The Illustrated Corvette Designer Series No. 214 – 2006 Z06 Corvette
Words and Art by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Magazine and republished from www.SuperChevy.com
Dateline: 7-28-15: Let’s back up a bit. The C5 Z06 was a game changer. Costing just $7,025 more than the $40,475 base ’01 Corvette, the Z06 was a true bargain. Unlike the ’63 RPO Z06 “racer kit” option that wore no external trim, the C5 Z06 sported unique, wide wheels shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, steel mesh inserts in the front fascia, and rear side brake scoops.
When the C6 debuted in late 2004, it was about 30 seconds later when fans asked, “So, where’s the Z06?” When the C6 Z06 arrived a year later, it was worth the wait and proved to be a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Where the C5 was muscular, the C6 was sharp and crisp, like a freshly pressed business suit. The C6 Z06 was a pressed C6 with extra starch, steroids, protein powder, and a heavy workout at the ALMS racing gym. This widebody configuration was used on the Z06 through the remainder of the C6 run, plus served as the platform for the 205-mph capable ’09 -’13 ZR1 and the ’10-’13 Grand Sport.
The new Z06 wasn’t just a body-kit-optioned C6. Lessons learned from the highly successful C5-R race cars that won four ALMS championships and three class wins at Le Mans were poured into the C6 Z06. Endurance racing is the perfect way to sort out performance parts. However, what many buyers didn’t realize they were getting was a machine that was very close to a race car, with creature comfort amenities. Buyers loved the new LS7 engine with 505 hp on tap (105 hp more than the base LS2), but weren’t ready for how much of a track car the C6 Z06 was. That’s a nice way of saying “harsh on the street with astonishing grip and sudden break-away at the limit.” The Z06 was definitely happier on a track; however, track-oriented street cars have always had a special appeal.
Adding heavy-duty parts is relatively easy, but they add weight to the car. To counter the additional weight, many advanced weight-saving parts were created, including an aluminum body substructure, magnesium front engine cradle, carbon-fiber composite front fenders and wheelhouses, a magnesium non-removable roof panel, and aluminum one-piece hydroformed perimeter framerails. Exotic racing-inspired parts included: dry-sump oil system; handbuilt engine; power steering; transmission and differential coolers; larger cross-drilled rotors and six-piston front calipers; heavier antiroll bars; stiffer springs; beefier ring-and-pinion, halfshafts, and U-joints; lighter seats; and rear mounted battery. Weight-saving items added up to 50 pounds less than the base C6!
The new LS7 427 engine is a racer’s dream. The Gen IV all-aluminum small-block makes 505 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 475 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Details include: titanium connecting rods, pushrods, and valvesprings; forged flat-top aluminum pistons with 11:1 compression; forged steel crankshaft; hydraulic roller camshaft; low-restriction air intake; modified heads and intake runners; and hydroformed exhaust headers. New body parts included: front fascia with a larger grille opening, larger side vents, large rear wheel flairs, rear brake scoops, 10-spoke aluminum wheels, larger rear third brake light, and stainless steel exhaust tips. The interior has every comfort item imaginable, except for an automatic transmission. Performance for its day was staggering: 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds, and a top speed of 186 mph.
The Z06 was a hit right from the start, so much so that it pretty much stayed as-is from ’06-’13. If you think of the C6 Z06 as a fully developed C3 ’68/’69 L88 with semi-street manners and a lot more power, you’re on the money. Chevy could have called the car, “the Bowling Green Special.” – Scott
Scott Teeters’ “Illustrated Corvette Series monthly column has been in every issue of Vette Magazine since 1997. His Corvette art is available to purchase on Amazon ( K Scott Teeters’ Automotive Art ), at illustratedcorvetteseries.com and corvettereport.com.