Designing cars is not all thrills and excitement. It can be tedious and complex, with more concerns than one might imagine. Moreover, flagship cars such as the C7 Corvette are expected to be nearly flawless right out of the box. It took around five years to design and develop the C7 from start to finish. Along the way, Corvette product planners talked to fans, asking what they liked and did’t like. One consistent question was, “Why don’t you offer a club-racer Corvette?” Corvette Racing chief Doug Fehan was asked this last November at the Corvette Racing Legends Event at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. “Yes, we could do that,” he replied. “The cars would cost over $200,000, and we might sell 100 units. We’re in business to sell cars—lots of cars. But we have thought about it.”
Indeed, they did think about it. While work was progressing on the C7, product planners had some fun with the parts bin and dished up a set of club-racer concepts at the 2010 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Since Pratt & Miller is the brain trust behind the ultra-successful C5-R and C6.R race cars, it made sense to have the firm collaborate on what would become the Z06X Corvette and SSX Camaro. The concept was simple, since Chevrolet already made plenty of parts for “heavy duty” applications. Corvette product planners and engineers came up with a package of off-the-shelf hardware, along with some genuine racing goodies that were sure to raise the temperature of any high-performance fan. In one respect, it was a demonstration of just how progressive the Corvette team really is. Except for a few parts, almost everything presented was mass produced by Chevrolet.
Designers started out with a basic Z06 Corvette, and with good reason. The C6.R race cars are built on the Z06’s all-aluminum chassis, and C6 Z06s were the lightest Corvettes produced in decades. While the supercharged LS9 monster motor might have seemed like the engine to use, the 505-horsepower LS7 was simpler and amply powerful. The factory parts in the Z06X included the Z07 Performance Package, which incorporated Brembo carbon-ceramic brake rotors and special pads; the ’11 CFZ carbon-fiber package with front splitter and side rockers; the carbon-fiber raised hood from the Z06 Carbon Edition; the ZR1 carbon roof panel and B-pillar; and the racing pedal kit from the Corvette Accessories catalog. Yes, you could buy a new Z06 optioned out identically, but you’d only be halfway there.
Pratt & Miller’s contributions yielded more carbon parts intended to reduce weight. These included headlamp buckets and an adjustable rear wing, along with a lightweight polycarbonate rear window. As on any serious race car, all of the sound-deadening material was removed. An SCCA-spec rollcage and window net were installed, along with a racing seat with five-point safety harness, a fire-suppression system, a driver-hydration system, and a video-camera mount. Other goodies included a low-restriction air intake, a high-capacity radiator and cooling package, black-painted racing wheels (19 inches in front and 20 inches out back) shod with Michelin racing tires, a mono-ball control-bar bushing, adjustable stabilizer bars, and adjustable camber plates for the coilover struts. The entire package was finished off in low-gloss Icy White Metallic paint, with red accents, plenty of exposed carbon, and a sinister-looking Z06X logo.
Could they have added more? Of course, but the objective wasn’t to build and offer a turnkey race car. No, in the tradition of the original Z06, L88, ZR1, and ZR2 racer options, the point was to offer a car that was a few ticks away from being an all-out racing machine. Product planners wanted to leave something to the racers to do, besides drive. Overall, the Corvette Z06X and Camaro SSX are stunning examples of just how far GM has come in embracing something that fans have known for years: that Chevy’s performance offerings make for fearsome race cars. Unfortunately, the Z06X package never made it onto the option list. But, hey, the C7 is still young.