[Exclusive] Ken Lingenfelter Talks Strategy in Push for More Power in C7
With one of the most coveted Corvette collections in the world and a company recognized as one of the leaders in engineering higher performance packages for the car, Ken Lingenfelter certainly has come to know a lot about the ‘Vette. In fact, many would consider him an expert on the sports car due to his longstanding ties to the nameplate.
The world-renowned automobile collector currently owns about 75 Corvettes ranging from a ’63 split window model that he credits with really driving his interest in cars to the 1955 Duntov Test Mule, known as the first true high-performance ‘Vette. During a recent one-on-one tour of the collection with Lingenfelter at his Michigan facility, I had a chance to get a more candid take on what he thinks about the new Stingray and what his team is doing to get more power out of the car.
Corvette Forum: What was your first impression of the C7?
Lingenfelter: I think it kind of caught everybody off guard a little bit because it was a whole lot different style than it was before. I know there are a lot of traditionalists who couldn’t handle the fact that it didn’t have round taillights anymore, but when you look past that, it is a really good-looking car. It truly is. I will say it’s underpowered when it comes to the drag strip. Now, that’s “underpowered” coming from me to put it in perspective. There are a lot of people who would be happy with what it’s got, but we’re always reaching for more.
CF: What’s been your team’s strategy to improve the power in the C7?
Lingenfelter: We realized early on that the DI engine was going to be a part of the Silverado pick-up truck, and we could get those. We couldn’t get the Corvettes yet because they weren’t ready. So we bought a couple of Silverados and went about the process of putting them through a chassis dyno, engine dyno, pulling the engine apart, and putting it back together to figure out what we had to work with … as far as making more horsepower from that engine. We were pleasantly surprised that there was a lot of room. We’re still looking to see how far we can go.
CF: Where exactly are you in that process now?
Lingenfelter: We have four C7s. Every one of them is in a little different level of development, heads and cam, heads with radical cam, supercharger, Magnuson, Edelbrock, heads and cam and supercharger. We’re trying very hard to test the limits of everything, and as a result, we’ve gotten a lot of engineering and testing done.
The car we first developed for testing the supercharger has really worked. We had it at the drag strip several times and really kind of punished it on the road course. Then it did the Hot Rod Power Tour, which was kind of icing on the cake. I can’t be sure, but I think it was the first fully supercharged Corvette (C7) on the road. We’ve got 6,000 miles on it now, completely error-free — no issues at all.
CF: I’ve heard that one of the biggest challenges with boosting the power in the C7 has been the limitations with the fuel pump. How are you working to address that issue?
Lingenfelter: Our testing has proven the factory DI fuel pump will support boosted applications in the 600-hp/630-hp range. We are currently installing Edelbrock C7 superchargers that deliver these power numbers on a number of cars. We are well-aware many of our customers want more power.
I am happy to say we are closing in on a production solution to increase fuel output. We have been working hard to identify potential issues with increasing the power on LT-based engines — the factory DI pump being one of them. We have developed a few different solutions, based on the requirements of different performance packages, are currently testing production components. We plan to announce new parts soon.
CF: What is the most horsepower you’ve gotten out of a C7 during testing?
Lingenfelter: We showed a Magnuson supercharged LT1 at SEMA last year with 720 hp. We have continued development on components and packages for the C7. Most of our development has been for our “daily driver” street packages. These LT1 engine packages are in the 600-hp to 750-hp range. We currently have packages up to 1000-hp. If our customers want more, we can do it.
CF: There have been a few performance shops that have claimed to put out some pretty impressive horsepower numbers for the C7. How do you the think the race to meet consumer demand for more power affects the end product?
Lingenfelter: It’s hard to say. The interesting part about it is when you have a brand like ours that’s been around for 41 years, we have repeat customers … and new customers who we pick up are always watching the numbers.
The challenge we have, and the challenge consumers have is that there are a lot of small shops that seem to think they know what they’re doing when they go to build a supercharger on an engine. That’s just such an oversimplification.
Everything is in the calibration, and if you don’t have that engine calibrated right, you can end up bolting a supercharger on and […] getting maybe 10 percent or 30 percent of what you could get, or worse yet, you hurt your motor. I think our brand has been known for knowing how to calibrate the engine properly, and that’s what we’re focused on.
CF: How does the new Z06 impact your performance strategy for the C7?
Lingenfelter: The new Z06 looks great. GM says it’s going to make 650 horsepower depending on how you calculate it. I know it’s got a new fuel pump, so they’ve handled that issue. That’ll be plenty of power for a lot of people, too, and it’s gorgeous. I think they did a beautiful job on it, but our customers want more power and we’re going to give them more … substantially more.
Below are photos of a few of the previous-gen Corvettes from the Lingenfelter Collection taken during the tour.