Rosso Means Red on Italian 1979 Corvette
Riding with Pier Paolo Lucaroni through Italy in his 1979 Corvette
Story Jeffrey Conger - May 01, 2011 09:00 AM
I started with a new camshaft, then new heads, then again a camshaft, another camshaft and new intake, then...
The rumbling of the race-prepped V-8 is deafening as we pass the turn for Maranello on the right. Our Italian friend Pier Paolo Lucaroni is in his bright red 1979 modified Corvette. “In Italy, we have Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. All are very fast cars, but the music of the Ferrari engine is more like a soprano. While the Corvette with its American V-8 is a tenor, it is much deeper and warmer.”
Having owned his Corvette for the past 11 years and rebuilding every part except the body, he proclaimed, “I started with a new camshaft, then new heads, then again a camshaft, another camshaft and new intake, then again a camshaft, heads, new intake and carburetor, then the suspension system, then a gearbox!”
Proudly displayed on the hood is the insignia of Bad Boy Racers, which is one of the seven official Chapters of Italy’s premier Corvette club, Scuderia Corvette Italia. Prominently adhered to the sloping rear window of the ’79 is more evidence of his deeply rooted involvement with the club. Easily visible is a large circular red and black sticker that promotes the Scuderia and its online forum, and also two more small checkered flag decals celebrating the 2007 and 2010 Corvette Day, which is the club’s annual meeting.
Describing the continental difference between owning a Corvette in America versus Italy, Lucaroni explained, “When I bought the car, the big problem was getting spare parts. But now it is pretty easy with the Internet. You can buy anything. Usually you can receive parts from the States in one week to 10 days. But for the Italian who doesn’t know English, they are in big trouble. Without knowing English, it is pretty difficult to even order from the web.” Sharing information is one of the most important aspects of the Scuderia Corvette Italia’s online forum. This constant exchange of ideas and experiences creates a community where owners can help each other.
Creating the same handling as a new Corvette is a challenge. The C3 frame is much more flexible. It requires a very stiff suspension to compensate for the soft frame. Also the C3 body is not as wide as a C6, so that too can be an additional problem with cornering. However, with some innovation it is possible to make a C3 perform like a C6 – possibly even better than a Z06. Explaining the inherent problems, Lucaroni candidly said, “The biggest concern was the rearend. When Zora Duntov designed the car, he was looking to put in an independent rear suspension and found the cheapest way to do this.”
To counteract these issues, Lucaroni replaced the front suspension with a tubular lower A-arm and a race adjustable aluminum upper A-arm fitted with double adjustable coilovers and a 1.25-inch sway bar. On the rear, he went all-out to design his own six-link rear suspension with double adjustable coilovers and a one-inch tubular swaybar. Starting with only pen and paper, and then making a three-dimensional CAD model on his computer, the Florence resident fabricated a prototype suspension that he tested on his Corvette. After logging road miles and track time, he manufactured his second version, which is currently on the car.
Since then, several Corvette owners from the States and a few in Europe have contacted him for his drawings. He graciously supplied these to them, so they too could fabricate their own Lucaroni-designed C3 suspension. Knowing that some C3 owners appreciate his design and have implemented it makes Lucaroni very proud!
“It is not a perfect car! If you want to go in one direction with this car, you must discuss it with the car beforehand,” confided Lucaroni. A few more miles down the Autostrada, he explained his reasoning for his extensive modifications, “A car should handle the way you like, because every driver has his own way to drive. So, you need a car that will handle how you drive. Then you can feel safe driving fast in that car, and you can be fast on the track. You must rely on your car! When you attack a bend, you must rely on your car to bring you to the end of the turn. Otherwise, you will always be very nervous in the car, and you will be slower.”
Always one to consider the cost of true performance, Lucaroni laughingly said, “You need torque to have fun. That way you can burn tires or come out of a corner very quickly. You see, torque is fun. That is only way I can explain it!”
But with the gas prices in Italy hovering around $7 per gallon, many people ask, “Why drive a big American car?”
To this, our Italian friend in his red Corvette simply replied, “I don’t think the problem is the cost of the gasoline, because if you really love a car, you can use it one less time. If the consumption of gasoline is too high, you can still keep your passion … your hobby. Just have one less pizza and have one more full gas tank!”
Sounds logical to us. There’s the gas station now, let’s fill up.
Engine: World Products Motown small-block (427 cubic inches)
Camshaft: Crane solid roller
Heads: Dart Pro 227cc heads
Carburetor: Demon 850
Air Filter: K&N
Hardware: ARP bolts and washers
safety equipment: Five-point R.J.S. Racing Equipment harnesses
Handbrake: K-Sport polished aluminum competition style
Steering: Steeroid rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood disc
Tires: 245/40-R18 (front), 285/35-R19 (rear)
Fuel Pump: Aeromotive