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Idle Chatter: Engine Noise

Jay Heath Feb 21, 2013

By the time this issue finds its way into your hands, the details of the C7 Corvette’s “Gen V” small-block engine should be well known, having been unveiled to the press at a special viewing in Detroit planned for late October. While I’d like very much to address the specifics of the new engine here, the reality is that I’m writing this in late September, meaning that anything I might say would fall squarely within the realm of conjecture.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to risk professional opprobrium and personal mortification by making a few moderately educated guesses about the latest edition of the legendary small-block Chevy. Consider it a test of my skills as an investigative journalist and part-time prognosticator. Depending on the accuracy of these predictions, I’ll come out of this looking like Nostradamus or a nitwit, Woodward or a wacko. Either way, it should be entertaining.

Vemp 1302 01 Z Idle Chatter Engine Noise Jay 2/3

Prevailing wisdom (including, previously, ours) notwithstanding, the Gen V engine will not suffer a diminution of displacement, at least not in its Corvette guise. This was intimated to us by GM officials in a visit to Detroit last spring, during a discussion on powertrain technology at the Performance Build Center. No, these faithful flacks didn’t violate the General’s ironclad proscription on disclosing information on future products. It was more in the look contributor Walt Thurn and I got when we professed to know that the new small-block would be downsized to 5.5 liters. It was the kind of sad, knowing gaze with which a schoolteacher might favor a hardworking but intellectually deficient fourth-grader—a gaze with which I am all too familiar. With that said, I’m guessing the motor stands pat at 6.2L.

With turbocharging currently enjoying something of a renaissance in the automotive world, many have suggested that the next iteration of the ZR1 engine will be armed with a turbo or two, instead of another positive-displacement blower. Don’t buy it. We’ve seen what were supposedly renderings of the next “King of the Hill” powerplant, and the engine depicted therein was most assuredly supercharged. Assuming those CAD/CAM drawings weren’t a ruse—and they could very well have been just that—the oft-predicted turbocharged Corvette remains a chimera for now.

While the supercharger revelation couldn’t exactly be classified as earth shattering, the names attached to the engines in those computer renderings—LT1 for the base-Vette motor, LT4 for the ZR1 mill—did come as a surprise. It’s not that the LT-series platform was substandard; it wasn’t, despite a few baked-in demerits (OptiSpark, anyone?). It was, however, comparatively short lived, running from 1992 through 1996, and, as such, it continues to be overshadowed by the vaunted Gen I SBC it replaced and the revolutionary LS1 that succeeded it. It seems unlikely that GM would choose to name its latest technological showpiece after something widely regarded as a stopgap motor.

Vemp 1302 02 Z Idle Chatter Engine Noise 3/3

One of my favorite maxims, the Law of Holes states, “When in a hole, stop digging.” With that in mind, I think I’ll bring to this exercise to a halt right about…here.

In closing, I should note that VETTE, along with sister publications Motor Trend and Hot Rod, is currently working on a special issue commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Corvette’s debut in 1953. Scheduled to go on sale in January, this collectible, newsstand-only publication will be loaded with vintage photos, road tests, and other material drawn from throughout the car’s rich history; exclusive insights from past and present Corvette team members; and a lot more. While the magazine is just starting to take shape as I write this, it promises to be a must-read for anyone with an abiding passion for America’s Favorite Sports Car.



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