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.
When they're not tinkering with CAD renderings or schmoozing with enthusiasts, Corvette engineering-team members subject our favorite car to some pretty abusive treatment. Each new model undergoes an extensive testing regime to root out problems that need to be fixed before the car is released to the public. Take this Precision Red C6 coupe, which now resides in the National Corvette Museum. The car started life as a Manufacturing Validation Build (MVB). MVB cars are built at Bowling Green prior to the start of regular production. This one was produced in early 2004 as an '05 model and carries VIN 00061. Spec'd out with a four-speed automatic and a 400hp LS2 engine, it led a brutal existence throughout 2005 as a suspension-development mule.
Later, the car was reconfigured to '06 specifications. It then saw duty at various racetracks-including VIR, Homestead Speedway, Spring Mountain, Moroso Motorsports Park, and Roebling Road-as part of the development process on the new six-speed automatic trans. "Ol' Number 61," as the car came to be known, also prowled the Autobahn and was even tested on the Nrburgring. In 2007 the car was again rebuilt, this time to '08 specs, which included an improved version of the six-speed auto and the 430hp LS3. In this guise, it was used to validate the retuned-for-'08 traction-control and stability systems. It was also sent to the upper peninsula of Michigan in winter for cold-weather testing.
By the time its test cycle was completed, the engineers had grown very fond of Ol' Number 61. So when they were contacted by Car and Driver magazine regarding an unorthodox story idea, they volunteered the well-used coupe. The magazine wanted to reprise an Alaska Highway trip and travelogue that former Editor Brock Yates had performed years earlier in a '76 Corvette. Because the modern Alaska Highway is paved and clotted with motor homes, the magazine selected an unpaved 484-mile route called the "Dempster Highway" that started in Dawson City.
Before the Vette was shipped to the magazine, Corvette engineers performed a few modifications. These included raising the ride height 0.075 inch and adding a metal roof rack to hold a spare front tire and two 5-gallon fuel jugs. The team also installed windshield stone deflectors, a brush guard, a bra, and a pair of zillion-candle-power lights, which were to be illuminated at all times. The 968-mile round trip from Dawson City to Inuvik and back was an engineer's worst nightmare. Nevertheless, the Corvette survived with no flat tires and only a crack in its windshield and some broken turn-signal bulbs. Once the trip was done, engineers drove the car 4,000 miles back to Michigan. Later, it was put on display, unwashed, at the NCM, where it's finally getting the rest it deserves.