Chevrolet Corvette: 60 Years of an American Icon, Part 2

1984-2013: C4, C5, and C6

Drew Hardin Jan 13, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Incremental Improvement
Team Corvette's predilection for special-edition offerings bloomed anew in '07, when two such models were produced. The first was a red-and-white Z06 honoring Corvette Racing standout Ron Fellows Z06. This was the first "signed edition" Corvette ever produced, with each of the 399 copies bearing Fellows' signature on the underside of the center-console lid.

2005 Chevrolet Corvette Rear Three Quarter At Show 2/49

Also available in '07 was a limited run of Indy pace-car replicas. All 500 units were Atomic Orange convertibles based on the car piloted by actor/race driver Patrick Dempsey at that year's 500-mile endurance race.

The following year, the Corvette received a mid-cycle upgrade that included the new 6.2L LS3 engine. The LS3 produced 430 hp at 5,900 rpm and 424 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm, thanks in large part to its heavily revised cylinder heads. An optional dual-mode exhaust, modeled on the Z06 system, tacked on another 6 hp and 4 lb-ft. A new TR6060 six-speed manual offered reduced shift effort and travel, while two optional leather-wrapped interiors enhanced the appearance and feel of the cabin.

2008 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car 3/49

Finally, another pair of low-volume models hit showrooms in '08. The first was the 427 Limited Edition Z06, each of which was painted Crystal Red and signed by retired Bowling Green Assembly Plant Manager Wil Cooksey. The second was yet another Indy pace-car replica, this time rendered in a black-and-silver paint scheme echoing the look of the '78 edition.

Long Live the King
The big news for '09 was the introduction of the first 200-mph Corvette, the ZR1. Power came from the new supercharged 6.2L LS9 producing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. According to GM Powertrain Manager Sam Winegarden, "We improved the bulkhead strength in both the LS3 and LS9 engine blocks. This enabled us to enlarge the openings from bulkhead to bulkhead inside the engine. This let us manage the airflow from bay to bay, and as a bonus it made more power.

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 At Detroit Auto Show 4/49

"The head design is similar, except for the materials and heat treatment we use in the LS9. This is because of the engine's increased pressure." Other ZR1 highlights included multiple carbon-fiber aero enhancements and massive carbon-ceramic brakes.

VETTE conducted the first-ever drag-strip test of the new ZR1 in the fall of '09, piloting the car to a best e.t. of 11.447 seconds in the Florida heat. "With a few more break-in miles, some cooler air, and a pair of drag radials, the new Corvette flagship is almost certain to crack the 10s at 130-plus," wrote Editor Jay Heath.

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Front 5/49

A "Grand" Finale
In 2010, the Grand Sport name returned on a model priced between the base Corvette and the Z06. It featured Z06-style body panels -- though in fiberglass, rather than carbon -- allied with the base car's mechanicals. Manual-trans Grand Sport coupes came with a dry-sump LS3 engine that, like the LS7 and LS9, was hand-assembled at GM's Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan.

The new model was an immediate hit, even if overall sales were down. With the economy in free fall, Corvette production for 2010 totaled only 12,194 units, almost half of which were Grand Sports.

2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport 6/49

Chevy deployed more Corvette special editions in the '11 and '12, mostly by repurposing hardware from the ZR1 parts bin. The '11 Z06 offered three new performance options: Z07, CFZ, ULZ. The Z07 package included ZR1-spec ceramic brakes, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and Michelin PS2 Zero Pressure tires mounted on ZR1-style wheels. CFZ added a black-painted carbon splitter, rockers, and roof hoop, plus a body-colored rear spoiler. The ULZ Carbon Limited edition included the Z07 and CFZ packages plus a bulged carbon hood, a special interior, and assorted cosmetic touches. Decoding the Corvette's options list had never been more challenging.

For 2012, Chevrolet celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Edition package available on all Corvette models. It featured Carbon Flash Metallic (black) paint, an Ebony leather interior with suede accents, and an assortment of Centennial badges. Magnetic Ride Control, red brake calipers, and black wheels were also included.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Centennial Edition 7/49

In its eighth and final production year, the C6 is being offered with a 60th Anniversary package including Arctic White exterior paint, a special Blue Diamond interior, optional blue exterior stripes, and carbon trim. An LS7-powered drop-top called the 427 Convertible is also new. Based on the Grand Sport model, it features a six-speed manual transmission, a carbon hood, and Z06 front carbon fenders. All exterior colors are available.

The '13 model run will end early, to allow time for the assembly plant to gear up for C7 production. The C6 has proved to be the best all-around Corvette yet, one that will continue to generate new fans well into the future.

Adapted from the November 2012 issue of Vette. Words by Walt Thur and Jay Heath. Photographs by Walt Thurn.

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