Anthony & Michael Saris’ Torch Red 1997 Corvette Project Car

A major health challenge and a Corvette project car pulls father and son car guys even closer together.

Dateline: 10.11.20 – For car guys, it doesn’t get much better than sharing our passion with family, be it husband and wife, father and child, or father and grandchildren. Anthony Saris is a lucky guy because his dad, Michael Saris is just as much of a car guy as he is. As a kid growing up, Anthony helped his Dad on a series of VWs, and when it was time for Anthony to get into his own cars, Michael was right there with him.

In June 2015 Michael was given very bad news from his doctor; he was diagnosed with Stage 4A Salivary Duct Cancer, and Stage 1 prostate cancer, and was not given much time. To remove the tumor from his jaw and several lymph nodes; Michael had a neck dissection; followed up with chemotherapy; and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) gene therapy. After Michael’s therapy was completed, new tests showed that the cancer had metastasized to his shoulder that required radiation therapy that burned a hole in his shoulder blade and weakened his jaw. Consequently, if Michael ever needs any major dental work, it will require follow-up hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments. That’s all quite a blow! The good news is that three years into his remission, Michael is free of both cancers.

One day while Anthony was at work his Dad call him and said, “I think we need to do one last car together.” (imagine that kind of a call) Before Anthony and Michael could tell their spouses, the guys had been to the bank and bought a wrecked 1997 Corvette coupe. C5 Corvettes have lots of potential and for a project car that’s going to be heavily modified, the wrecked Vette that came with some nice engine mods was perfect.

The 1997 Corvette took a pretty good hit that caused some slight damage to the driver’s side front section of the hydroformed side frame rail and the front transverse radiator cradle. The steel frame parts were repaired and the C5 body panels are fairly easy to replace. Anthony and Michael locally sourced as many body parts as they could; eventually replacing the front fenders, headlights, front bumper cover, and passenger side mirror.

Project cars are always full of surprises. After the collision work was completed, it was time for a new paint job. As Anthony and Michael were unloading the car off the trailer, the LS1 engine began knocking loudly. One of the competition valve springs broke. The LS1 was treated to a new set of valve springs and rockers; and it was off to the paint shop for a new coat of Torch Red. With the crash damage repaired and a new coat of paint, it was time to have some real fun.

The 1997-to-2000 346-cubic-inch LS1 engine had 345-horsepower from the factory. These engines can be taken up the 500-horsepower with just bolt-on parts. The car’s previous owner made several inner enhancements to the LS1 engine that included; a Z06 LS6 intake manifold and injectors; ported heads; a Z06 cam; Scorpion 1:7 rockers; and a tune. Also, the four-speed automatic transmission had an RPM Transmissions Stage II setup with a high-stall torque converter and a shift kit.

Anthony and Michael wanted a really strong driver, so they treated the modified LS1 to a SLP Black Wing Cold Air Intake. Anthony and Michael then rerouted the car’s front brake ducts into the airbox. The stock ignition coils and wires were replaced with performance MDS Coils and wires. And to take care of the exhaust, 1-7/8-inch OBX long tube stainless steel headers were installed with a 3-inch X-Pipe, and a set of Borla S-Type cat-backs. Borla classifies their S-Type systems as “Aggressive Plus”. Combined with the Z06 cam, the car sounds wonderfully “bad”.

A modern street machine needs some under-the-hood bling. The stock fuel rails were replaced with a set of anodized red billet aluminum fuel rails and the valve covers were painted red. Black carbon fiber dresses up the inner fender covers, battery cover, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield wiper reservoir. All of the fluid caps were hydro dipped with a red carbon fiber weave film. The radiator cover and fuse box cover were painted gloss black. And to finish things off, red LED lights beautifully reflect off the carbon fiber and hydro dipped parts.

The interior is mostly stock, but with a few nice surprises. The factory radio was replaced with an Xtron 10.1-inch Android-based radio with AM/FM Stereo; Bluetooth; 7 USB ports; downloadable apps; Google Chrome; and ports for front/rear cameras. To support the new radio, a Kenwood 5ch amp with kicker components for high and mid-range sound; plus a kicker 10-inch subwoofer mounted inside of an inverted fiberglass box; replaced the factory speaker system. The rear trunk lid has a black rear cargo shade. Red LED interior lights in the black interior fit in with the overall color scheme.

All C5 Corvettes have three storage compartments in the trunk space; small compartments on the right and left side and one larger compartment in the middle. Over the top of the center compartment lid is a red LED-lighted, frosted 12” x 12” laxan panel with a black Jake logo. Then on the right side is a red fire extinguisher. The left side compartment lid has the 10-inch subwoofer.

Obviously, the color-theme for Anthony and Michael’s 1997 Corvette is red and black. Black carbon fiber ground effects parts include a C7 front splitter, side skirts, and rear deck spoiler. The B-pillar and lift-out roof panel have been black wrapped and completely pulls together the greenhouse with a solid-black look.(Some of the photos here are from before the black wrap work)

Upfront the stock factory pop-up headlights have been replaced with Radioflyer C5-R Corvette racing-style exposed LED headlights with black headlight buckets. The front day running lights/turn signal lens, rear side marker lens, and taillight lens have been black-tinted out. The C5 Z06 17 x 9-1/2 front and 18 x 10-1/2 rear wheels are shod with Toyo Proxes P1 tires; P265/40ZR-17 front and P295/35ZR-18 on the rear. And lastly, the lower valance part of the rear bumper cover has been black wrapped along the crease line that surrounds the rear vents and exhaust pipe opening.

Project cars are never really “done”, as owners typically keep finding things to add on and change. But eventually, the day arrives when it’s time to take the car to a show. In December 2018 Anthony and Michael took their Torch Red 1997 to its first car show and won their first trophy. Of course, it’s not about the trophies and ribbons, it’s about the togetherness, caring, and sharing.

Many years ago, former Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill said concerning Corvettes, “… We’re not talking about transportation here; we’re talking about a product that changes someone’s lifestyle…” Since starting their project car, Anthony and Michael have joined a Corvette owners group in the Tampa Bay area that has opened them up to a whole new social group. This is how new friendships are formed. Today, Michael is three years in remission. Anthony says, “Building this car has meant the world to us. Not for all the attention and trophies that it gets, but because of the memories made, and the ones we will continue to make together.”

Vette Vues wishes Anthony, Michael, and their family many more years of good health and pleasure with their beautiful Corvette. – Scott

PS – The story was originally published in the September 2019 issue of Vette Vues Magazine.

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