Last time, we talked about how the 1999-’00 Corvette fixed roof coupe set the stage for the Z06. What the C5 Z06 brought to the party was the attention to improving the overall stiffness of the basic Corvette. So, when the C6 Corvette made its grand debut at the American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2004, after all the cheers, the next question was, “Where’s the Z06?” Two years later the C6 Z06 debuted at the 2006 American International Auto Show in Detroit. No one was disappointed. Whereas the C5 Z06 was a well-executed parts-bin Corvette, the C6 Z06 was a totally unique car that looked like it was on steroids … and it was!
The C6 era was a mixed bag. At first the press couldn’t praise the car enough, and then the complaints about the interior started. When the economy faltered and sales dropped, it was attributed to the car not being “enough.” When the C7 speculation mania kicked in, the Z06’s greatness was overshadowed. From 2006 to 2013 Chevrolet sold 27,015 Z06s. The first three years, 2006, 2007 and 2008, Chevrolet sold 6,272; 7,760 and 7,227 Z06s respectively. In 2009, sales dropped to 3,386 and from 2010 to 2013 sales never broke 1,000.
The base price of the 2006 Z06 started at $65,800 and by 2013 had risen to $76,575. Aside from very minor improvements and the expansion of the dry-sump oil system from 8 to 10.5 quarts of oil in the 2009 model, the Z06 was unchanged from beginning to end. Serious racer hardware was made available in 2011 with the RPO Z07 option, which we’ll get into later. What this means is that the basic foundation of the Z06 was solid. Let’s take a look at the basic Z06, and then we’ll get into the Special Editions and the Z07 Ultimate Performance Package.
The Z06’s appearance is very aggressive. The wide front fenders with an integrated front air dam with a small splitter and rear fender flares look track-ready. The front fender vents (now called “extractors”) and rear fender brake scoops are functional and add to the racer look. The rear of the Z06 had a small spoiler and the four stainless steel exhaust outlets were larger than the ones on the base Corvette. This was arguably the meanest-looking production Corvette ever offered to that date.
The Z06’s LS7 427 engine had a full 100 horsepower more than its predecessor and was chock-full of racer hardware, including titanium rods and intake valves, 11:1 compression and a 7,000-rpm redline with a 7,100-rpm fuel shut-off. The dry-sump oil system used 8 quarts of synthetic oil and a remote reservoir. The cylinder bores were 4.125-inches with pressed-in steel sleeves. The LS7 was the most advanced engine GM had ever offered and was hand-assembled at the GM Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. All C6 Z06 Corvettes used six-speed manual transmissions.
The new all-aluminum frame was proof that with the right shaping, extruding, bracketing and bonding, an aluminum frame could not only be lighter but 30 percent stronger than the C6’s hydroformed steel frame. The Dana Corporation built the frames. To reduce weight, the engine cradle and fixed roof panel were made of magnesium. The basic C6 brakes were excellent, but the Z06 went to the next level. The front brakes used six-piston/six-pad calipers with 14x1.3-inch cross-drilled rotors and the rear brakes had four-piston/four-pad calipers with 13.4x1-inch cross-drilled rotors. The Z06-specific 10-spoke aluminum wheels were 18x9.5 on the front and 19x12 on the rear, shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2 tires, 275/35ZR18 on the front and 325/30ZR19 on the rear.
Designed to be a lightweight track car, the front fenders and wheelhousings were made of carbon fiber and the floor was a unique balsa and carbon-fiber sandwich. More carbon fiber was to come. Other details unique to the Z06 included: rear-mounted battery, no passenger power seat, reduced sound deadening material and no power rear hatch. The power hatch became standard in 2009. The racer-friendly “heads-up” display was standard. The weight saving and power enhancement netted a 3,132-pound Corvette that delivered 0-60 in just 3.7 seconds—stunning in 2006!
Let’s look at pricing. The base price of a 2006 Corvette was $44,600; the premium Z06 had a base price of $65,800. By the time the 2013 Z06 arrived, the price of the base Corvette was $50,575 and the Z06 had increased to $76,575; that’s $26,000 more than the base 2013 model and $10,775 more than the 2006 Z06.
It took about a year before customer reports started coming in that the new Z06 had a nasty temper. As much as the suspension and brakes were matched to the LS7’s 505 horsepower, when pushed to the limit, the rear tires would break surface contact almost instantly, and with little-to-no warning. Many a Z06 owner learned from seat-of-the-pants experience that their car was a beast and hard to control at its limits. You have to give kudos to Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and his team; when Z06 customers talked, they listened. To start, all 2011 Z06s ran on Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar Gen 2 tires, and the exhaust system was tuned for better midrange torque.
Lessons were learned from the very successful Corvette Racing C6.Rs, especially the importance of downforce, improved tires and brakes. Arriving in 2011, Corvette Engineering’s solution was two-fold. First was RPO Z07, the Ultimate Performance Package, for “only” $9,495. But customers sure got a lot! The package included Brembo ceramic brakes, the F55 Magnetic Ride Control system and Competition Gray ZR1-style wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires that looked more like racing slicks with a few grooves for tread. And to increase downforce so that drivers could better apply the LS7’s 505 horsepower through the curves was RPO CFZ, the Carbon Fiber Package, for only $3,995. The package included a more aggressive front splitter; side rockers and a body-colored, ZR1-styled full-width rear spoiler.
In 2012, the Z07 package changed. The price was reduced to $7,500 and the F55 Magnetic Ride Control System that was part of the 2011 Z07 package, was now a $2,495 option. The wheels and tires were changed to the lighter cup-style wheels, shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. Also available on 2012 Corvette Z06s was RPO B92, the Carbon Fiber Hood (previously seen on the 2011 Carbon Edition Z06), for $2,495.
In the eight years of C6 Z06 production, Chevrolet offered five dedicated Z06 Special Edition Corvettes and two special options that were available on the Z06. All of the Special Edition Z06 Corvettes were appearance packages only, with no performance enhancements; the basic Z06 was plenty for most drivers. Special Edition C6 Z06 Corvettes included the 2007 Ron Fellows Z06 ($77,500 – 399 units), the 2008 427 Limited Edition ($84,195 – 505 units), the 2009 GT1 Championship Special Edition ($86,486 – 55 units), the 2009 Competition Sport Special Edition ($77,600 – 20 units) and the 2011 Carbon Edition ($90,960 – 252 units). In 2012, the all-black Centennial Edition, RPO ZLC, option was available on all Corvettes for $4,950, 195 ordered on Z06 Corvettes. And lastly, in 2013, the 60th Anniversary package, RPO Z25, was available on all Corvettes for $1,075; 103 ordered on Z06 Corvettes.
So much more could be written about the C6 Z06. It is solid proof that racing makes a performance car better. And just like the introduction of the C6 Corvette, one of the first questions asked when the C7 debuted was, “So, where’s the Z06?” Now that’s a great legacy.
About the Author: K. Scott Teeters has been a contributing artist and writer with Vette magazine since 1976 when the magazine was titled Vette Quarterly. Scott’s Corvette art can be seen at www.illustratedcorvetteseries.com. His muscle car and nostalgia drag racing art can be found at www.precision-illustration.com.
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