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With millions of followers across social media platforms, a score of build projects in the works, a burgeoning career in Lamborghini’s one-make Super Trofeo road racing series, and several world records under her belt, one could forgive Emelia Hartford for resting on her laurels every once in a while. But when she’s not on-track or putting together content for her channel, Hartford is strategizing how to conquer the next challenge she’s set for herself. She says it’s a habit that really started to take shape back when she was shopping for her first car.
“My first major decision in life was what car I was going to purchase for myself,” she explains. “I didn’t have that insight from my parents – my dad had passed away and my mom didn’t know much about cars, so I decided start doing research online to figure out what would be the right path to go down. I was young and I didn’t realize how biased the internet can be, so for my first car I ended up buying a manual Infiniti G35, even though I’d never driven stick before. That’s what the internet told me I needed! I drove the thing home and I was stalling everywhere – I probably roasted that clutch.”
Hartford initially planned on keeping the C8 stock, but she ended up buying a nitrous system and heading to a Texas drag strip on the drive home from picking up the car in Kentucky.
Although a bit embarrassed on her first outing with a three-pedal car, Hartford was determined to perfect her technique, and that set her on the path that’s she’s on today. “I fell in love with the car, so I spent a ton of time going out driving in the canyons and improving. And then, of course, I wanted to make the car faster.”
After throwing a few mods at the Infiniti, she decided to try her hand at SCCA autocross and found success there. “I actually still have the trophies sitting in my living room from way back when,” she notes. “That’s around the time I met the guys in B-Crew, and they became like my car family. They kind of took me under their wing – instead of partying on the weekends, I was learning about copper spray-on gaskets, how to swap a turbo, and things like that. At the time it was a total savior for me.”
Despite the fact that the C8 is deep into the 9s now, the interior still has all the creature comforts of a street car. Still, with the Corvette running as fast as it is now, Hartford tells us that an NHRA-certified roll cage is on the to-do list.
Then, on the way home from the track one day, an inattentive driver rear-ended the G35 and totaled it, and Hartford found herself at a crossroads as she deliberated her next move. “Everyone’s all about American V8s back home in Indiana, and I wanted to pair that with my interest in Japanese cars, so I ended up with an LS-swapped Nissan 240SX. It was my first prominent build for the YouTube channel, and it needed a lot of work. My first video was showing what the car was, coming to terms with the fact that I was going to need to basically rebuild this car completely, and setting a goal of turning it into a drift car in one month.”
Since then she’s worked on projects like her built, EJ207-powered Subaru Impreza and helped friends out with their builds as well. Her work eventually caught the attention of Netflix, who asked her to appear on the streaming service’s Fastest Car show. “I competed on the show with the 240, and that experience gave me a newfound appreciation for drag racing,” she tells us. “So after that, I bought my grandma’s ’79 Buick Regal to build that into a drag car.” Powered by a twin-turbo 408ci stroker motor that’s mated to a Tremec T-56 Magnum, the Regal is now a seriously potent machine. But it’s actually not quite as potent as Hartford’s current daily driver.
The car rides on KW Clubsport coilovers, which provide a range of adjustability that goes well beyond just ride height. That allows Hartford to set the Corvette’s suspension up for an event at drag strip one weekend, and then with a few tweaks, get it dialed in for a road course event on the next one. The C8 puts the power to the ground by way of Mickey Thompson ET Street drag radials, which are wrapped around Forgeline GS1R beadlock wheels.
“When I got the C8, I initially said I wasn’t going to mod it, and I really believed that,” she recalls with a laugh. “But I picked it up in Kentucky and as I was driving cross-county back home, I decided to stop in Texas to buy a nitrous bottle. After I put it on I headed straight to the drag strip!”
The C8’s advanced tech helps Chevrolet’s mid-engined sports car deliver impressive performance right out of the box, but it also comes with a lot of challenges for folks like Emelia who’re trying to take these cars to the next level. “I love it – I’m constantly learning new things every day.” And clearly the hard work as paid off: Now a far cry from stock, the C8’s 6.2-liter LT2 V8 has been worked over by the folks at Texas Speed to beef it up for the pair of Precision 6466 turbos that now live under the rear valance.
Texas Speed worked over the 6.2-liter LT2 V8 to make sure it could handle the boost. A supplementary methanol port-injection system keeps the direct-injected motor well fed, and a Holley Dominator ECU is on hand to manage the proceedings and help to prevent the C8’s electronics from having a fit.
Currently dishing out 1022hp at the rear wheels (a world record when the combination was first put together), Hartford says the Holley Dominator ECU was instrumental in getting the Corvette comfortable with its newfound boost. “I’ve worked with Holley on builds for quite some time now, so when it came time to decide what ECU to run on the C8, the Dominator was immediately where my mind went,” she says. “There’s been a lot of fine tuning along the way. The car basically needs to think everything is fine, but we’re taking over most of the sensors in order to push things way past factory power. And the Dominator has been great to work with – we’re using it to control the auxiliary fuel system, and we’re also running Holley’s dual-solenoid boost controller. The car’s been holding up great.”
Considering what she’s achieved so far, great might be an understatement: Back in March, Hartford drove the C8 to a world record ET with a 9.41 at 144 mph at Famoso Raceway in McFarland, California. And after spending some time fine-tuning the setup over the past few months, Hartford decided to head back to Famoso to see if she could improve upon that.
The forced induction system comes from the folks at Heintz Performance. They selected a pair of Precision Gen2 PT6466 turbos for the job, which feature a 64mm, 2618-forged aluminum compressor wheel and a 66mm turbine wheel. Hartford says they’re running about 15 pound of boost at the moment, and they’ll be turning that up even once the rest of the drivetrain is upgraded to handle the power.
“It was a lot of little things rather than one big change,” she explains. “We were running lower tire pressure, we had installed a barrel breakout which we believe would help make the car happier, we put the lower valance the lower valance back on to improve aerodynamic drag, and we also did an ignition cut between shifts. So it was a lot of small variables that we had to tweak – it’s hard to make a ‘smart’ car happy with this kind of power, especially when you’re working with a dual-clutch transmission that isn’t tunable.” Although the 100-degree temperatures at the track weren’t on her side, Hartford managed to knock out a 9.36 at 147, beating her previous best time and setting a new world record for C8 Corvettes.
As the team continues to shave off time, Emelia notes that one of the hurdles right now is simply getting parts that to live at this level of power. “The car’s making about 940 lb-ft of torque on the dyno, and we believe that we’ve just about reached the limit of the Dodson Stage 1 clutches that we’re using, so part of what we’re doing right now is figuring out a solution for the Stage 2 system.”
Once that’s sorted, Hartford has set out another substantial challenge that she’d like to conquer. “At this point I’m on the path to put her in the 8s,” she says. “But in the meantime, it’s just a great all-around car. I still daily drive it; I drove it to the track last time and I drive it to the dyno, so it’s definitely still streetable. And it’s a very versatile platform – I want to do more road race events with it, too. It’s really about pushing the envelope where-ever there’s an opportunity to do so.”
After setting the world record for the fastest C8 Corvette back in March with a 9.41, Hartford returned to Famoso Raceway in June to re-set the bar with a 9.36 at 147 mph. The next target for the team is the 8s, says Hartford.