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2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 - Jay's New Toy

The Tonight Show Host Adds A Hard-Core Vette To His Collection

Bob Wallace Aug 1, 2002
Vemp_0208_01_z Jay_leno_custom_chevrolet_corvette_z06 Rear_side_shot 2/9

Getting a look at Jay Leno's "garage" (the term doesn't do these digs justice) is nothing less than a feast for the senses, sure to impress on at least two fronts. One is the sheer quantity of vehicles the Tonight Show host owns; the other is the incredible diversity of his collection. There aren't many places you'd see-museums included-a McLaren F1, a Lamborghini Countach, an A/C Cobra sporting a 427 "Cammer" mill, and a Hudson Hornet, all in one place. And that's just scratching the surface, leaving out an equally impressive motorcycle collection, which includes everything from several Vincent Back Shadows to a jet turbine powered two-wheeler. We're sure, however, that you get the point.

A couple of years ago, when he decided to add a Corvette to his stable after driving the pace car at the '98 Indy 500, VETTE was lucky enough to be invited along for a look as Jay had Corvette Mike (1133 N. Tustin Ave., Dept. VM, Anaheim, CA 92807; 800/327-8388) fit his '99 coupe with a few goodies ("Jay Leno's First Corvette," July '00). It didn't take all that long for Leno to get the itch for another Corvette-this creature, however, would have an entirely different personality than that first, close-to-stock vehicle.

"From the sound of things," recalls Jon Moss, Manager of GM Special Vehicles, "Jay hadn't been in a new Corvette before getting his first one. He kept saying, 'This is a nice car.'" On the other hand, as Moss remembers it, Leno wanted to "enhance" the vehicle. "He also," Moss continued, "wanted something no one else had. So, we 'enhanced' Jay's car." A call was made to Wheel to Wheel, the prototype shop responsible for such Corvette exotica as Chevrolet's Tiger Shark concept vehicle, which made it's public debut on VETTE's December '01 cover and was featured in the story "What If..."

Vemp_0208_02_z Jay_leno_custom_chevrolet_corvette_z06 Custom_body_kit 3/9

The Michigan-based crew (570 Executive Dr., Dept. VM, Troy, MI 48083; 248/588-5588) started with a factory spec Millenium Yellow '02 Z06, and proceeded to give it a Wheel to Wheel style reworking. The black leather interior was treated to a few goodies, including a custom console lid, carbon fiber sill plates, and Wheel to Wheel's aluminum throttle pedal and dead pedal.

Things get much more interesting when it comes to the body. This Z06 gained a whole new look by way of the Wheel to Wheel's Design Styling Package. The package includes a new front fascia, front chin spoiler, and an air-extracting hood. The body redo is capped off with a new rear fascia, complete with production European rear taillight assemblies. If this Vette's new wardrobe looks familiar, there's a reason for that: it's the same striking body treatment that adorned the aforementioned Tiger Shark.

Whereas Chevy's SuperVette wears "427" hood badges and "SUPERCHARGED" on its fenders (as is appropriate for a C5 powered by a supercharged, 427ci stroker LS6), Mr. Leno's new ride wears standard-looking "Z06" badges on its sides...which are only standard looking for as long as it takes to notice that the horsepower rating part of the logo shows 514 hp as opposed to a "regular" '02 Z06's 405 ponies.

All this grunt comes from a stoutly built Wheel to Wheel LS6. W2W started with a fresh aluminum LS6 cylinder block, and fitted it with new 4.0-inch bore iron sleeves. A Lunati 4.0-inch stroke forged crankshaft was fitted in the new block, along with Oliver 6.125-inch ultra-light connecting rods. CP Pistons forged mild-dome slugs wearing Speed Pro fitted piston rings were stuffed into the cylinders, and of course the rotating assembly was properly balanced and fitted. The result is a perfectly square powerplant (4.0x4.0-inch bore and stroke) displacing 6.6L (402 ci) and sporting a 11.2:1 compression ratio.

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A W2W custom grind camshaft actuates custom 7.40-inch pushrods with custom restrictors, which in turn work a set of OEM 1.7:1 rocker arms that reside in the flow-enhanced CNC-ported aluminum LS6 cylinder heads. Valve sizes are 2.02 inches on the intake and 1.57 inches on the exhaust, and they're teamed with Competition Cams 941 valve springs with .030-inch shims and titanium retainers.

The Gen III stroker breathes through a Donaldson "Blackwing" high-flow air filter and a Wheel to Wheel carbon fiber induction tube; exhaling duties are handled by W2W long-tube, stainless steel headers, which empty into GM OEM 6.0L Silverado catalytic converters and out through a Corsa 3-inch stainless steel "Touring" exhaust system.

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The high-powered Vette was fitted with stout Brembo brakes and Hawk Braking street pads at all four corners: 14-inch discs up front and 12-inchers out back. Brembo's stand-alone mechanical parking brake calipers are also utilized.

Leno's muscular Z06 sports an extra measure of performance in the tire and wheel department. Fikse FM5 five-spoke wheels and Goodyear F1 Fiorano tires put the power to the pavement. A pair of 18x10-inch wheels wearing 295/35-18 rubber fills the front wheelwells; thanks to a Wheel to Wheel mini-tub kit, humongous 18x12-inch wheels with monster 335/30-18 slabs of rubber fit inside the widened wheelwells.

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We'd call all that rear-wheel grippability a necessity, rather than a nicety: in addition to the aforementioned 514 hp (which arrives at 4,500 rpm) Jay's new toy/beast/road remodeler or way-to-meet-local-law-enforcement is producing well over 450 lb-ft of torque by 3,000 rpm-and stays there all the way to its peak of 524 lb-ft at a lofty 5,600 rpm. If that's not high performance for a street car...well, it is, so that's that. Jon Moss just chuckled when asked about this beast's performance. "It's very quick, and very responsive," he observes. "It's dialed to the 'Nth' degree."

As for Leno's take on the newest addition to his stable, it doesn't take a monologue to get the point across: "If it's fast, I like it," is a statement he utters often. Well, this one is, and he does. We're not sure if Jay plays favorites when it comes to doling out driving time among his many unique and entertaining conveyances, but we'd bet a certain yellow Vette will have will racked up more than a few miles by the time you're reading this.



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