpg

Paul Zazarine samples a custom Corvette with a German background.

Photographs by the author.
Archive pix courtesy the manufacturer.

Walk through most any Corvette show and you'll notice a pattern. There sit the cars, hoods up and bodies polished, awash with the same bits of easy-to-unbolt detailing—Corvette-logo hood pads, composite-look intake parts, polished-aluminum plenums and rocker covers, chromed accessory drives and PS pumps. The more ambitious owners then add hand-painted engine covers and fluid reservoirs and airboxes—figure it's mostly flames, American flags, and pinstripes for those. Then there's fancy new wheels, catalyst-back exhaust systems, and a whole raft of possible cabin tweaks—contrasting seat piping, a carbon-fiber cigarette lighter (saved you two grams right there, pal), body-color IPs, hand-sewn console pads.

No question about it—C5 owners love to trick out their machines—and that's great by us. This desire keeps the cars looking distinctive, gives owners an outlet for their creativity, and makes aftermarketers want to keep buying those four-color ads, bless their cash-minded souls. Nevertheless, after a while we hardcore show junkie would love to see something different. Well, this here is different.

Yes, there are already handfuls of body and aero kits out there for C5s—kits running the gamut from the blatantly cheesy to the extremely well thought- and laid-out. But to my mind, nobody has yet done a series-built C5 rebody that smoothly re-imagines the car's naturally fluid lines in a totally new yet fully coherent way. Nobody until an unpretentious German named Axel Jasiek, that is.

Axel is the stylist/entrepreneur behind the re-thought C5 you see here—a design that's already sold well in Germany and is now being brought to America under the US-market moniker "Extreme Wide Body Corvette."

Architecturally, what makes Jasiek's concept so intriguing—besides, you know, the wild proportions and unabashed sense of drama—is that it's neither a wholly American nor wholly European design. Instead, this is a red-white-and-blue kind of car that's been re-imagined and re-interpreted through a European perspective; in other words, an American icon re-done how the rest of the world would see it.

Jasiek's education and background aren't in car design. He was trained as a Bäckermeister—a head baker—and still co-owns a hotel with his sister and brother back in Germany. He is a longtime and resolute gearhead, however, and spent the first part of his grownup life ripping up Germany's autobahns in 911 and 928 Porsches and other European exotica. During that period Jasiek knew of Corvettes, obviously, but the model was rarely that big in his mind. Then a 1991 vacation to the US brought a life-changing encounter with a white '88 Corvette roadster. Jasiek drove the car and fell in love with its looks, handling, and brute power. He bought it on the spot and, at the end of the trip, had it shipped back to his native country. "That car was so great," the ex-baker recalls now, "that I decided to soon buy another one—a '91—and have that car shipped over as well."

Corvette Magazine - Extreme Makeover Article
 
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Extreme Makeover - 2nd page

In time the man's growing family squeezed his Corvette passion out of practicality, and the C4s were replaced by a Chevy Suburban. That huge SUV towered over most everything else on German roads, but Jasiek wouldn't have anything else. "Yes, it was large, but by then I preferred American iron."

The Corvette drought ended in '98 with the purchase of a brand-new convertible, again bought in the United States and sent back to Germany. Jasiek loved the car's performance and was fascinated by its styling, but a part of him believed there was more to be squeezed from that shape. "It already looked great," he says today, "but I thought to myself 'maybe I could make it look a bit greater.'"

Spoken like a true hotrodder.

With friend (and master mechanic) Ralf Schmidt on board for the project, Jasiek set out to restyle the Corvette in an idiom out of his own background. The pair located and bought a cosmetically damaged C5 in the US and had it shipped over to Germany, where it would become the mule for what's now called the Extreme Wide Body Corvette series.

While admittedly overused these days, the term "extreme" is certainly apropos to this shape. The finalized design measures 84 inches across at the front fenders and 89 over the deck. A stock C5—no anorexia case in itself—maxes at 76.3.

When first viewing the aptly-termed Wide Body, an American eye sees Viper and Cobra influence in the massive fenders and musclebound quarterpanels. An interesting observation, Jasiek replies, but not one his German team made during the build process. Instead, he credits the C3 as the main inspiration for this design—an influence that makes better sense once you see the team's other, more recent design—a C4-based Wide Body Corvette that fills in the missing visual gaps of Jasiek's C3-C4-C5 continuum.

Once tipped to it, you also see the third-generation's influence in the Wide Body's front fenders, especially when viewed from ahead and above. What throws you off initially isn't the shaping, only the final detail. While the original C3 fenders swept broadly out from the hood and then dropped down to pert little flares, "...since we couldn't duplicate that flare, we rolled the lip down to surround the opening instead," Jasiek says. The voluptuous quarters are equally reminiscent of the C3's wasp-waisted footprint, kicking up at the leading edges instead of making the smooth, ascending transition seen on the factory C5.

Elsewhere, the handles are recessed into the doors so that the stock internal mechanisms could be retained and also because "...it just looks good." Credit another Eurocentric perspective for that—it's the same solution used in the 1970s and '80s by Porsche, BMW, and supertuners like Koenig and Brabus. More of these classic Euro/widebody cues grace the back fenders and quarters—the way the lines tuck in at the door panels; how the rear fascia falls back in toward the center as it drops; the intentionally added width between the inboard taillamps and license-plate housing; the plethora of vents and scoops. (The front-fender venting is nonfunctional from the factory but, like the faux brake duct ahead of the rear wheel, can be opened by the assembler if desired.)
 
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Extreme Makeover - 3rd page

Yet for all of its visual cues, just how much wider this new design is only becomes clear when you open a door and catch sight of the additional beef unhidden by curvaceous camouflage. The broad sill requires a humongous stretch when climbing in or out, just like the BMW CSLs and Koenig-Ferraris of yore.

So where did these images come from? "In 1998, to people in Germany," Jasiek explains, "we knew the C3 much better than the C4 or C5." That makes sense: The C5 evolved from C4 themes, and the C4 had in turn been a conscious attempt to distance the car from the C3's flamboyance. In other words, to European eyes, the later Corvette turned its back on what made the C3 so "American."

That unusual vision leaves the Extreme Wide Body looking oddly familiar yet patently different. Simply put, we just don't see Corvettes the way Europeans do—the coherent yet unusual styling of this one spins directly out of that difference.

The Extreme Wide Body package is manufactured in Germany (it's been on sale there since '98) and consists of a front fascia, fenders, door skins, integral quarters and rockers, rear fascia, and inner wheel panels. There's a small weight disadvantage over the narrower stock panels, but nothing one will notice given 350 or more bhp. Stock C5 attachment points are used throughout, with each panel being drilled individually to allow final adjustment of the shutlines and door clearances. This means the conversion is no shadetree project—a professional bodyshop has to be tapped for the installation.

Filling those enormous wheel openings requires a big change in rim size. When we tested Extreme's '01-based demonstration car in Florida, it was set up with 20-inch front test rollers. These require an adjustment to the suspension geometry to prevent tire scrubbing, the tradeoff for which is a slightly enlarged turning circle. With front rims of up to 19x11 and 245/35 tires, no modifications are required. In back, Jasiek's spec allows up to 20x13s and 345/25s.

Inspired by the car's European popularity, Jasiek and his family emigrated to the US in 2005, where the designer set up a Florida LLC and began contracting dealers and installers all over the country. The firm also offers start-to-finish conversions and occasionally turnkey cars (see www.extreme-corvette.com for info). At an uninstalled price of about $11,000, American buyers will be looking at $20,000-$25,000 from start to finish—a big number, but hardly outrageous given the amounts happily spent by C5 owners in other areas. What that buys is a car unlike anything else you're likely to see on the show field or street—a goal many Corvette owners seem perfectly willing to pay for.
 

zagger

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Apr 22, 2006
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468
Location
San Diego
Corvette
99 C5 Convertible
A lots of work and money must have went into making this body kit. To bad they did not finish the door handels and fuel door, which ruins the othervise great looking mod. Makes it look like another whont-a-bee ricer!
 

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