Corvette Road Trip
Traveling America's Roads in America's Sports Car

Six Days on the Road in a ZR1
by Hib Halverson
© 1996, 1999 Sharkcom
 
In late-June of 1994, Corvette Quarterly and Chevrolet Outdoors magazines sent me to Chevrolet's National Media Preview for 1995 models at Kohler, Wisconsin. Chevy rented nearby Road America, one of the finest road race venues in North America, for testing and, while evaluating 1995 performance models; I did a bunch of banzai laps in a ZR1.
 
Only when the brakes got a bit soft, did I come in. I took off my helmet and sat for a while on the pit wall pouting at the thought of this totally bitchin, car going out of production in less than a year's time. Then, in a spontaneous burst of conspicuous consumption, I decided I needed one of what Dave McLellan aptly described as, "Corvette, only more so."
 
A $70,000 car is a frivolous purchase for someone of modest means, but I had rationalizations. The most effective were: 1) ZR1s are why Corvette enthusiasts work hard, save and have good credit 2) house payments, groceries, utility bills, health insurance etc. are of lesser concern and 3) when I back my daily driver out, the garage is half empty. Even such compelling rationalization couldn't completely eliminate all vestiges of financial reality. I'd have to buy used.
 
I knew Chevrolet was putting '95 ZR1s in their media evaluation fleets and, at year end, they'd be sold through conventional channels. I learned there'd be a Dark Purple Metallic car in northeast fleet. New for 1995, purple would be a one-year ZR1 color. Thinking it could end up the rarest of all ZR1 exteriors; I picked that car.
 
That fall, I wrote Bill O'Neil, Director of Chevrolet Communications asking to buy it at model year end. In a letter I have framed on my wall, O'Neil wrote back promising me the chance. Meanwhile, the car needed an irreverent nickname. It had to be "Barney," after that annoying little purple dinosaur that anyone over the age of three hates.
 
The week before Halloween, 1994, Bowling Green built "my" ZR1. It was delivered to ChevyComm's fleet in Newark, New Jersey a couple of weeks later. I spent the next 12 months stressing because PR cars get abused, sometimes even destroyed by the errant wonks in the press. Small consultation came when I convinced those maintaining the car to forego the dangers of 5W-30 and put the car on Red Line synthetic lubricants. I sent them a case of 10W-40 engine oil and enough MTL for the ZF S6-40 six-speed manual transmission.
 
For a year, Barney was a busy ZR1. The car was driven all over the northeast and mid-Atlantic by scores of journalists wanting to experience what would soon be Chevrolet history. It was on TV in the east, in several papers, car magazines and probably in a host of other media. That May, I borrowed the car, myself, for a trip to B.G. to cover The Legend Lives, the event organized by ZR1 Net Member Jim Van Dorn, the ZR1 Registry and Chevrolet to commemorate the end of production of the ZR1 for
Corvette Quarterly. At Legend Lives, former Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave McLellan, and Lotus engineer, Tim Holland, were kind enough to sign the LT5's plenum for me.
 
Knowing Barney had another six months of hard work finessing the press made the drive back to Jersey difficult. Indeed, it was tough duty because some who drive PR cars care little about what condition in which they leave them and a few actually get-off on abusing them. At 10,473 miles the car needed tires. In its 17000 miles of press duty, it went through two windshields, a lower radiator hose and an EGR valve At the end of its tenure, it had three, curb-damaged wheels; the brakes were trashed, the clutch was gone, there was an nasty rattle inside the center HVAC duct and the exterior was covered with nicks and scratches. And, then, there was Barney's noisy rear end. At about 2000 miles, the original axle failed, stranding a writer on a highway near Philadelphia. At 65 mph, the replacement howls loud enough to make interior trim buzz. Apparently, rumors of QC problems with recent Dana 44 axles are true. Some dealers tell Corvette customers complaining of axle noise, "They're all that way." when, in fact; they are not. I've driven many vettes since the 44 was introduced for '85 on manual trans. cars and Dana
can build them right.
 
In spite of all this, I think Chevy built a pretty tough ZR1 because, considering the level of abuse, Barney survived its media ordeal in reasonable health. Some ex-media fleet are so bad they end up at the auto auction and a few can't be sold at all.
Towards the end of October, Chevy finally called saying, "We'll be done with your car at the end of the month. Ya want us to truck it to L.A.?"
 
"Heck no!" I answered, "I wanna
drive that sucker home."
 
I lobbied GM to get the car partially "refurbished" by Corvette Technicians at the Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. Then, I sat down with a road atlas and planned the "Barney Expedition." It would start on a Friday night from Newark, New Jersey. I'd drive to Old Lyme, Connecticut for the Callaway Gathering. Then, I'd head for Detroit from where I'd fly home, leaving the car at Milford for 10 days. Finally, I would fly back to Michigan and drive it to California via Denver.
 
I sent ahead some staples of long-distance travel: a triple accessory socket adapter, my Valentine One Radar Locator, a CB radio and antenna, a cellular phone, and an extra quart of Red Line 10W-40. As I would do about 4000 miles in a car that's condition or maintenance history was unfamiliar, I also shipped my Vetronix Mastertech scan tester, the '95 Corvette Service Manuals and a small tool kit.
 
Jump Off at Newark
On November 3rd, I caught a jet to Newark, shuttled to the Airport Marriott where Chevy keeps their cars and checked Barney out on a media loan. I loaded up then opened the hood to check the oil prior to leaving on this epic journey.
 
Surprise!
 
On the LT5's plenum, next to McLellan's and Holland's signatures, were two new signatures, those of two staffers from a Corvette magazine published in the northeast. I was astonished. Of the scores of journalists who drove that car; those two actually believed that their standing in the Corvette hobby was equal to that of Dave McLellan, "father" of the ZR1. At first, I was angry because it was impossible to selectively remove the signatures. But after leaving the airport, the ZR1 mystique had a calming effect and I thought, heck, no one's gonna know who they are, anyway.
 
I was told that Old Lyme was milk run except, when I went through the Bronx, I should not stop, no different that traversing south-central L.A. on the Harbor Freeway. On I-95 north, my Valentine went off constantly. At first, I slowed. Then, figuring there can't be that many cops in the whole damn state, I went back to 10 over. Never did see a NY bear.
 
My brief impressions of the Callaway Gathering? 1) It was a distinct honor to park Barney (nicks, scratched and gouged wheels) in Callaway's lot with some of the Registry's finest cars. 2) I have additional respect for what Reeves Callaway has achieved at Le Mans. Witnessing a dyno test of a Supernatural LT5 was revealing and a briefing on the "Chief" package of LT5 bolt-ons which includes Callaway's "Headercats" was intriguing. I much appreciated the hospitality the Callaway folks showed. Those wanting more information on Callaways 's offerings for ZR1s should request a copy of their catalog. 3) Tony's Italian banquet on Saturday night was deeee-lightful!
 
Sunday morning, after breakfast with ZR1 Net members Dave Bright and Rob Loszewski, I was on the road. Over the same part of I-95, my V1 was active again, but with daylight, I noted that, whenever the it went off, I passed a pole topped with a small box. They were probably microwave transmitters used as traffic counters and/or decoys; an annoying, but effective way to control speeds.
 
I took Interstate 287 into Jersey, then jumped on I-80, the venue for most of this trip. Since it was only 10 miles out of the way, I stopped in Blairstown to visit my old high school. The last time I saw the place was in June of 1970, through the rear-view on my '63 Roadster and I figured it was appropriate to have Barney visit 25 years later.
 
Other than east coast truckers being some of the most foul-mouthed CBers I have ever heard, the trip across the rest of New Jersey and Pennsylvania was uneventful. Not having driven much in the northeast, I was under the impression that roads there were pretty bad. In fact, 80 is an excellent road. That night, I stayed at a Howard Johnson's near Mercer, PA. I was satisfied with a warm bed, hot coffee and a phone system to which I could connect my Macintosh PowerBook. That night, Barney got his first frost as the temperature dipped into the 20s.
 
Not having an ice scraper the next morning was a major screw-up. The defroster would have taken forever. With my head out the side window, I got the car across the street to McDonald's and parked facing facing the sun then did junk food. After fueling, I was headed for Detroit. Again, the ride was uneventful but I had planned for boredom. Not only did I have the latest alternative CDs but I had my Mastertech. When I got weary with the scenery or Alanis Morrisette, I turned on the tester and watched engine management data as the LT5 purred away it's a techhead thing, ok?
 
By late morning, I turned north at Toledo and picked up I-75. You reach Michigan and know, right away, it has the worst roads in the U.S. With a 62 ton truck weight limit on many roads versus most states 40 ton limit, many highways look like Craters of the Moon National Park. Potholes are so big that the highway department waits until a Geo Metro falls in, then simply adds a coat of new paving. After lunch, I reached Detroit and turned my purple ZR1 over to Chevrolet's fleet management contractor, "Shows and Shoots". They took Barney to Milford and, a couple of days later, I flew home to LA.
 
Barney’s brake pads and brake rotors were replaced, the clutch was replaced, three of four wheels were replaced and the LT5 got a new set of AC 41-913 spark plugs. Unfortunately, a new rear axle was not available by my planned departure date, so that was left for me to "warranty" once I got to California. Too bad, on the trip, the axle noise was awful. The car was tested at Milford to make sure it performed according to standards. In the quarter mile, my old friend, Corvette Development Engineer, Jim Ingle, ran a best of 12.97/109.7. Scott Allman, formerly a Corvette ride and handling engineer, tested the car's handling and gave it a passing grade.
 
I flew back to Detroit and, on Monday, 11/20, the car was delivered to Jack Cauley Chevrolet, the best Corvette store in the Detroit area. They changed the oil (Red Line 10W-40, of course) and installed a K&N air filter that I supplied. The Cauley organization is highly professional and well-tuned to the needs of Corvette owners. If you live in the Great Lakes states, consider Cauley for a Corvette purchase.
 
About nine that night, after a short "launch" ceremony at Cauley, I owned 1995 Corvette ZR1 VIN 1G1Y22J3S5800140, Dark Purple Metallic with a black interior.
 
Of course, once a hot rodder always a hot rodder, the first thing I did with my new car is modify it. I drove to my "secret Michigan hideaway" for its first modification: good headlights. Few cars sold in the US have lights adequate for high-speed touring. Eckler's sells a bolt in, off-road headlight made by Hella that connects to the stock wiring and is a quantum leap in safety.
 
A Look at Lingenfelter's and, re. Iowa: it's, like, flat out there.
The third day of the Barney Expedition began at 7a.m. on a cold and snowy Tuesday morning when I left Detroit for John Lingenfelter's shop in Decatur, Indiana, about three hours to the southwest. Those who spit-shine your ZR1s weekly would have been appalled, but I ran the car through several hours of rain, slush and snow to get there. At Lingenfelter's, icicles were hanging on Barney's purple snout, slush dripped from the parking lights and a film of dirt/road salt was all over the back. Jason Haines, a member of the ZR1 Net and John Lingenfelter's media relations operative, hosted my tour of this marvelous facility.
 
On this trip, I visited two ZR1 tuners. In size, Callaway and Lingenfelter are comparable. Lingenfelter's has more space for customer cars and a larger engine facility, but Callaway has a separate building for chassis development. Lingenfelter seemed busier. Callaway started with turbocharged engine conversions for road cars. Lingenfelter started building drag race motors. That difference is apparent in the way each does their work. Callaway does as much development with suspension and brakes as they do with engines. Lingenfelter appears to do less chassis development but a ton of engine stuff. Virtually everything Callaway does is in-house, whereas some of Lingenfelter's work incorporates off-shelf, aftermarket pieces. Interestingly, John Lingenfelter told me he'd seen Callaway's headercats and feels they are a valid modification for a LT5 that must run cats. Of course, John and I also talked about his motors. If it's a kick-ass engine you want, he's got the mother of all LT5s, a bored and stroked unit of about 600 hp. However that kind of power costs you upwards of 30 grand. Clearly, Lingenfelter does awesome stuff but most of it is priced out of reach of mere mortals like myself. Anyone wanting more info, contact Jason, he can send you a beautiful catalog.
 
After lunch, it was time to head west. Out of Decatur on US30, I crossed north-central Indiana, ran into Illinois and skirted the southern suburbs of Chicago which was my mistake of the day. On the map, 30 south of Chicago seemed a good shortcut to Interstate 80.
 
Not.
 
I hit the suburbs at rush hour, was further delayed by bridge construction and a school bus making stops. I must of averaged 20 mph at best. Thankfully, once I picked up 80 again, just east of Joliet, Illinois; it was back to cruising 10 over.
 
Two words for Illinois and Iowa: flat and farms. Crossing them was a no-brainer. Once it got dark, the extra brightness of the Hella lights were a welcome safety margin. I stopped only for dinner and to put gas in the car. The Valentine bleeped occasionally, but I find, on heavily traveled routes, I sometimes get more notice from the CB radio than from the V1.
 
By 10pm, just east of Des Moines, Iowa, I began to look for a motel. Obviously, I was out in the sticks because the first two places I tried did not have phones. Finally, in Stuart, Iowa , I found a brand new Super 8 with excellent service and phones.
 
Nebraska, it's flat, too.
Barney gets a bath in Colorado.
The objective on Day Four was Ft. Collins, Colorado about 600 miles to the west. At 9 a.m. I went outside to load up and, whoa, it was a frigid, 19°. After a hot breakfast and fuel, I headed out of the gas station for 80 and, because the coffee, apparently, wasn't working yet, was rudely awakened by an air horn blast.
 
Barreling down on me at 45 mph, was this big, ugly, three-wheeled "farm implement thing." Guessing it was incapable of evasive maneuvers, I banged reverse and popped the clutch. I imagined the two sodbusters in the cab saying, "Say didja check the hog futures this mo-damn! Guber, you see that dumb sumbitch? A purple Carvette. (yuk, yuk) Ain’t that cute? Probably some kissy-faced tourist from California. Thank
God we live in Iowa, away from all that weirdness?"
 
Other than nearly getting squashed by a monster tricycle, the drive across the rest Iowa and Nebraska was uneventful. In both states the roads are excellent. It was overcast at first, but by the Nebraska line; the sun was shining and Barney was reeling off the miles. Life was good.
 
Iowa cops use radar and the Valentine chirped a few times, giving plenty of notice of their positions. In Nebraska, the V1 never went off, even though I saw cops. Either NB bears don't use radar (unlikely) or all their units are instant-on but I wasn't fast enough to interest them (likely). By Grand Island, the cops thinned out and I was sleepy out of boredom. The solutions? Food and fuel in North Platte then, once I was back on the big road, go faster. The 10-over rule went out the window. I ran 85 through the rest of Nebraska then jumped on Interstate 76 into northeast Colorado.
 
Wednesday evening brought the most beautiful sunset of the trip. A breathtaking, orangey-gold sun shown amongst cloud decks to the west at the base of the Rockies. Just about dark, I reached Sterling, CO. From there, I-76 was not a good choice so I dropped onto CO SR14 which runs 102 miles due west, from Sterling to Ft. Collins. A good, two-lane road with little traffic, this was my first chance run at a speed I consider acceptable for touring: about 90 mph. I stopped just outside Sterling to fine adjust my Hellas, then got the hammer down. I didn't see under 90 until just outside Ft. Collins. Those who drive ZR1s properly know that about 90 mph in sixth, the ZF starts to sing. Music to my ears! I hit Ft. Collins about 6:30 p.m. My buddy, Roger Goff and his girlfriend, Carol, were kind enough to put me up for the night and include me in their family's Thanksgiving plans the following day.
 
Roger is a member of the VetteNet mail list and owns an outstanding, Medium Blue, '73 coupe. It's got a beefed up small-block and a Richmond five-speed. Thanksgiving day, we went out for a test and I have to admit, as much as I like a ZR1 there is something mystical about driving hot rods like Roger's. I'll think twice about selling my other Corvette a modified, big-block '71 Coupe.
 
Back at Roger's place, I washed two days of road grime off Barney. Then, I tossed the keys to Roger and I rode shotgun while he tried out the car. Interestingly, driving a ZR1 was Roger's first experience with the current platform. Nothing like an LT5 at 6500 rpm to put a grin on the face of a ZR1 newbe.
 
Roger's other claim to fame is homebrew beer. In fact, his stuff is so good that a couple bars in Ft. Collins buy small quantities from him. After dinner, Roger and I sipped cold mugs of "Winter Solstice" and went over the next day's trip. It would take me through some of the highest places in North America over which a major highway runs. On that route there'd been two inches of snow the night before and more was forecast that night. However, as long as the Colorado State Patrol didn't close the road; I intended to press-on, regardless, that's why Corvettes have ASR.
 
Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada in one, Hammer Down Day.
Day five of this transcontinental adventure covered the greatest distance at the highest average speed. My destination, Henderson, Nevada, was 813 road miles southwest of Ft. Collins. Before dawn, I got my raggedy butt out of bed and loaded up. By 5:30 a.m., I was south on I-25 figuring that, being Friday after Thanksgiving and I was on the road at the crack of dawn, there would be no traffic.
 
Not.
 
I was amazed how many commuters (Saabs, VW Passats, BMWs and Toyota Camrys piloted by maximum yupsters networking their way to the big bucks) were rolling that early in the morning. The upside was: they were in a hurry. At 80 mph, I was getting passed. Obviously Denver is like other large urban areas: during the morning commute, you add 15 mph to limit and take no prisoners. After gas and breakfast at Longmont, a little north of the city; it was back on I-25, followed by a short run on I-76 to bypass downtown, then west on I-70.
 
One of my favorite drives in all of the U.S. is Interstate 70 from Denver, up over the Rockies, down to Grand Junction, then across Utah to I-15. There are many scenic roads in this country, some of which more visually appealing than I-70, but this Interstate combines high speed touring
and outstanding scenery.
 
Best parts are:
 
1) From just west of Denver to just west of Vail, Colorado. This includes the Eisenhower tunnel at 11,099ft. and Vail Pass at 10,900 ft. As I-70 took me up the front-range grades, I was blessed with an exquisitely beautiful sunrise that turned snow-capped peaks, 50 or more miles in the distance, first pink, then gold. For the next 100 miles or so, one is surrounded by Alpine terrain. Someone with more time, has numerous mountain towns in which to tourist. Also, if you bypass the tunnel on US6, you go over Loveland Pass and experience even more awesome sights.
 
2) The short drive through Gleenwood Canyon, about halfway between Denver and Grand Junction. This 17-mile stretch was the last part of 70 to be completed in 1992 and one of the most expensive sections of Interstate, on a dollar-per-mile basis, to build. There are parts of this road that are, literally, attached to the side of a sheer rock wall.
 
3) The 106 mile stretch between Green River and Salina, Utah. Wide-open spaces and red rock formations make it hard to keep your attention on the road. This is also one of those rare places in the U.S. where you can (depending on traffic and time of day) safely run for long periods of time at above 100 mph. There are no services for the whole 106 miles, so gas up in Green River.
 
Most people don't run this trip as aggressively as I had to. A better way is to take two days with more time to stop or take side trips. If that is your choice, pick Green River as a halfway, overnight.
 
The drive turned out easy. I saw only three cops over the 800+ miles. The forecasted snow storm along the high parts of the route never materialized. There was about three inches of snow on the sides of the road left from Wednesday night and only a small amount of ice.
 
Other than slowing for occasional traffic and stops for food and fuel, I was never below 80 mph from the SR470/ I-70 junction, west of Denver, to where I-70 ends at I-15, 20 miles north of Beaver, Utah. That's 460 miles of real ZR1 driving! Hammer down at 90 mph was where I ran much of the time and over some stretches I was up at 110. Unfortunately, there was just enough traffic such that 125 or better for any length of time was tough. Overtaking unpredictable old geezers pulling trailers with a closing speed of 60 or better mph can be a bit scary. Secondly, all it takes is one liberal, do-gooder with a cellular phone and the "bears" are looking for ya.
 
Nevertheless, the enjoyment of a ZR1 dictates really fast driving and there was one place where I was at 140 for several minutes. I saw a couple of spots that would be great for a top-speed shot, but traffic kept me from trying. Each was over the 4-4.5 miles one needs to top-out a ZR1. I-70 is a excellent piece of road, certainly comparable to any racetrack, and thus suitable for 180 mph. Maybe the next time I head up to that part of the country, I will arrive at the start of one of those sections at dawn on a Sunday.
 
I reached I-15 about 1 p.m. As its the major route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and onto major recreation areas in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana; there was much more traffic. I stopped in Beaver, Utah for gas then continued south.
 
There is a 29-mile stretch of I-15 that runs through a corner of Arizona and is usually enforced aggressively. Today, however, the AHP was, apparently, on vacation because I saw none of them and the CB was quiet. A little before four p.m., I topped a rise and saw the towering casinos of Las Vegas. Visible from that distance and typical of Sin City's outrageousness was this 800 ft. tall spire with a restaurant, a small roller coaster (amazing) and (even more amazing) a bungee jumping facility on top. Imagine fattening up at an 800 ft. high eatery then trying the roller coaster or bungee jumping on the roof. I don't think so.
 
At 4:30 p.m after a 12hr. 10 min., 813 mile trip across parts of four states and two time zones, I arrived in Henderson where I'd spend the night with my sister and brother-in-law. They are die hard Chevrolet fans and own a 73 Chevy Nova hot rod. They belong to the Classic Chevrolet club in Las Vegas. Coincidentally, Friday was the club's monthly cruise night, so I partially unloaded Barney and then we took it and the Nova to the club's run. On the way, I gave sis a drive in Barney. It's always interesting to watch a newbe get the hang of a six-speed gearbox. Fortunately she has a little of the same gearhead blood I have in my veins and figured it out pretty quick.
 
While we had dinner at In-and-Out Burger (truly, fast food that is a cut above) the cars were displayed in the parking lot. The contrast of a ZR1 parked amongst the '73 Nova (small-block with dual quads), a '69 Camaro (502 big block), a "streetable" '66 Chevelle drag racer and other assorted Chevy classics and hot rods was quite interesting. Some club members had never seen an LT5, so after dinner, I opened Barney's hood and preached the gospel of 4 cams and 32 valves.
 
We drove back to Henderson for a beer at Johnnie Mack's, the number one pizza/ beer spot in town. Over a cold one, I filled sis and bro in on the trip down from Denver. Then, it dawned on me, it had been a long, long day.
 
Barney Gets a New Home
Compared to the previous five days of this road trip, you'd think 250 miles, from Las Vegas to West Covina, California, would be a cake walk. No way. Thanksgiving weekend traffic headed west (probably losers at the tables and slots going home early) and its drivers' lack of intelligence made for an annoying drive.
 
I rolled out of Henderson just before lunch and jumped on SR146 west until it ran into I-15, just south of Vegas. On the big road, traffic was moving at 70 or so but everyone was nose-to-tail. As a California native, it embarrasses me to admit that many people who drive in my state are oblivious to fundamentals, especially the drive-right-pass-left rule. Seems like 3/4s of the people on the road that day were idiotic, left lane bandits.
 
The problem is compounded with I-15 being only two lanes each way from Las Vegas to Victorville, California. Considering the volume of traffic, it's asinine that California hasn't widened it to three lanes. On the other hand, I suppose it makes sense. First, all those drivers spend their money in Nevada, not California. Secondly, who the heck cares about infrastructure?! In California, we're busy forcing jobs out of the state, catering to liberals and environmental extremists, expanding entitlements and/or special privileges to all groups (including gay, dyslexic, abused, baby whales), screwing up our public schools and letting guys like OJ Simpson go free. But noooooo, we're
not going to build better highways so people can easily go places!
 
Engineers say traffic bunches into "herds" of cars. Nothing illustrates it better than this trip. I'd drive along at 75 or 80 for a while, then I'd come up on a long string of cars, most in the left lane moving at 55-65 mph. Sometimes the right lane was clear, so I'd stay there, pass a couple dozen cars then come up behind a motorhome running double nicks. I'd match speeds then drop into the left lane. Everyone was so close that, if we'd been going 150 instead of 65, we'd have a major NASCAR draft going. This went on for 180 miles. Needless to say, I took Advil when I got home.
 
A ZR1 does its best to relax stressed out drivers. With 405hp, there is little you can't pass. With four-wheel discs and ABS, there is little you can't stop for. Selective Ride’s "Tour" mode smooths the bumps. I kept the CD player loaded with good alternative rock. As for the famous California Highway Patrol, with so much traffic, the truckers were alert, annoyed and using the radio. CHP couldn't move anywhere on 15 without some 18-wheeler instantly broadcasting their position.
 
Later, on Interstate 10, I got about 20 miles from the end of the trip to find an L.A. classic: the bumper-to-bumper, four-lanes-wide, traffic jam. A while later, the purple ZR1 put its wheels on my driveway for the first time. I treated it to a wash and a brand new Wolf car cover. So, what did I learn from a five-and-a-half day, 3690-mile, epic journey from New Jersey to California?
 
First, the ZR1 is a road car...well, duh! In the pre-C5 era of late-1995, it was the best America's Sports Car had to offer and, even now, it ranks as a unique Corvette driving experience.
 
The best roads were in Iowa, Nebraska and Utah. These states have little urban traffic and spend a sensible part of their budgets on highway maintenance. The best drivers are in the east, outside of cities, and in the Midwest. Typical speeds are noticeably slower in the east than in the west.
 
The best scenery was I-70 through the Rockies and Utah. The best motels were Super 8s. Howard Johnson was a second choice. Motel 6 wasn't even close. Best food of the trip, was Roger Goff's Thanksgiving cuisine and homebrews. Best food on the road was In-and-Out Burger. The worst food was a cafeteria-style, steak place called Western Sizzlin'. It totally sucked. If you see one, keep driving and look for a Taco Bell.
 
If you plan a drive trip like mine, take a Valentine One Radar Locator. It's clearly the best detector available because of its sensitivity, ability to sense direction and two user-selectable levels of logic circuitry. Though it goes for a premium price, my V1 has paid for itself in helping me avoid tickets.
 
Your next best counter-measure is attentive monitoring of the Citizen's Band radio. It is not important to have the most whizbang, expensive radio, but get an efficient antenna and the Radio Shack #21-908 is a good choice for any ZR1. It clamps to the bottom of the hatch hinge plate and works far better than the rear bumper units I see on a lot of Corvettes Have the antenna "matched" and learn the CB vernacular. Lastly, if your trip includes a lot of night driving, upgrade your headlights to the brighter, DOT-approved Hellas from Eckler's
 
Generally, Dark Metallic Purple #140 had few problems, considering I bought it used with a lot of miles on it. The only two were the noisy axle and that nasty rattle. As for Barney's future, after I get the axle and rattle fixed under warranty, I want to do something about the car's exterior which is covered with nicks, scratches and scuffs. It is shameful how many of my colleagues in the automotive press cared less about a car that was not their own.
 
Every Corvette I have ever owned has been either a hot rod or a race car, so what kind of modification package am I considering for Barney? Being a member of the ZR1 Internet mail list has taught me much about what other ZR1 owners have done to their cars. I have visited two centers of LT5 expertise: Callaway Cars and Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. I have talked to people at GM that know the LT5. Basically, I have lots of information.
 
I've learned the LT5 is expensive to modify. You can easily burn up ten grand in search of 100 hp. I could build two big-blocks for my '71 Coupe for that money. While they are wonderful engines, the really trick LT5s from DRM or Lingenfelter are clearly out of my budget. That leaves bolt-ons and mild head work. The hot rodder that I am, I have a modification program in the planning stages. For now, the details remain classified.
 
With the Barney Expedition over, I have another transcontinental driving experience to remember for years to come. My first was in September of 1970, in a 1963 Roadster. It is fitting this one came 25 years later in a 1995 ZR1.