Stock to Shock: Professional Stunt Driver Jeremy Fry and his ’06 Z06

Professional Stunt Driver Jeremy Fry

We interviewed professional stunt driver Jeremy Fry – Check it out 🙂

Posted by Power and Performance Magazine on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

 

Have you ever wondered what kind of car a professional stunt driver drives daily? For Jeremy Fry, who you have seen behind the wheel in movies like John Wick, Baby Driver, and the Bourne Ultimatum to name a few, that daily driver is a baby blue Prius. He also races a 2006 Chevrolet Corvette z06 on the weekends and has a 1990 Nissan 180sx, 1991 Nissan 240sx, 1959 Morris Minor, 1972 Ford Bronco, and 1998 BMW M3.

2006 Chevrolet Corvette z06

“I do a fair number of interviews because of my job,” said Fry.  “I am often asked what my daily driver is. My voice and shoulders drop a little as I must answer truthfully: a baby blue Prius. It was my in-laws, and they gave us a great deal on it when they got a new car.”

From an early age, Fry had an affection for V8-powered Chevrolets. It is a love he acquired from his dad who did all of the maintenance and minor work on the family vehicle: a 1973 Chevy van straight from the “Van Craze” complete with full, oval slotted mags and rear fender flares.

2006 Chevrolet Corvette z06

“I had decided far in advance of my 16th birthday that I wanted an early 70’s Nova,” Fry said. “ To say I was disappointed when I found out my parents were looking at a bright orange 1978 Ford Fiesta as my first car would be an understatement.”

In Search of Power & Performance

While the Fiesta wasn’t exactly “cool,” it had received some handling upgrades. The car ultimately led to Fry’s realization that driving fast around corners was as much fun as going in a straight line. It allowed him to discover his love for autocross-style driving, which is something that has stayed with him throughout his career.

Fry with his first car, 1978 Ford Fiesta

From the Fiesta, Fry transitioned into motorcycles and dirt bikes. After a few years of different seasonal jobs, including whitewater guiding and working in a ski shop, he decided to pursue a career path. In 2000, he moved to Los Angeles to become a professional stuntman.

Fry soon found himself working at a stunt driving school called the Motion Picture Driving Clinic. “I realized that stunt driving was more than just some amazing idea; it was a bonafide career that I had a knack for.”

Fry partnered with another stunt driver and tried a handful of rallies in the Southern California area but decided it wasn’t for him. Shortly after that, Fry saw drifting for the first time.

Right-hand-drive 1990 Nissan 180sx

“It had just come to the States, and I immediately recognized it as part of the future of stunt driving,” Fry said. “I knew I needed to figure out how to do it, but making a few hundred dollars a month between my few jobs and trying to participate in a sport that is incredibly expensive would be difficult. Going against my upbringing, I decided a Mustang would be a good choice.”

As it turns out, the 1996 Mustang Fry ended up with was a poor choice and when he came across a right-hand-drive Nissan 180sx that had come straight from Japan he discovered how much fun drifting could be.

1991 Nissan 240sx

Over the next few years his career started to gain some momentum. “My first big job was on Bourne Ultimatum, and I soon found myself hired to drift a truck in the Gerard Butler movie Gamer.

Fry said the driving jobs are highly coveted and sought after and come with more risks than other stunt jobs, like fighting, where if you mess up you might get a little banged up compared to messing up in a car and potentially killing people. Most assignments go to the older guys who have been driving on film for decades.  “I knew I was very fortunate to be getting any work and took training very seriously.”

Pt. 2 Jeremy Fry

Jeremy Fry tells us everything you need to know about stunt driving –

Posted by Power and Performance Magazine on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

While drifting was great for work and a lot of fun, Fry started to miss the competition he had enjoyed while autocrossing and realized that the 180 would probably make a pretty good grip car without much effort.

“I got a set of lightweight wheels and some sticky R-compound tires and started doing HPDE’s to see how it would do,” Fry said. “ The suspension was rough, so I ditched the Japanese components and found a good deal on a set of race-spec coilovers.”

Fry said the car did not have much motor work done to it, and the reliability of the vehicle was staggering. Behind the wheel of his Nissan 180SX, Fry was entering local autocross events, and repeatedly set the official fast time of the day. Ready for a challenge, he began looking into larger competitions and found the only classes his car would fit into would be alongside 600+ hp track monsters.

What Monsters do

“I didn’t want to put a lot of money into a track-only car, so I began to search for a car that would be very competitive in the lower-middle classes, but still 100-percent street legal,” Fry said. He had looked into BMW M3’s, 1-series, s2000’s, Porsche Caymans, Camaros, Mustangs, and Corvettes.

Fry wanted a car that would be competitive, but still 100-percent street legal

“I have always felt that the Corvettes were the most bang-for-your-buck performance car, but I was having a very difficult time getting past the stigma of them as a mid-life-crisis-mobile,” said Fry. He had driven a few C6 ZR1 Corvettes on the show The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but had never thought of owning one.

After some looking, he found a Z06 Corvette and arranged to meet the seller, who understandably, wanted to drive. Fry said he was happy to oblige as he could get a good sense of the car just from riding in it. “I climbed in the passenger side, and we pulled out. After spending over a decade instructing students at a stunt driving school, out of habit, I start observing the driver as well as the car,” Fry said. He noticed the driver’s seat leaned too far back, his left hand draped over the top of the wheel and his right hand was resting on the shifter – definitely not the posture of an experienced racer.

“I started to question my decision to jump in the passenger seat of a highly-capable sports car, piloted by a man of questionable driving ability and unknown criminal record, when he punched it around a corner.”  Luckily for Fry and the driver, the traction control was working, and they didn’t imitate any number of YouTube-famous Mustangs sliding up and over curbs.

“I truly think he thought he was going to die,” Fry said of his test drive with the car owner

“He made a comment about how much grip the tires had and headed towards the freeway onramp. He gets on the freeway under moderate acceleration and slides all the way to the left into the carpool lane. He continued his discourse on the car’s smoothness and power as he accelerates to over 110 mph. He then lifts and coasts back to the right, and exits.  At this point, I just wanted out, because even though the car was indeed smooth and felt solid, I had less faith in my driver’s ability.”

Fry worked out a deal with the seller, so they met up the next week and headed to the bank – this time with Fry behind the wheel. “We were on a wide street with minor traffic, and I waited until there was plenty of room in front of me.  In all fairness, I should have warned the owner,” Fry said. Next, Fry buried the throttle in second gear. “I truly think he thought he was going to die. He made me promise not to do that again, and I found it both enormously humorous and encouraging, realizing there was no way he had ever floored it before, so the car had likely been babied as far as how it was driven.”

Pt. 3 Jeremy Fry

What does "Power and Performance" mean to Jeremy Fry?

Posted by Power and Performance Magazine on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“While I don’t regret it, had I done more research into the shortcomings of these cars on the track, I might not have taken it home,” Fry said. He detailed the issues with oil starvation, to overheating brakes, to dropping valves. “These cars seemed to have a not-short list of not-cheap issues, I had wanted to buy a car that I could simply get an extra set of wheels and tires for and go win races.”

Having used less than one tank of gas, Fry parked the car in the garage. Off came the heads, and thus, began a far greater build than he had planned on.

From Stock to Shock: Evolution of the Z06

“There is definitely a rabbit hole under the hood. Once you start, the list of things to do ‘while I’m in there’ just gets longer and longer. There is always the next ‘must-have’ part,” Fry said.

Under the hood of the Z06

Fry shared that even getting a new throwout bearing wasn’t as simple as he thought it would be. “You have to buy the whole slave cylinder, which is about $200. Then you learn that the plastic bearing retainer sleeve is flawed and many people have issues with them, so a billet retainer is the way to go. Quartermaster makes a great product that is very well-priced.”

Getting to the necessary parts is complicated on Corvettes because of the torque tube and rear-mounted transmission. “Getting to the clutch components requires either pulling the motor or pulling the torque tube/rear transmission/differential/rear suspension cradle.  I pulled the motor because I already had the heads off and getting to the bellhousing bolts was no longer as difficult.”

“I had to remove the bellhousing from the torque tube to change the slave cylinder. To do that, I had to lower the tube, but I had to remove approximately 20 bolts holding the undertray on to allow the tube to drop enough. It’s nothing new in the world of upgrading a car’s performance, but it never ceases to be a challenge.”

Fry had decided to do as much of the build as possible with help from American Heritage Performance before the first event. The parts took longer to get than he had planned, which left him with two weeks before it’s first event to put it all back together. It wasn’t as much time as he would have liked, but it was enough where he felt he could still work at a reasonable pace and make sure everything was done right.

Rear end of the Z06 in Fry’s shop

With a week until the event, Fry got the car together and started it for the first time in months. “I cranked the motor over without firing it at first, to help circulate the oil and pump up the new lifters. It fired right up as soon as I let it, and made a little clatter as expected. It quickly smoothed out and idled fine. No leaks, no issues.”

The following day, Fry wanted to move the car and heard a horrible grinding noise from the starter. “Because I am not always the smartest, I thought I would try it again, and this time the starter just spun, without engaging the flywheel,” Fry said.

“The possible issues swam through my head: did they send the wrong flywheel? Did the ring gear separate? Did I mis-measure the slave cylinder/clutch/flywheel clearances?  Maybe the starter let go? None of the options were an easy fix, and many required pulling the motor out again. I figured I might as well start by pulling the starter out and taking a look.”

Under the hood

Fry got the car on the lift and unbolted the starter, moved it back, and saw what looked like stuffing coming out of the starter. “Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, I unloaded what was the remains of an old sock from around the starter’s gear. To this day, I know not how it managed to find its way inside the car. We have no mice, and I try not to make a habit of stuffing clothes in car parts, but at least I have an idea where socks go when they disappear.”

Once the sock was removed, he was able to put the required miles on the car to break in the Centerforce clutch, and Izzy’s Performance  squeezed him in to have it tuned. The tuner, Tom, is in demand and highly regarded as one of the best. Fry told him he didn’t care about numbers and wanted reliability, so some power is on the table to keep it a little safer.

Fry also installed a race seat, harness, and fire extinguisher.

Driving Impressions

Fry entered the car in a “Global Time Attack” race held at the Big Willow circuit at Willow Springs Raceway. The event sees all cars run for the fastest lap time around the road course with some hitting over 140 mph on the straight and infamous Turns 8&9, which see a potential 120 mph+ into a decreasing radius turn. The schedule, which allowed Fry to run four 15-minute sessions spread out over approximately 2 hours, was not an ideal setting for test and tune either.

Fry had only hit the redline once in it during the test drive; the car was a truly unknown quantity. Nonetheless, he took it easy, and slowly turned up the heat, never really pushing the vehicle except in a straight line.  “I was very happy with how the car worked, and we were the fastest in our group. Overall, we finished about top third and about 4th in class.”

It was a scorching day with temperatures around 100-degrees Fahrenheit, but the Dewitts radiator and fans worked great to keep coolant temperatures manageable. The early C6 Z06’s have a large air cooler for the engine oil that reportedly was changed in the first years due to over-cooling of the oil during normal driving.

The Z06 is complete with the full stock interior, stereo, and A/C

With some adjustments to the Aldan American suspension and some upgraded brakes, as well as testing on a more friendly track, Fry is confident that he will quickly be this car’s limiting factor.  It is very capable, very friendly, and still a bonafide street car complete with the full stock interior, stereo, and A/C.

“While I still perceive the mid-life-crisis image, I have also found that there are still guys and gals who identify it as what it is to me: a driver’s car” Fry said.

When you look at the times these cars put down on significant tracks in stock trim, it’s hard to imagine much room for improvement and still keep the car friendly on the street. Even with the improvements Fry made, some of them had the opposite effect and need to be sorted out.

“The car does feel a little vague with steering and braking, but a good part of that is likely due only to lack of seat time with this car.” Fry said. The electronics in the Z06 are  involved and complicated and don’t like to play friendly when the car starts to get pushed hard on the track.

“While I still perceive the mid-life-crisis image, I have also found that there are still guys and gals who identify it as what it is to me: a driver’s car” Fry said

“For me, braking is the area I not only want the most performance out of, but also have the least sense of direction with. I’ve never had a car that had brakes that I would describe as amazing. What I want is to be able to mash the brake pedal and have my eyeballs start to come out of my head. I’m hoping that a big part of this is also my lack of experience with the car.”

Fry said he also plans to address some suspension issues that he experienced. “With the power these cars have and the weight it doesn’t, I was not surprised that the rear end felt loose on the throttle. I’m hoping that spring rates and sway bar adjustments can mitigate this and help me get the power down sooner. There is also a strange and unstable feeling in the rear on turn-in which also needs some attention and some test and tune days should help me figure out what the problem is.”

On a course that doesn’t favor high horsepower, Fry thinks he would have been faster in his old s13. But with a few tweaks and some testing, he has no doubt that this thing will leave his Nissan in the dust.

Willow Springs testing

Because Los Angeles is hard on cars (fender benders, door dings, theft, rough roads) and the Corvette doesn’t negotiate dips well, with a long nose and now a splitter, he will likely keep putting most miles on the Prius. “But at least I have the option of driving something cool.”

Fry said that every time he drives the car, it brings a smile to his face. “As soon as I shut the door, I forget about the stigma they have and can’t help but feel like I am driving a supercar.”

Car Specifications:

  • Year/Make/Model:
    • 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
  • Engine:
    • 7.0-liter 427 ci LS7
    • American Heritage Performance race ported heads and valve work
    • Improved Racing oil pan baffle, crank scraper, and windage tray
    • Tuned by Izzy Performance
    • Racing harmonic balancer, pinned to crank
    • American Heritage Performance ported intake manifold
  • Under hood parts:
    • Driveline parts:
      • Centerforce clutch and flywheel
      • OEM Slave Cylinder with remote bleeder
      • Quartermaster Billet bearing retainer
    • Dewitts Aluminum radiator and fans
  • Exterior: 
    • ZR1 replica front splitter and side skirts
    • Carbon Fiber rear wing
  • Suspension parts:
    • Aldan American coilovers
    • VanSteel bushings and sway bars
  • Brakes:
    • Big Brake Kit
    • Brake Cooling ducting
  • Wheels and Tires:
    • 18x11f 18x13r wheels
    • R-compound tires
    • Extended studs
    • Open lug nuts
  • Interior: 
    • Containment seat
    • Harness bar and harness
    • Suede steering wheel wrap

Photography by Nicole Ellan James, Dimitri Lazaris, and courtesy of Jeremy Fry 

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About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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