For years, the search for the last Corvette of a generation has been an adventure for Corvette lovers. Discovering what the last VIN number is of the last-ever Vette built on that platform has been the easy part. The hard part-finding the car that matches that VIN-makes searching for a needle in a haystack look easy. (Especially if, when found, that last-ever car is not intact, with any unique parts scattered far and wide.)
When it came time to add a "last-of" Corvette to his stable, Mike Yager went in another direction-the easiest one by far. "This car was actually given away by the National Corvette Museum, and I ended up buying it from the winner," Mike says. That's right, he purchased a car that had been identified as the last-ever Z06 C5 built.
Mike already had the last C4 Corvette in the MY Garage collection at Mid America Motorworks, so when the opportunity for a similar last-call C5 came up, he took it. "They're cool cars to have," Mike says of his last-of-the-line Vettes. "The first one of a generation is cool, but so is the last. The fact is that every C5 made came before this car. After this one, there were no more C5s."
And what a way for the fifth generation of "America's Only True Sports Car" to wind up, with a performance option that turned the world-class C5 into one of the world's finest sports cars, worthy of the legendary RPO code that first appeared on Corvette's optional special performance and handling package in 1963. The carbon-fiber hood that was unique to the '04 Z06 shaved ten pounds off the front of the car, half the regular hood's weight. It also marked the first time that carbon fiber-in this case, a "unidirectional" fiber array-was used as a painted exterior panel on a production car. Under the hood, there's the 405hp version of GM's Gen IV smallblock V-8-the LS6, that's also good for 400 lb-ft of torque. You don't need a slide rule or a computer to do the math about how it makes this 3,200-pound car accelerate.
Plus, the chassis on this edition of the Z06 got special attention during its development. "While the Z06 already had an excellent blend of extreme handling capability and surprising ride quality, we're never satisfied," Corvette Chief Engineer Dave Hill said when the car was introduced. About the '04 edition and its Magnetic Selective Ride Control, he said, "The enhancements for 2004 provide a bit more poised and smooth response, connecting the car better to the driver's input, without the penalty of ride harshness." They also led to the Z06 turning laps on Germany's famous Nurburgring in less than eight minutes-something the finest Grand Prix drivers of the past were hard-pressed to do.
A car that can turn a lap time that quick on the 'Ring's Nordschlife is a fitting way to commemorate Corvette C5R's GTS class wins in the 24 Hours of LeMans. Special badging noting Corvette's success at LeMans is just one aspect of the Commemorative Edition, along with its Le Mans Blue paint and special hood striping.
With all that performance hardware, it seems almost criminal to let a car like this spend all its time parked in a museum. When we chatted with Mike, this car already had some 4,600 miles on it. "The travesty out there is, if you look at some of these 'last' cars, they were taken out and driven as vehicles and have virtually disappeared," Mike says. "Because I have such a public museum, and we use our cars for everybody to see, it's neat to have that last-generation car that people can see didn't just go into a collection and disappear, or bought by a consumer and 'consumed' and then disappear."
This Corvette is yours for the viewing when you visit Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Illinois. It shares space next to the last-ever C4 Corvette, along with Vettes such as the Bunkie Knudsen '64 Sting Ray that we brought you last month, as well as CERV I, the "World's Fair" '64 Sting Ray, and the XP 819 rearengined Corvette prototype of the mid-'60s. Log on to www.mamotorworks.com, and then click on "MY Garage," then "Cars," to take a quick virtual tour of this collection.