When the C6 Z06 body style came out, I was an instant fan. The lines gave the car a menacing look that hinted at the additional power under the hood. In fact, I was so impressed with the new Z that I went down to my local dealership and put my name on the waiting list. Incredibly, the salesman agreed to sell me one at sticker price. This particular dealership doesn't sell many Corvettes, however, and as a result, it wasn't scheduled to receive an allocation of Z06s for quite some time. Sure, I could have gone to another dealer and purchased one, but I wasn't too keen on the idea of paying $10,000 to $15,000 over sticker. I had also started to have misgivings over the fact that I couldn't have a Z06 in convertible form. I've always been a fan of drop-tops, especially on those warm, summer-night cruises.
All this time, I kept hoping that someone would come out with a kit to convert a standard C6 into the Z06 body design. When I saw your article "Lords of the Ring" (Dec. '06), which showed a picture of a convertible with Z06 body lines, I thought my prayers had been heard. When I wrote to your Front Lines section to find out how to have my car converted, your response, published in the Feb. '07 issue, was to call Callaway Cars and "bring money." I never called, assuming that the cost to have the conversion done by a top-notch tuner like Callaway would be prohibitive.
Later, while scanning Zip Products' on-line catalog, I found what I was looking for: a set of Z06 body panels to fit my C6 convertible. I quickly contacted Zip to find out more about the package. Zip's Justin Abbott provided all the information on the parts involved in the conversion, including a number of GM parts I'd have to buy. I promptly sold my C5 convertible on eBay and ordered an unsuspecting C6 convertible the next day.
While waiting for delivery of my new Vette, I began ordering all the parts I needed to do the job. I didn't expect a big challenge, as I had performed frame-off restorations on three other Vettes, completing all the work by myself. While it was difficult to rationalize disassembling a brand-new car with only a few miles on it, I had great expectations for the project's outcome.
The body conversion began with swapping out the stock rear fenders for Zip's Z06-style pieces. These are direct, bolt-on replacements for the OE parts. From GM, I purchased the carbon-fiber front fenders, rear inner fenders, front and rear brake air ducts, front and rear splash panels, front and rear molding inserts, front bumper panel, lower chin spoiler, grille, and miscellaneous mounting hardware. Between Justin's help and my own research, I was able to compile a complete inventory of all the parts needed. (A copy of this list is included at the end of this story.)
To help with the disassembly and assembly processes, I purchased a copy of the C6 service manual. I also persuaded my local dealership's parts department to give me a printed copy of the exploded view of the rear-quarter, front-fender, and front-bumper areas, which was contained in their computerized parts manual. This actually gave more detail on where and how the various parts went together.
Aside from a few minor modifications, the project was pretty simple: Just unbolt the old panels and replace them with the new ones. I did have to drill an alignment hole in the Z06 fender tab for the headlight cover and cut the front air inlets for the brake-cooling ducts off at the end tab. Additionally, a hole had to be drilled and tapped into the frame on each side to attach the front brake ducts.
The only significant modification required was to trim the front inner fenders about one inch behind the outer lip and fabricate extensions to fit them to the Z06 fender lip. The extensions were fabricated from 1/8-inch-thick reinforced rubberized material and fastened to the inner fenders with the same push-type fasteners that are used to attach the other wheelhouse components. Another option would have been to replace the C6 front inner fenders with the Z06 versions. This would have required a major effort, however, as the old fenders would have had to be chiseled off and the new ones bonded onto the front structure.
There were a few hardware items that had to be transferred from the original panels to the Z06 versions. These parts consisted of the rear-fender-to-bumper support brackets, the front-fender-to-bumper support brackets, and the plastic front-fender-to-bumper retainers. Once this was done, the new panels were all attached to the car to make sure everything fit perfectly. They were then removed and taken to the dealership's paint shop for color-matching to the Monterey Red tint coat paint. Finally, the panels were reattached to the car and all the other hardware installed.
To fill in the wheel wells, I purchased Zip's Z06 wheel-and-tire package with air-pressure sensors. The rims are chrome 9.5 x 18s up front and 12 x 19s in the rear. They're shod with Michelin Pilot Sports in 285/35-18 and 345/30-19 sizes. To give the car even more of an aggressive look, I lowered the Z51 suspension about 1 1/2 inches in the rear and about 1 inch up front.
To add the muscle to match the look, I chose SLP's ZL465 PerformancePac, with a few variations. Instead of SLP's exhaust components, I opted for a set of Kook's headers, crossover pipes, and high-flow cats, along with B&B mufflers. The car now has a deep, throaty, muscle-car sound, with none of the gurgling I've heard from some other systems. The rest of the SLP package consists of the company's Blackwing air-induction system, 1.85-ratio rocker arms, 160-degree thermostat, and revised PCM tuning. Finally, I installed MSD plug wires. All these upgrades have had a definite positive effect on seat-of-the-pants performance.
To dress up the topside of the motor, I added GM's body-colored fuel-rail covers, a stainless steel plenum cover with a C6 emblem, and a custom "465 Horsepower" decal. I used SLP's ZL465 badges on the side fenders, where the Z06 badges are normally installed. After completing all the conversion work, I had the side windows and back glass tinted.
In the end, the car turned out great. With its top down, I think it may have an even more aggressive look than the Z06 coupe. Naturally, it gets lots of attention wherever I go. I may not have quite the horsepower and performance of a true Z06, but I'm very happy with my topless version.