As mentioned in On the Marque, Jerry Heasley and I traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in February to document the first '06 Z06 being built at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant. This Dream Drive concept was born out of a conversation among Plant Manager Wil Cooksey, Jerry Heasley, and myself at last year's Mid America Motorsports Funfest. In that conversation, Wil mentioned they were planning to build the new Z06 sometime after the first of the year. Jerry and I looked at each other and knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Over the next several months, we talked about how we would document this historic event, including being there when major parts like the new aluminum frame and LS7 engine were integrated into the Corvette assembly line for the first time. This was going to be awesome-even better than Christmas. Well, almost.
I've visited lots of assembly plants and knew building the first Z06 would be a major event. It has 200 parts that are new to the Corvette assembly process, so there would be lots of excitement (and people) following them all the way down the line.
Wil Cooksey asked Andrea Hales, the business communications integrator for the plant, to help me set up everything. She put me in touch with John Spencer, the production launch manager for the Z06. He answered some specific questions, so we were all on the same page. Andrea and John helped us get everything in position to be able to come to the plant. Andrea also asked Sherry Southern, the UAW-General Motors communications coordinator, to escort us around the plant.
During these initial conversations, it became apparent that several new Z06s were being built within a week around the first of February, and we could document the building of any of them. Timing was everything in this adventure, and we had to schedule our arrival to document the entire process. Arriving just in time to do this job isn't an exact science since many parameters can change, sometimes daily, and especially for such a car.
We decided to document the first Z06 being built (non-saleable), which ended up being the 16th one built. While this was the 16th, all 15 Z06s built prior to this were handbuilt. This car would have an experimental VIN and eventually be crushed, but it would go down the line just like every other Corvette. Now we were talking.
We arrived in Bowling Green the night of January 31st. We wanted to see the complete car being built from beginning to end, and were given unprecedented, unlimited access to the whole assembly process. We were allowed to follow the car all through the plant, up on the catwalks; anywhere it went we followed-excluding, of course, the paint shop. No other journalists had been given such access to the plant, and we were grateful for the opportunity.
After a day, we were treated as if we were part of the process. They even announced our arrival on the bulletin boards around the plant. Everyone seemed proud of their part in building this special Corvette, and were glad we were there to document the whole progression.
Follow along as we help build the first 2006 Z06 Corvette.