Corvette Kit Cars - Some Assembly Was Required

Did You Know You Could Buy A C5 In Kit Form Back In The Day?

Richard Newton May 25, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Did you know you could buy a C5 in kit form back in the day? Me neither. You couldn't buy one of these Corvettes from your local Chevrolet dealer. You had to be approved by GM to buy one of these C5 Corvettes. Then after you were approved, you had to go to the parts counter to place your order for the car. When your Corvette was finally delivered, most of the car arrived in boxes. Oh, you also had to drive to Flint, Michigan, to pick up the rolling chassis.

Corp_1008_01_o Corvette_kit_cars Front_shot 2/12

These were obviously no ordinary Corvettes. These were Corvette race cars. From 1999 to 2001 you could buy your Corvette race car directly from Chevrolet, or more correctly from the Service and Parts Operations division of GM. You didn't really buy a complete Corvette. You bought a rolling chassis complete with a drivetrain, a bunch of body panels, and any number of small parts. The body panels arrived in cardboard boxes. Actually, in 1999, they arrived a few weeks later since there were some logistical problems.

When the C5 was introduced, a lot of folks at GM thought the way to sell more Corvettes was to race them. They believed the old phrase, "Win on Sunday-sell on Monday." GM Motorsports thought it would be a really neat idea to make Corvette racing even easier than it had been in the past. Prior to 1999, you had to go to your local Chevrolet dealer and buy a brand-new Corvette. You would then take the car apart and turn all the parts into a race car. GM Motorsports, led by Ken Brown, came up with the idea of selling racers only the parts they needed. Since race teams were taking brand-new Corvettes apart anyway, why not just sell them the parts they needed? Race teams didn't need a stinking interior.

Once it was decided to go ahead with the program, GM had to make sure that the cars actually went to racers and not collectors. It wouldn't do any good if these cars ended up at Bloomington Gold. GM didn't do this program to help you win an NCRS award. Nope, the idea was that you would buy one of these kits, assemble it, and then beat the crap out of it on the racetrack. This was a performance program.

The Fixed Roof Coupe (FRC)
All of these Corvette kit cars were Fixed Roof Coupes (FRC). At one time, this was supposed to be the Bubba or a low-priced Corvette. When the product planners realized that the FRC would sell for about the same price as the Camaro, the Bubba program was halted. The only problem was the FRC was still going into production. What the hell do we do with this car now? It was time to get creative. The problem was that there was this Corvette (the FRC) going into production with no real sales program. GM had everything in place except the target market. OK, they said-let's make the FRC a race car!

I remember attending a meeting where they explained to a small group of us that the FRC was the ideal Corvette race car because it had the stiffest body shell of the three different versions. No mention was made of the crappy aero numbers they had just seen in the wind tunnel. The FRC wasn't a great aero package. The air simply didn't come off of the roof properly. The hatchback coupe was much better at handling the airflow over the top of the car. Now we had an FRC being sold as a race car when the street car, or coupe, had much better aero characteristics. Ooops. You'll notice that Pratt and Miller never used the FRC in any of its racing programs. It knew from the start that the FRC was aero trouble.

The cars destined for the SCCA World Challenge just avoided this whole aero issue. The idea was "Here's your FRC-go have fun." The kit car program seemed to be a perfect way to showcase the FRC and create demand for this orphan body style. A little later, GM would try limiting the Z06 option to the FRC. This actually helped sell more FRCs than the kit car program sold. Keep in mind, though, that this was a coordinated effort. All of the SCCA World Challenge Corvettes were Fixed Roof Coupes, and if you wanted the Z06 performance package you had to order it as an FRC. This mess was finally all coming together.

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