The 12th Annual C5/C6 Bash was the first event of the '08 season for the National Corvette Museum. It included seminars, an autocross, a benefit auction, drag racing, a "Celebrity Choice" car show, autograph sessions, an '09 Corvette preview, and a scenic road tour. In addition, owners had full access to the Customer Assistance Center, to obtain help with their C6 issues.
The two big stories at this year's Bash were the new ZR1 and the groundbreaking on a 47,000-square-foot addition to the NCM facility. The latter, held on Friday afternoon, was a hard-hat-only event, but commemorative hardhats were available for a donation of $30. A large crowd gathered as museum Executive Director Wendell Strode and other dignitaries made their opening remarks. Selected guests were given shovels, so at the appointed time they could participate in the official groundbreaking. After the ceremony was completed, the first I-beam for the addition was installed. The expansion will include a library, Corvette archives, a Corvette store, a museum-delivery area, a Hall of Fame, a conference center, offices, and a caf. Construction should be completed by early 2009.
Later, Team Corvette provided an in-depth engineering analysis of the ZR1. Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter put various parts on display during the technical portion of the seminar, including the car's carbon brakes, supercharger, intercoolers, and clutch. The highlight came when Juechter showed the audience a video taken in Europe of a production ZR1 topping 205 mph. He also took the opportunity to announce the official output figures for the LS9 engine: 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque.
The team also brought along two ZR1 prototypes for attendees to inspect. One was the blue Barrett-Jackson car used in the million-dollar auction, and the second was a yellow prototype. Juechter gave one lucky Vette fan a thrill ride in the Barrett-Jackson car after he paid $1,650 at the NCM auction for the privilege.
In addition to the two ZR1s, a group of '09 base cars and Z06s were displayed in front of the museum. These included Cyber Gray Z06 and convertible models, along with a Blade Silver Metallic coupe. The former provided a chance to inspect that model's new wheels, which were first seen on the '08 427 Limited Edition. The Z06 and the convertible also featured the new Ebony/Titanium premium interior.
Other new-for-'09 upgrades include a steering-wheel-activated Bluetooth phone option with hands-free operation. Additionally, all Corvette flag badging will now feature chrome surrounds. The steering system has once again been revised to provide more-aggressive response at low speeds by requiring fewer turns lock-to-lock. It's also been tweaked to require less input to keep the car on center, a trait that reportedly improves high-speed stability.
As reported previously, the Corvette-plant management team has also undergone a notable change. After 15 years at the helm, Plant Manager Wil Cooksey retired at the beginning of 2008. Twenty-five-year GM veteran Paul Graham was appointed to replace him. We had a chance to interview Graham at the Bash and will share what we learned in an upcoming issue.
As for Cooksey, the NCM hosted a formal retirement dinner for him and his wife, Liz, Friday night. The well-attended event was a fitting tribute to a man who capably oversaw the Corvette-production process during an important period in the car's history.