Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have Pratt & Miller build your very own version of the world-beating Corvette C6.R? Have you ever yearned to stick your right foot deep into a race-bred, 600hp Katech engine? If so, your dreams have come true.
The idea originated with GM Racing Marketing Manager Gary Claudio, who approached P&M early last year to see if the engineering firm would build a road-going edition of the famous ALMS race car. P&M bosses Gary Pratt and Jim Miller agreed, and the project was launched under an appropriate moniker: C6RS. To generate a little extra buzz, The Tonight Show host and all-around car nut Jay Leno was selected to receive the first copy.
Referred to by those inside P&M as "the Leno car," the top-secret prototype was finished just in time to make its world debut at the '07 SEMA show in Las Vegas. With the automotive press and the Corvette faithful focused on the upcoming '09 Blue Devil/SS/ZR1, the C6RS's surprise unveiling proved to be one of the show's biggest stories.
Built for Speed...and Comfort
From the beginning, the C6RS project was carefully thought out so as to maximize practicality as well as performance. Though passionate racers at heart, Gary Pratt and Jim Miller wanted to make sure the car offered both C6.R-quality performance and a more comfortable, luxurious driving experience than the factory Z06. Fortunately, this is just the kind of problem the New Hudson, Michigan-based firm is uniquely suited to solving.
To manage the ride issues, the car travels on an air suspension system sourced from ArvinMeritor. The C6RS sits 1.5 inches lower and is 1.6 inches wider than a standard Z06. In the Leno car, a prototype for a future series of C6RS editions, the suspension's height can be adjusted from the driver seat to accommodate the demands of street, performance, or track driving. It can even raise the ride height of the car on demand to clear a steep driveway or other obstacle. P&M has plans to take the air-suspension configuration a step further and utilize an "active" ride system that is immediately responsive to the dynamic demands of spirited driving.
To help exploit the extreme handling capabilities of the high-tech suspension system, P&M engineers provided the C6RS with proprietary, center-locking wheel hubs. A special torque wrench (with custom case) is included in the cargo area to help install the wheel nuts to a dictated 550 lb-ft of torque. Sporting peg drive (as found on any serious race car), the wheels are specially designed BBS units in a striking black-chrome finish. Some serious rubber is specified to wrap those unique rollers: Michelin Pilot Sport tires are sized 295/30ZR18 in the front and a massive 345/30ZR19 in the rear. Stopping power is provided by a special Brembo braking system featuring aluminum hats and floating discs.
Outside, the factory-issue front and rear valances, front and rear fenders, and hood were all replaced with P&M-fabricated carbon-fiber panels. Only the stock roof, doors, and door surrounds were retained. The tops of the front fenders are pierced by the same louvers found on the C6.R; for C6RS duty, the louvered sections are designed to extract hot air from the engine room. C6.R-style front-end cutouts feed air to the radiator and the front brakes. The front splitter is an exaggerated, bare-carbon-fiber blade, just like the one on the race car. Just aft of the splitter is an undertray that is aerodynamically configured to settle the airflow under the car.
Out back, the stock Reverse lights were removed and relocated as a thin strip of Led lighting running across the rear of the car, just below the license plate. This frees up the rear architecture of the C6RS for airflow passageways that evacuate air from under the car, further improving aerodynamics. The hood also received the C6.R touch, with a deep valley cut in the center to allow direct airflow to and away from the radiator. The underside of the hood is finished in glossy, bare carbon fiber. The Z06-style hoodscoop is fully functional, with ducts to feed the C6RS air plenums. Similarly, the oversized side airscoops incorporate a duct that forces cool air onto the rear brakes.
The interior of the C6RS is completely stripped and re-covered in beautiful custom leather. Underlying the hides are acres of Dynamat sound-deadening material, resulting in interior decibel levels halfway between a stock Corvette and a Jaguar XK8. While the Leno car features seats by Lear, P&M engineers are still weighing their options for the series-built cars. They want more lateral and shoulder support than is available from the standard Z06 seats and would also like to incorporate provisions for a 6-point harness.
The notchy factory shift gate is gone, thanks to a transaxle that is prepped similarly to the one used in the P&M-built Cadillac CTS-V race car. The engineers are working on a mechanically actuated sequential-shift mechanism for the customer-edition cars. The SEMA deadline simply didn't allow enough time to incorporate all of the planned C6RS specifications into the Leno car. Indeed, while only small details remain, the ultimate specification for the C6RS is still a work in progress. All the pending issues should be resolved by the beginning of 2008, so that the finalized version of the C6RS will be fully tested and ready for delivery by its planned on-sale date in April.
Obviously, the C6RS needed a killer engine capable of performance equal to or greater than that of its racing cousin. Katech Engineering, builder of the C6.R's LS7.R race engine, was a natural to provide it. To get the performance P&M was looking for in a naturally aspirated package, major cubic inches were required. For the first time ever (in a production vehicle), a small-block Chevrolet engine was taken to 500 ci of displacement. There was no casting to work from (the stock LS7 would not support such a large displacement), so Katech started with a 600-pound aluminum chunk and whittled it down to a gorgeous, perfectly machined 500ci case weighing about 100 pounds.
Katech massaged the engine management to a whopping 600-plus hp and 600-plus lb-ft of torque (exact numbers for the customer cars were still pending at press time)-more than the inlet-restricted LS7.R makes in full-race trim. Leno insisted that the engine in his car be E85-compatible, so the black beauty displayed at SEMA was further programmed as an alcohol burner.
The good news is that you don't have to be Jay Leno to order a C6RS of your own. All you have to do is send the P&M folks your registered C6 or Z06 Corvette (either new or used), and they will coddle it through the entire gestation period before giving birth to a fully developed C6RS. The only potential obstacle is the price. After all, P&M is literarily reengineering the entire car, using the finest parts and most highly skilled technicians in the business. Accordingly, the metamorphosis is expected to be priced just north of $185,000, and only 25 cars will be built.
Still, for an extremely limited-production Corvette with striking looks, stunning speed, and an unimpeachable motorsports pedigree, that may qualify as something approaching a bargain. Just ask the guy in the million-dollar Ferrari Enzo-provided he can catch up, that is.
The P&M Connection
If you don't follow motorsports closely, you may not be familiar with the name Pratt & Miller Engineering. The company was formed 20 years ago by Gary Pratt and Jim Miller, who first met as racing teammates. That relationship soon sparked the creation of an engineering firm in New Hudson, Michigan, near the GM proving grounds. Today, the company provides a full range of design, development, manufacturing, and support services to clients both inside and outside the automotive world.
When it decided to go sports-car racing back in the late '90s, the General came to P&M to design, develop, build, and execute the Corvette Racing program. Currently, GM provides some engineering help, management input, and a mountain of money, and P&M does the rest. Although the company stays busy on a diverse array of projects, the racing programs are the most visible evidence of its world-renowned expertise. Indeed, with five class wins at Le Mans and seven consecutive ALMS GT1 championships, the P&M-built C5-R and C6.R Corvettes have dominated GT racing in the 21st century.
Passionate about everything it does, possessing remarkable engineering expertise, and inextricably linked with the C6.R race car, P&M was the logical choice to manufacture the incredible C6RS.