In January 1953, General Motors debuted the very first Corvette at the GM Motorama in New York City. The sporty two-place roadster was an amazing innovation, and the Corvette concept went into production six months later to become the first American sports car. In that first year, 300 roadsters were built--every one of them with white with a red interior. In November 2001, as the Corvette world began preparing for Golden Anniversary celebrations, Magna Steyr Engineering of Ontario, Canada, unveiled its Commemorative Edition Corvette at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. They had designed a perfect way to pay homage to the very first designers who paved the way for Corvette legacy, with an amazing blend of '50s styling and cutting-edge C5 technology. They masterfully grafted '53 Vette styling cues onto a white C5 convertible and reupholstered the interior with red and white leather.
It was a great idea that was executed quite well, and definitely worthy of being offered to the public. Advanced Automotive Technologies in Rochester Hills, Michigan, believed in the concept enough to buy the rights to produce the "Commemorative Edition Corvette" conversion. For around $30,000, AAT takes a customer-provided C5 convertible, replaces all the body panels (except the doors and top) with retro-designed skin that attaches in the original locations, and re-does the interior for a classic red and white two-tone.
Although the aftermarket conversion kit is not licensed by, nor is in any way is connected to Chevrolet, it is becoming readily available. A handful of C5 soft-top owners wasted no time having their cars converted to Commemorative Edition convertibles, and they drew plenty of attention from show-goers last season.
Rollie Purifoy, owner of Purifoy Chevrolet in Fort Lupton, Colorado, is a big fan of Corvettes and performance, as well as the new and different. He quickly sent an '02 convertible to AAT to be converted. Then he upped the ante. "I wanted to build something different," Rollie says. "I wanted to create a high-horsepower, sportier Commemorative Edition Vette." Thus, he soon began pressing Advanced Automotive Technologies about the possibilities for a Commemorative Edition Z06.
Even though a hardtop '53-style body is not entirely historically accurate, we have to admit it's one heck of a good idea and, since the convertible and the fixed roof hardtop C5 bodies share essentially every panel other than the roof, it was feasible.
Since they were leaving the realm of proper '53 replica styling, Rollie decided to really do it different and sent a Torch Red '02 Z06 to AAT. The Z06 received the full exterior Commemorative Edition package, which includes a new front and rear fascia, headlights, chrome die-cast grille and bumpers, hood, fenders, rear quarters, inner and outer decklid, and LED taillights. Red brake calipers, and chrome die-cast side door spears and flag also distinguish this Commemorative Edition Z06 from the pack. The 405hp LS6 exhales through a Corsa "Tiger Shark" cat-back exhaust, and this special Z06 rides on 18- and 20-inch Colorado Custom rims wrapped in 235/40/18 and 275/35/20 Michelin Sports with red brake calipers all around.
Whereas the typical Pearl White Commemorative convertible features a re-trimmed red and white interior, the cockpit of the Torch Red Z06 is mostly standard fare in black and red, but it has been mildly enhanced to include "carbon fiber leather" steering wheel, shifter boot, and parking brake handle. The leather itself has the woven look of carbon fiber. A traditional "cue ball" shift knob rounds out the interior, which still sports all the modern C5 luxuries like dual zone climate control, memory package, and heads-up display.
This Collector Edition Z06 is the very first fixed-roof C5 to undergo this cosmetic conversion, but we highly doubt it will be the last. It was completed just in time to be unveiled at the '02 Vettes on the Rockies, and grabbed everyone's attention instantly. Purifoy has since tinted the windows, and intends to customize the interior more with red leather sport seats. As is, this '53 Z06 expresses the best of yesterday and tomorrow.