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Published 4/24/24

A Unique LT4 Z06

WORDS: DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS: NATE LIGHT

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It’s hard to believe, but the final year of the fourth-generation Corvette is almost three decades old. For many millennials, vehicles built in that period were cool and new when they were kids. 
 
Often, gearheads who dreamt of certain cars in their youth own vehicles from the same era in adulthood. Over and over, the cycle repeats. Mitch Dixon’s LT4-powered 1996 Greenwood Corvette is a prime example. 
 
“This is the car that I would have had a poster of,” he said at Florida's Sebring International Raceway in March.

Front View of Mitch Dixon’s 1996 Greenwood Corvette is Powered by the Original LT4 Engine From GM.

Dixon, 38, was born and raised in Miami and now lives in Tarpon Springs in the Tampa area. He was participating in the Corvette Corral program during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with his father, who had once owned a Torch Red 1995 Vette with an LT1 engine. That experience also influenced Dixon’s love for the C4 generation. His father owned several Corvettes in Dixon’s formative years and currently has a 1988 35th anniversary-edition car. 

Greenwood Corvettes like Mitch Dixon’s were the brainchild of the late John Greenwood and included radical, yet functional, styling cues and performance upgrades. His cars were referred to as “G4R'' models. 
 
Dixon found his around 15 years ago in East Lake, Florida, a short drive from his home in Tarpon Springs. It was originally purchased in New York and sent to Greenwood for modifications. The original owner moved to the Sunshine State where he sold the car to its second owner before Dixon acquired it.
 
“It just happened to come from a really good home, from a guy that had taken really good care of it,” Dixon said. “He gave it to me for a really good deal knowing that I was going to take care of it, that I was going to do something proper with the car and not butcher it up.”
 
The Torch Red C4 (which features its original paint) is no ordinary Corvette. While Greenwood Corvettes are special in their own right, Dixon has built a one-of-one model. The car is powered by the original, one-year-only LT4 engine. Dixon has included a series of enhancements, including a C6 (sixth-generation) Z06 brake upgrade. His goal was to build the car just like a GM engineer might have created a 1996 Z06 model – had one ever existed.

“I wanted to make it almost like a skunkworks LT4,” Dixon said. “Like somebody with some inside knowledge must have gotten this car.” 

The LT4 in Dixon’s Corvette is conservatively rated at 330 horsepower.

The LT4 under the hood of Dixon’s Greenwood model was ahead of its time in many ways, making its debut one year in advance of the revolutionary LS1. Among the engine’s features are unique aluminum cylinder heads, a high-performance LT4 Hot Cam with roller rockers and other performance components. The 350 cu.-in. LT4 was rated at 330 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque, but those numbers are often seen as conservative.

The LT4 in Dixon’s car provides him enough power to keep up with a current C8 Corvette, noting the engine is “a freight train.” 
 
“They knocked it out of the park,” he said. 
 
The LT4 engine is the spiritual successor to the current 6.2L supercharged LT4 that made its debut in the 2015 Corvette Z06. The crate version of the engine* makes 650 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque. 
 
“That would be a dream to swap that in,” Dixon said.

Dixon built his car in a skunkworks-style as if a GM engineer might have been involved. His goal was to build his own version of a Z06, which wasn’t produced in 1996.

Many GM vehicles from the era, in particular Old Body Style Chevrolet and GMC trucks, are getting the restomod treatment from millennial owners. Corvette models like Dixon’s are also becoming prime options for such a build. Both Chevrolet Performance crate engines* and numerous components from Chevrolet Performance, GM Genuine Parts and AC Delco are available to enhance the vehicle with modern characteristics.  
 
In this case, Dixon chose to maintain the original power plant and upgrade around it. His engine is mated to the six-speed ZF6 transmission that came with the car, although he added a clutch from Carolina Clutch and a single-mass flywheel. He also utilizes the stock Dana 44 rear end with 3.73 gears. 
 
“They really did an amazing job from the factory, this is really an unsung hero of a Corvette,” Dixon said. 
 
Among the engine updates are a Holley throttle body, SLP Performance cold-air intake and Melrose Motorsports long-tube headers. The car also utilizes a three-inch exhaust as part of a Billy Boat exhaust system. All improve performance and provide a throaty rumble. In addition, the Corvette features the Greenwood C-4R body kit with a rear wing that bolts directly to the chassis to provide aerodynamic stability at high speed. Dixon incorporated QA1 double-adjustable shocks, Hyperco front and rear leaf springs, and a Van Steel sway bar, rear camber arm and other suspension components as well.

Factory C6 Corvette brakes play an important role in Dixon’s build.

With Sebring serving as Dixon’s home track, his goal was to build a track-ready car that could handle the notoriously tough 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit. 
 
“I wanted a car that you could be really proud of beating up on it, and it just says, ‘Give me more,’” Dixon said. 
 
The highlight of this build is the car’s brakes. Continuing with the theme of a skunkworks-style project, it was important to Dixon that he use GM factory brakes as opposed to an aftermarket package. He also wanted to do something no one else had done.

“It ended up being a lot simpler than what you think it is,” Dixon said. “I basically looked up how do you go from C4 to C5, and then how do you go from C5 to C6. If I had to, I would have combined the two techniques or protocols into one on CAD and had somebody just cut me out some brackets. It just so happened that the C6 brakes bolt right onto the C5. The bolt pattern is the same. So, as long as you have 18-inch wheels, you can run C6 Z06 brakes on a C4. I did that, but I wanted to do it as if it was factory.”  
 
The wheels are OEM C6 Grand Sport wheels, while the Hankook tires are the proper OEM sizes: 18 x 10 in front and 19 x 12 in the rear.  
 
Dixon enlisted famed Van Steel Corvettes in Clearwater to upgrade the suspension and get the car “Sebring ready.” He then approached them with his brake idea. They obtained brand-new, OEM front and rear calipers for a 2013 Corvette Z06 model, along with factory rotors. The only aftermarket components are the brake lines and pads. Additionally, a billet setup on the rear brakes allows for the use of the C4 parking brake. 
 
One touch of the pedal while sitting inside the car proves this vehicle is built to perform. Dixon has participated in some autocross with the Corvette and took part in the parade laps at Sebring offered to Corvette Corral participants. He hasn’t competed in a track day just yet, but it’s on the list. 

The interior is designed like a race car cockpit and includes six-way-adjustable seats.

The Corvette’s interior has a race car feel, while also featuring nuances that might be found in a Z06. Corbeau racing seats sit on C4 power adjustable factory rails, allowing for six-way adjustment. SPARCO harnesses are also connected to a full roll cage. In addition, the interior includes a stereo, DVD player and a variety of other creature comforts.  
 
The project was completed nearly 10 years ago and is just one of Dixon’s Chevrolet-powered toys. 
 
In addition to his Corvette, he has a square-body 1985 GMC S15 Jimmy. It features a Gen I 383 stroker Small-Block engine, 700R4 transmission, and both Calvert Racing and QA1 suspension components. 
 
A locksmith by trade who used to work as a mechanic himself, Dixon is a longtime Chevrolet fan, saying he was “bottle-fed” the brand from his earliest years. 
 
He is also a fan of a variety of motorsports. He closely follows the Corvette Racing program and often attends the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and MOTUL Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta with his dad. He supports Team Chevy’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams, especially Team Penske, as well. 

Dixon is a diehard Chevrolet enthusiast, a trait passed to him by his father.

“I've been a Chey guy my whole life,” said Dixon, whose father used to take him to school in hot rods. “My dad’s had Duramaxes, he’s had C10 Stepsides that would roast tires for a block straight, so I've always really been big into the Bowtie.” 
 
His LT4 Z06 Corvette is proof of his passion.

Be sure to keep watching The BLOCK for many more Chevrolet Performance builds from across the nation. 
 
*Because of their effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, these engines are intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles. These engines are designed and intended for use invehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public roads, streets or highways. Installation or use of these engines on a vehicle operated on public roads, streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions. 

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