Emelia Hartford’s journey from stock C8 to one of the world’s quickest ‘Vettes starts the same way all too many project cars do: with the intention of keeping the car completely stock. “I was very vocal about wanting to keep the car close to stock,” she said. “I have a bad habit of taking my street cars and ending up modding them to the point where it becomes a race car and the streetability factor of it just isn’t there.” Those sound like famous last words, but Hartford was determined to stick to it this time. Maybe some new wheels and an exhaust, that’s all her Corvette needed. Right?
As we’ve proven time and again, the C8 Corvette is one heck of a performance car, and not wanting to mess with its reliability and usability strikes us as a great reason to not mod the thing. However, here’s just part of Hartford’s automotive CV: an Infiniti G35, an LS-swapped Nissan 240 SX, four blown Subarus culminating into a fully built widebody GC, and a manual-swapped G-body Buick Regal with a twin-turbo LS sticking through the hood. Then came the Corvette in March 2020, and the dream of keeping the C8 totally stock faded in less than 1,000 miles.
Once Hartford made it from Louisville, Kentucky, where she took delivery of her ‘Vette, to Peitz Performance just outside Houston, the inevitable happened. They threw a bottle of NOS in the passenger’s seat of the C8, put drag radials on the rear, and sent it down a dragstrip. The result was a 10.7-second quarter mile at 127.1 mph. From then on, Hartford’s mind was made.
“I had so much fun with the fact that, one, we couldn’t tune it; two, we were trying different things at the track to get a faster e.t. and whatnot,” Hartford said. “On the way home from Texas, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided that we would try to twin-turbo one.”
She set about turning that forced-induction daydream into a reality. But with COVID-19 rearing its ugly head and lockdowns taking a firm hold of the entire country, it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as Hartford might have hoped. Nevertheless, she and her team moved quickly. By June 2020 she was back at Peitz Performance for installation.
“We spent those first couple of months doing a lot of the development with Peitz Performance remote, going back and forth on what ideas we thought would be best, how we should mount things, and the design of it,” she said. “It was super simple to install thanks to the way the kit was designed. For trackside repair, you want everything to be super accessible, so everything is V-banded on and has pretty easy access.”
With the turbos finally installed, it was off to the dyno to break the record for the world’s highest-horsepower C8, then they hit the dragstrip. After dropping the fantasy that she’d ever keep the poor thing stock, she wanted the world’s fastest C8 Corvette—and that’s exactly what she got. Earlier this year Hartford’s C8 Corvette posted a 9.41-second quarter-mile run at 144.94 miles per hour. The rest of Hartford’s journey has been spent tinkering with the setup to make sure it runs smoothly.
“You can throw twin turbos with a 3-pound spring on anything and make cool noises,” she said. “But putting power down is a completely different ballgame.”
Chevy’s claim that owners wouldn’t be able to tune the car initially made it difficult for Hartford and her team to find that goldilocks balance of reliability and extreme performance, but after enough fiddling, tuning, dyno work, track work, and street testing, Hartford thinks they’ve finally cracked the code. But in the end, the ‘Vette didn’t need cracking. It needed fooling.
“Getting the car to shift under power was challenging,” she said. “Even just getting the car happy under higher boost [was hard]. We were at the dyno for at least 12 hours [one day], and it was purely just to try and trick the mass air flow and manifold pressure signals into seeing what it wanted to see to avoid torque limit and other issues. We were just making sure it was happy … enough to where the clutches wouldn’t slip or the car wouldn’t be pissed off. It was a long day.”
Essentially, all the work Hartford and the team did simply amounted to tricking the Corvette’s ECU into thinking the car is stock, despite the fact it has two turbos running 12 to 15 pounds of boost through its LT2. That was the majority of the hard work, and Hartford is proud that she’s been able to document all of the nitty-gritty details on her YouTube channel.
“You see a lot of super-clean twin-turbo C8 builds, but you don’t see many people who are showing you the trials and tribulations, as well,” Hartford said. “I’m really stoked to build because I show everyone everything. I show the process. I show how we’re doing things. I show what we’re doing. On top of that, I’m not afraid to show when things go wrong.”
And things have gone wrong. Her C8 once caught fire at the track, and Hartford said it was because an oil line was scraping some curbing at Buttonwillow. It eventually broke, and the result was an oil fire that, according to Hartford, was no big deal. The only real problem it caused was the cleanup afterward.
Since that small hiccup, Hartford has worked to make her C8 even quicker, and she’s going to take it to the dragstrip again in the near future to beat her own record. Hartford’s full build list is below in case her story inspires you to take her on. She more than welcomes the competition.
Special thanks to Ben Bertucci for the photos. Check him out @benbertucci.
Emelia Hartford’s 2020 C8 Corvette Build
• Texas Speed Built 6.2L LT2 Engine
• Peitz Performance Twin Turbo Kit
• Precision 64/66 Turbos, WasteGate and BOV
• Holley Sniper Intake, Fuel Rails, Injectors
• Cicio Performance-supplied Dodson Clutches
• GForce Performance Engineering Outlaw Axles
• Deatschwerks Aux Fuel Cell with 3 DW400 Pumps
• Motul USA Oil
• Heat Shield Products Full Shielding
• Kooks Super Street Headers
• Zex Nitrous Kit
• Optima Yellow Top
• Factory ECU and tune
• Peitz Performance Xineering Controller
• Holley Dominator ECU Aux
• Crawford Racing Plug and Play Harness Dominator Harness
• Peitz Performance tune
• KW Suspension V3 Clubsport Coil Overs
Wheels & Tires
• Forgeline GS1R 18×5 (F) 18×11 Beadlock (R)
• Mickey Thompson 26×6.0R18 (F) 305/40R18 (R)
• ExtremeWraps Custom Wrap
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