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Canadians Dave Schroeder and John Ens are regulars at Hot Rod Drag Week and are well-known for the nitrous-inhaling 1966 Corvette that they have been competing with in the Unlimited class since 2012. In a field full of turbocharged and supercharged cars, the Schroeder-Ens team has been very committed to their nitrous combination and worked tenaciously for five years to dial in the car. They took their first Hot Rod Drag Week win in 2017, averaging in the sixes at over 200mph!
Each year the bar is raised for Drag Week competitors, and each year the competitors have to find new ways to go faster while surviving nearly a thousand miles of driving. In 2019, Tom Bailey broke the 5-second barrier with his SMX-powered Pro Modified 1969 Camaro and set the bar to a nearly unattainable height in the Unlimited class. The Schroeder-Ens team wanted to be competitive, and so began the venture into building a new Drag Week weapon.
“The C2 is a way better looking car, but it’s limited to what size tire you can fit while leaving the quarter panels stock,” explains Schroeder. “We couldn’t use the full power of the 872ci engine. The car was inconsistent, really tricky to tune and a bit of a handful to drive with the shorter wheelbase.”
When you already drive a six second car, how do you take it to the next level? What could you possibly scheme and build that could outdo that type of machine? It was an ambitious undertaking, but Dave and John accomplished just that. The result being this incredible Pro Modified C7 Corvette.
The new car was built using a 2015 Jerry Bickel Pro Mod chassis. The 872ci Reher-Morrison engine (along with its four-stage nitrous system by Monte Smith) was removed from the ’66 Corvette and swapped into the new chassis with slight modifications required for fitment. The Rossler Transmissions Turbo 400, Neal Chance Racing lockup converter, Gear Vendors Overdrive unit, and the cooling and induction system was also moved over from the old car. The Corvette is controlled and tuned using Holley EFI.
The 2019 Corvette body was built by Cynergy Composites and wears a Grand Sport-inspired paint job to match the ’66 Corvette. “We got Tim over at Cynergy Composites to build something a little heavier than he would for Pro Mod racing so that it would accept the OE headlights and not break with all the miles,” says Schroeder. “We really wanted this car to look as stock as possible and I think we did an okay job.” The 36x17-16-inch Hoosier slicks tucked out back are a dead giveaway to the car’s 2,750 horsepower capability.
Going into Hot Rod Drag Week 2021, the Schroeder-Ens team had just finished building the car and were only able to put five test miles on the new setup before loading up and heading down to Martin, Michigan for the first day of testing. “The biggest goal was just to finish the event,” says Schroeder. Surviving Hot Rod Drag Week with any car is an impressive accomplishment.
The C7 performed flawlessly all week long. “It’s almost embarrassing to say that there were no issues at all,” admits Schroeder. The driving portion of the event is typically described as torturous. Breaking parts and late-night fixes are a very common experience for Drag Weekers. Apart from losing an alternator on the second day of driving, the Corvette effortlessly cruised the event route amongst the regular flow of local traffic.
In comparison to the C2, the new car rides more comfortably, has more room inside and better visibility. On the track, the car is even faster off the line with its 4.57 rear gear, running a best of 1.01 seconds in the 60-foot. “I have more confidence driving the car and it feels more stable at the top end due to the longer wheelbase,” describes Schroeder. After five-days of driving and racing, the Schroeder-Ens team finished the event with an average time of 6.793 at 198.08 mph, taking the Unlimited class and overall win. “It was pretty special. We weren’t sure we were going to finish, so to be able to bring out a new car and finish and win, we were just thrilled,” says Schroeder.
Dave and John are now in full-preparation mode for the first Sick Week event in Florida this year. They are working on fine-tuning the setup and are looking to shave more weight off the car. “We’d like to test, test, test and get those four kits of nitrous singing more aggressively than we’ve ever done. See how quick we can go,” explains Schroeder.
Most racers would be elated to average in the sixes on Drag Week, but the Schroeder-Ens team have more ambitious goals. “All the fine tuning is what’s going to make a difference between a 6.46 ET and hopefully a 5.99,” says Schroeder. The Canadians intend on competing in a number of events this year with the Corvette, but hope to have the combination really dialed in by September to run a five-second pass on Drag Week.
Special thanks are owed to Calvin Hancox, Fred Mattis, Tom Warga, Paul Gagnon, and Ken Murray for their contributions to the build and to Nancy Ens for putting up with the race car shenanigans.