Punching a clock in an office just isn’t for some people: even more so for those who have a weakness for anything that revolves around racing. Delaware native Fran Schatz has no interest in wearing a suit and tie, or working in an office — he needs high-performance around him constantly. Fran has woven his love for cars into a career, one which allowed him to build one of the quickest boosted 2007 C6 Z06 Corvette’s in the world.
Before Fran was setting records in his sick C6, he was cutting his teeth with some classic Chevrolet muscle at a young age. “My first car was a 1971 Chevelle, when I was 15. It had a big-block Chevy in it, a TH400 transmission, and 4:11 gears. It was pretty fast back in those days, running 13.70 at 103 mph, and I drove it every single day all through high school,” he said.
When Fran went off to college he needed something that would be a bit more economical, so he picked up a 1996 SS Camaro, but like anything else he’s ever owned, it wasn’t stock for long.
Soon, the Camaro had a slew of bolt-ons and a hit of nitrous oxide that pushed the car into the 11-second range at the track. This kind of performance established him as the fastest guy around and made Fran the go-to guy among friends for modifying cars.
After finishing the General Motors tech program at a local college, Fran transitioned into his career as a full-time mechanic, but he soon found that would be a problem for him. “I worked at a Chevrolet dealer for about a year and knew I wasn’t doing that for the rest of my life. I found the School of Automotive Machinists (now known as SAM Tech) in a magazine and thought it looked cool,” Fran explained
Just like that, he made the decision to move to Houston and attend SAM Tech to learn as much as he could about all things horsepower. “I honestly loved it at SAM: the program was nine months long, but I ended up stayed for two years just learning,” he shares. After those two years of intense training, Fran was ready to make his next move, back home to start his company Race Proven Motorsports, and get to building some badass rides.
“My mother gave me $5,000 to start up my company and off I went. It was very tough for the first few years, with one lift in a 1,500 square-foot shop. I was a one-man show for the first three years until I got busy enough to hire a mechanic. Once I did that, I had time to focus on the business side of things and it blew up,” Fran says.
Those difficult times would soon pay off, as Fran would meet his future race car in an interesting way. “My race car started out as a customers’ car and we built it from when he got it with 1,400 miles on it. We first added a blower to the car, then built the engine for him,” Fran explains of the Z06.
Soon, the car wasn’t enough for the customer and they wanted more, but the six-speed transmission was the weak point and something needed to be done. Fran decided to call up Rodney Massengale, known Corvette aficionado and owner of RPM Transmissions, to come up with a solution to the problem at hand. “The answer for the issue was a 4L80E conversion, the first of its kind, and it would take the car to a new level,” Fran says.
“We finished the swap on a Monday night at midnight and left for a race 15 hours away in Louisiana on Tuesday morning. After three passes with the new automatic in the car we went 8.91 at 154 mph,” Fran said. “This was huge, as the Z06 was the first Corvette at the event to crack into the eight-second zone, and by the end of the weekend, it had reset its own record, running a blistering 8.81 at 156 mph.”
A few years later, Fran had the opportunity to actually purchase that very car, and jumped at the chance. Soon, the ravishing red C6 would go from record-setting street car to a full-blown 1/4-mile animal that would set records and put the LSX racing world on notice in the process.
Running at the front of any heads-up class is no easy task, so Fran started his engine build for the Corvette with a solid base, utilizing a GM LSX block. The 427 cubic-inch powerplant has been bored out 4.125-inches to help the big Sonny Bryant crankshaft rotate inside the block. Inside the cylinders are JE Pistons on a set of billet Oliver connecting rods to round out the rotating assembly. All of this was assembled with care by Fran’s alma mater, SAM Tech, in Houston, Texas.
The oiling system of choice for the motor includes a large Melling oil pump that works in unison with a Moroso pan on the bottom of the LSX block. To take advantage of every cubic inch on tap, and every bit of boost the blower can make, Fran paid special attention to the top end of the engine. The heads of choice are top-of-the-line from All-Pro Cylinder Heads in Johnstown, Ohio. A set of Jesel rocker arms works with the top secret custom grind solid roller camshaft that helps the engine make top-level horsepower.
Moving the boosted air into the powerplant is a Holley Hi-Rise intake that’s matched to an off-the-shelf 90 mm LS7 throttle body. Keeping the race gas flowing into the intake is no easy task, so a set of 160-pound injectors are tasked to get the job done, along with a rather large fuel pump from MagnaFuel. Keeping the candles lit is a set of Holley coils tied to Moroso wires and NGK-BR9EF spark plugs. Fran does all of the tuning on the car himself and uses the very capable Holley Dominator EFI ECU to control the engine on each pass.
What makes this Corvette put up the big numbers is the forced induction system that Fran chose to implement on the car. A multi-class legal F-1C 94 ProCharger sends boost through the A&A Corvette supercharger system, and Fran used an Innovators West Harmonic Dampener to help spin the ProCharger. That’s right, no crank or gear drive unit here.
To help keep the exhaust produced by the system flowing, a set of 2 x 2-1/8-inch sized American Racing Headers are used to send everything out the 3-1/2-inch H-Pipe. On less than 22 pounds of boost the car has made more than 1,200 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft torque at the wheels, pushing the car to a best pass to date of 7.83 at 179.95 mph in the 1/4-mile.
Putting that kind of power down in an IRS-equipped Corvette is a pretty tall order, but Fran made sure to get some of the best parts available to make it a reality. An RPM Transmissions 9- inch conversion was done to the rearend to help facilitate getting all the power to the ground. Inside the rearend is a set of 3.89 gears that rotate a set of bombproof Driveshaft Shop axles.
Fran upgraded the RPM Transmissions built 4L80E that was in the car, with a Powerglide unit from RPM, and added a Neal Chance Billet bolt-together torque converter to help send the power through the Drive Shaft Shop aluminum driveshaft, while shifting duties are handled by a Precision Products shifter.
To assist in adding some strength, and subtract weight, Fran installed an entire front suspension setup from TRZ Motorsports to the Z06. Along with that, some dampening units from AFCO also found their way onto the Corvette to aid in critical starting line weight transfer. In the rear of the car, shocks from Menscer Motorsports work with suspension parts from Pfadt to keep the traction to a maximum on each pass down the track. To install the full 25.3 chassis, Fran went to none other than X275 kingpin Ron Rhodes of Rhodes Custom Auto, where Ron did a masterful job ensuring the Corvette was safe and balanced on the scales.
Fran went all-out to keep his ride looking sharp and rolling true when it comes to wheels. Up front, a set of 17 x 4.5 black Weld Racing AlumaStar 2.0 wheels handle steering duties, while some 15 x 10.275-sized black Weld Racing RT-S S71 handle all the LSX power in the back. Bringing the car to a stop after each pass is a full set of Strange Engineering brake pads, rotors, and calipers at each corner.
When it comes to racing anything, Fran has zero fear and puts his car to use as much as possible. “The plans for 2016 include running in the LSX Real Street class and Ultra 275 any time I can. I also might run Xtreme Street in the NMCA if time allows and the car is ready,” Fran says of his racing schedule.
“This would all not be possible without help from the my team at Race Proven Motorsports, RPM Transmissions, Holley EFI, Rhodes Custom Auto, AFCO Racing, Menscer Motorsports, School of Automotive Machinist, A&A Corvette, Procharger, Neal Chance Convertors, and VP Racing,” Fran says.
While most people will sit in front of a computer all day, in an office doing what’s necessary to pay the bills, Fran Schatz is living his high-performance dream. And while doing so, he’s been able to build one of the quickest and fastest Z06 Corvettes in the world, at first for a customer, then for himself. The only thing close to a time clock that Fran Schatz punches is the loud pedal in his race car every time the tree drops, and he’s perfectly okay with that.