Good things may come to those that wait, but why did Chevrolet make us wait so long for the 427 Convertible? A look back at the C6 generation shows a whirlwind of activity. In the second year the aluminum-framed, quasi-racer Z06 was added, followed by a special edition or two every year, the ZR1, and the Grand Sport. Plus, the C7 was being designed and developed along the way. Yes, the Corvette group had a lot on its plate, so I’ll let ’em off the hook on the answering my introductory question.
Unless you don’t care for open-air motoring, or you prefer the aesthetics of the Corvette coupe, there’s nothing to dislike about the 427 Convertible. When considering this one-year-only model, think of it as an 2011 Carbon Edition Z06 with a steel frame. While Chevrolet’s official position is that the car is definitely not a Z06 Convertible, it might as well be. Road tests have consistently stated that for street use, the 427 Convertible feels very much like the Z06, albeit without the latter model’s harsh street manners. Let’s face it: The Z06 is as close to a club racer as a major manufacturer like Chevrolet will ever get, especially for $75,600. Performance numbers for the 427 ’vert are just a fraction of a tick off those of the Z06, and those differences are nearly imperceptible on the street. That’s thanks to the LS7’s amazingly flat horsepower and torque curves, which provide stunning amounts of grunt from low revs all the way up to the screaming 7,000-rpm redline.
While the 427 Convertible costs a heady $76,900 ($1,300 more than the Z06), this is a car you can comfortably live with every day. Just about all of the Corvette’s optional equipment is available, including the full range of colors, meaning it’s not too difficult to option a 427 Convertible to the tune of $90,000 and change. While arguably a “parts bin” car, it’s not just a topless C6 with a big engine; the conversion involved numerous engineering challenges that may not be obvious at first. Here’s what the 427 Convertible shares with the Z06:
The carbon-fiber hood and fenders, along with the front fascia and wide rear fenders are from the Z06. The 7.0-liter 427 LS7 engine, six-speed manual transaxle (sorry, the automatic is not available), and dry-sump oil system are also direct carryovers. And finally, the magnetic shocks, carbon-fiber/balsawood floor panels, steering, and brakes are pure Z06. But since the Z06 was designed to be a coupe, and therefore derives its structural integrity from its fixed, magnesium-reinforced roof, the all-aluminum frame (shared with the ZR1) was deemed insufficient for 427 Convertible duty. The base Corvette’s hydroformed steel frame, on the other hand, was more than adequate for a street car, even in a roadster configuration.
The official performance numbers for the 427 Convertible are astonishingly close to the Z06’s. Motor Trend tests showed a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds, same as the Z06. The 60-0 braking distance was 101 feet, one foot shorter than the Z06. In the quarter-mile, the 427 Convertible delivered an 11.8-second e.t. at 121.5 mph; the equally quick Z06 managed a trap speed of 123.4 mph. On the skidpad the topless car recorded 1.06 g’s, whereas the Z06 recorded 1.08. And on a closed track, the 427 Convertible turned in a time of 24.1 seconds with an average lateral acceleration of 0.84 g’s, while the Z06 came in with a slightly quicker 23.1-second time with a g rating of 0.90. Corvette engineers retuned the suspension to compensate for the structural differences between the Z06 and the steel-framed roadster. The track numbers and seat-of-the-pants feedback tell us they nailed the combo.
Since the 427 Convertible is available in all colors and with most options—including the 60th Anniversary package—there will no doubt be plenty of interesting variations on the theme. The C6 generation saw the Corvette become a “boutique” car, in that buyers could trick out their ride to match their tastes (and the thickness of their wallet). So, is the 427 Convertible “the best” of the C6s? In terms of raw numbers, no. But evaluating a Corvette isn’t just about the numbers; it’s a visceral, experiential thing. And when you factor in the open-air-motoring aspect, the answer may very well be yes.