C6 ZR1 Corvettes

Book Review: Corvette Sixty Years – by Randy Leffingwell

Dateline: 7.5.12

A Most Excellent Addition To Your Corvette Library

I’ve been collecting car magazines and car books since the mid-’60s. My library has gotten larger than I ever imagined. There’s one book that I accidentally bought three times. I have four different versions of essentially the same book authored by Randy Leffingwell and published by Motorbooks. All four versions are very nice books, loaded with excellent images and well written prose by Leffingwell. But each time I bought the book online, I thought I was getting a different book because the covers and sizes are all different.

So, when I saw that Motorbooks was publishing “Corvette Sixty Years,” I was holding out in hopes of a totally new book and not a shuffled around version of the previous “Corvette Fifty Years” with some updated C5 and C6 material. I was NOT disappointed! Leffingwell and MBI have delivered the goods! The book is, for me, a visual delight. You see, when you have as many books and magazines as I have, you’ve probably seem nearly all of the old vintage photos showing the design and development work on the Corvette. At least, that’s what I thought!

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Corvette Widebodys – Past and Present

Dateline: 5.31.12

When it comes to widebody Corvettes, it’s all about BIG tires.

Check out the wide body Corvette prints at the bottom of this post.

Special thanks to Corvette Racing for the very cool images. For tons of Corvette Racing fun, be sure to visit, www.corvetteracing.com/.

On March 16,2012 GMAuthority.com announced that for the 2012 racing season, the C6.R ZR1 Corvette would be wearing a new suit. We’re not talking about the livery, it’s still Competition Yellow with black graphics that seems to change every few races.

No, we’re talking about actual body parts. It was only six years ago that the production widebody C6 Z06 gave the new C6 that big, broad shoulders look that we love so much. It wasn’t long before lots of regular Corvettes were wearing Z06 outfits, and why not? It looks great, almost as if that’s the way the C6 should have looked in ‘05. But things evolve and we go from there. It wasn’t just a fad either. Chevrolet certainly noticed and and in ‘10 dished up the Grand Sport model, wearing Z06 cloths and a new set of front fender vents. The new look struck a chord, because in ‘10 the Grand Sport Corvette made up 49.5% of total sales and in ‘11 Grand Sports accounted for 58.7% of sales! That’s very impressive and the Corvette planners deserve credit for picking up on the widebody trend.

Special thanks to Corvette Racing for the very cool images. For tons of Corvette Racing fun, be sure to visit, www.corvetteracing.com/.

But when ‘12 Corvette Racing season began, the ZR1-based race cars were wearing an even wider, wider body. And just like the original ‘70s widebody Corvettes popularized by John and Burt Greenwood, it was all about tires. Race car tires are a whole other interesting topic. If you go all the way back to the earliest Corvette racers, you can’t miss those painfully skinny tires. These were stock tires that were sometimes shaved a little. When you got into the late ‘60s tire sizes began to grow and L-60 series tires were considered enormous. Continue reading

Vette Videos: Hot Lap Action With the 2012 Indy 500 ZR1 Corvette Pace Car

Dateline: 5.25.12

Ryan Briscoe take a blast in the 2012 60th Anniversary ZR1 Indy 500 Pace Car – calls it, “One hell of a race car!”

This weekend is the 96th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports, the Indy 500. Over the years, some of the cars that pace the race have become stars themselves. And none more that the Corvette Indy Pace Cars. After all, the Indy 500 is America’s race and the Corvette is America’s high performance sports car, so the relationship is a natural. This will be the 11th time (‘78, ‘86. ‘95, ‘98, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, and ‘08) a Corvette has served as the official Indy 500 pace car.

The last time a Corvette served as an Indy 500 pace car was in 2008 when not one, but two unique Indy Pace Car Corvettes were on hand. A black and silver version was available as an option for Corvette buyers, with 234 Coupes and 266 convertibles sold that year. But the actual pace car was an experimental, Gold Rush Green Z06 running on E-85 fuel. This unique paint was a brilliant candy gold that changed into candy lime green depending on the light and angle of view. I thought for sure this might be a prototype paint for a possible Continue reading

The Most Powerful Indy 500 Pace Car EVER – 2013 60th Anniversary ZR1 Corvette

Dateline: 5.11.12

Corvette paces the 2012 Indy 500 for the 11th time!

Every so often, a real bombshell goes off. Earlier this week, less than three weeks before the 2012 Indy 500 race, Chevrolet announced that a 2013 60th Anniversary ZR1 Corvette would pace the 96th Indy 500 race. This will the the 11th time a Corvette paces the Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports and the 23rd time a Chevrolet automobile has paced the Indy 500. No other manufacturer has paced Indy more times. And, if that’s not enough, 2012 marks the return of Chevrolet as an engine supplier for IZOD IndyCar Series.

C6 Corvettes have paced the Indy 500 in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, but this is the first time the 638-horsepower ZR1 will do the job. The ZR1 is also the most powerful car to ever pace the Indy 500. And just like most of the previous Corvette Indy pace cars, the Corvete needed no performance enhancements – just the addition of various safety requirements.

Arguably, the only bummer part of the story is for Corvette collectors. There was no announcement of an optional Pace Car Special. The livery on the ZR1 Pace Car consists of the production 60th Anniversary decoration, with the addition of the 2012 Indy 500 logo, “Official Pace Car”, Indy 500 logo,  “CORVETTE” across the top of the windshield, and the safety strobe light bar on top of the B-pillar. The ZR1’s astonishing hardware aside, this is the tamest-looking Corvette Indy 500 pace car we’ve seen since 1986. But, we’re NOT complaining. Continue reading

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – Dynamic New Series of Corvette Prints

Dateline: 4.23.12

Our New Partnership With FineArtAmerica.com

Don’t miss the new prints slide show below!

We are very happy to announce our new Corvette art prints enterprise with FineArtAmerica.com. But first, I must give credit, where credit is due. My lovely wife and business partner Karen, discovered FineArtAmerica.com about a month ago. Partnering with FineArtAmerica.com allows me the freedom to create Corvette art print layouts in any proportion. FineArtAmerica.com allows customers to order my Corvette prints in sizes to fit their budget needs! The optional matte and framing service allows customers the freedom to choosing their color matte and frame style to suit their decor needs.

By offering our Corvette prints through FineArtAmerica.com, customers can order prints as small as 8” x 2-5/8” up to 48” x 16” for our 1×3 proportion layouts and 8” x 8” up to 48” x 48” for our square proportion layouts. Every print can be produced on either archival matte paper, photo paper, watercolor paper, or canvas. Then, if you want, you can have your print custom matted and framed. There are dozens of matte colors and frame styles. You can design your framed print to match your home decor. The possibilities are staggering!

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David Kimble’s Incredible Cut-Away Corvette Art Creations

Dateline: 2.13.12

The Master of Cut-Away Technical Illustration Automotive Art

Check out the slide show at the end of this post!

Please allow me to indulge myself and geeze a little. It seems that the farther north you are from the age of 50, the more times from the past begin to blur together. If you’re under 30 or 40 and are wondering what I’m talking about, just wait. I think it was somewhere around 1984 or 1985 the first time I saw one of David Kimble’s cut-away technical illustrations.

While Kimble had been working for many years as a technical illustrator for the US Navy, an RV company, the Chaparral Racing Team, the Harrison Racing team, and Sports Car Graphic Magazine, I believe that it was his 1984 technical illustration of the then-new 1984 C4 Corvette that put him on the automotive map. If it wasn’t his ‘84 Corvette cut-away that I first saw, then it was his Ferrari F40 cut-away that appeared in Motor Trend that definitely caught my attention. In the early ‘80s I was a freelance commercial artist specializing in machines. There was a wonderful magazine for commercial and graphic artists back then titled, “Step-By-Step Graphics” that was truly awesome for aspiring artists. Each issue featured several articles that took you on a step-by-step overview of exactly how the artist created their works. It was a terrific magazine.

Here’s the artist, himself, David Kimble, holding his new book, “Cutaway – The Automotive Art of David Kimble.”

One issue had a feature story covering David Kimble’s unique approach to the classic “cut-away” style of technical illustration. I was already familiar with James A Allington’s cut-away illustrations from a series of Shell Oil print ads that ran in the late 60s featuring famous road racing cars, such as the Ford GT40, Jim Hall’s Chaparral, and others. But Kimble’s style was quite different and unique. Where as most cut-away technical illustrations show what’s under the car’s body by illustrating a section of the body that seemed to be snipped away, Kimble created a new dimension to the “cut-away” body sections. David’s illustrations looked as if most of the car’s painted body was transparent. Parts, such as tires, wheels, floorboards, dash panels, transmission cases, valve covers were either transparent or used the traditional “cut-away” technique. When you look at a Kimble technical illustration, you experience a journey of discovery. For us gearheads, Kimble’s art satisfies the the question, “What’s under there?” Continue reading

Vette Videos: Chevrolet Embraces Corvette Racing

Dateline: 2.13.12

It’s too bad Chevy didn’t do this 50 years ago!

To see the BIG version of this very cool Zr1 Corvette ad, just click the above image.

The very cool “Chevy Runs Deep” video featuring the C6.R Corvette racers is at the bottom of this post.
Wouldn’t it have been awesome if General Motors had told the AMA to “stuff it” back in 1957? Why should Ford and Chrysler get all the racing glory? Just before the GM enforced the 1957 AMA ban on racing, paperwork had been submitted to take Duntov’s Corvette SS race car to Le Mans. And what might have happened if Zora had been allowed to fully develop the ‘63 Grand Sport. Ah, the stuff of bench racing.

In the early years of the Corvette, Chevrolet and General Motors seemed to almost be shy about their involvement in Corvette racing. While the infamous 1957 AMA ban on corporate involvement in racing was for a very long time, their excuse for not being upfront about racing, there was PLENTY of back door parts and engineering “field testing” going on. Select individuals received special assistance that always kept things a little murky. Names such as Smokey Yunick, Roger Penske, Bill Jenkins, Jim Hall, John Greenwood, and others were often gifted with development parts (at no, or little charge) in exchange for feedback from the race track.

And for the regular customers, there were plenty of go-fast parts that were unofficially referred to as Duntov’s “racer kits.” Not that the parts came in a special box, like an AMT model kit, but they did give a wanna-be Corvette racer the benefit of solid Chevrolet engineered parts for their racing efforts.

Fortunately for every Corvette owner for the last several decades, many race developed parts slowly and subtly made their way into production Corvettes. The tide didn’t really turn in the corporate attitude towards racing until the mid-’80s when Chevrolet began to build specially prepared cars for the Corvette Challenge Series. Plus, there was a lot of help given to the C4 Corvette racers in the Showroom Stock Series. Then there was the GTP Lola/Corvettes and the Morrison Motorsports speed demon C4 ZR1 Corvette that shattered speed records. Continue reading

2012 Centennial Edition ZR1 Corvette – The “Best” C6?

Dateline: 1.20.12

Is this the C6 to the max? We’ll see!

Special thanks to CorvetteFoum.com for the image. The photo was taken at sunrise in Texas...now home of 'The Beest'. And by the way, its VIN? #100. Click the photo to visit the page.

As I have written many times here, Chevrolet is really on a roll with the special edition Corvettes. I really like these Corvettes and the fact that they’re technically “parts bin” cars, doesn’t bother me in the least. The fact that none of the special edition Corvettes have any horsepower enhancements is irrelevant. It sure would be nice, but after all, Chevrolet isn’t a tuner company. And if 436-hp, or 505-hp, or 638-hp isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck! In the classic small-block Chevy tradition, Chevrolet engineers left plenty of red meat in all three Corvette engines that can be easily extracted without seriously altering the car.

When I wrote my Illustrated Corvette Series No. 177 column for VETTE in October ‘11 covering the 2012 Centennial Edition, there was zero talk about 2013 special editions. And frankly, I wasn’t anticipating the announcement of the 60th Anniversary Special Edition until the Spring. Then in early January, “BAM!” Chevrolet unleashed the 60th Anniversary Edition, plus the delicious 427 Convertible. While I personally like a little more sizzle, the two ‘13 special editions are indeed sweet. But it did complicate the main question of my column, “Is the 2012 Centennial Edition ZR1 the best of the C6 Vettes?” Continue reading

A Salute to the Amazing ZR-1 and ZR1 Corvette

Dateline: 12.6.11

A Salute to Chevy’s “King of the Hill” the ZR-1 and ZR1

(Check out the BIG versions of the ZR1 Tribute print on the right, at the bottom of this post.)

When the ZR-1 Corvette first arrived in 1970 almost the only people that noticed were the Corvette racers and a few magazine gearheads. That’s because RPO ZR1 was the latest of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s “racer kits.” The ZR-1 was an LT-1 version of the ‘67-’69 L-88 racer kit package that Duntov deliberately designed to be a “track-only” car. There were no creature comforts – no radio and even no heater. The suspension was completely heavy duty and could jar your molars out on normal streets. Plus, the lack of a proper radiator shroud made driving the car in stop-and-go traffic an engine killer.

Consequently, from ‘70 to ‘72, only 53 official ZR-1 Corvettes were built. After the end of ‘72, the Corvette market began to move away from performance to a boulevard car. It took 18 years for the ZR-1 to surface again, but this time as a world-class Grand Touring road machine. Packed to the gills with creature comforts and powered by the all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam, Lotus-designed, Mercury marine-built LT-5 engine, this was no “off raod use only” machine. When the clamshell hood of the press preview ‘89 ZR-1 was opened, jaws dropped and grizzled automotive journalists gasped at the sight of the LT-5.

The Corvette team was a very different group from the late ‘60s. One thing Dave McLellan and his team were determined to do was make sure their new world-class Vette was NOT launched prematurely. The team intended to release the ZR-1 as an ‘89 Corvette, but smartly chose to postpone production a year to make sure the car was right. The only downside to the entire enterprise was a small matter of the BIG price. At $27,016 on top of the $31,979 base price, this wasn’t just an engine option. No, no. everything from the flywheel back to the tires was bigger, more stout, and heavy duty. And rather than just add flares to the fenders to cover the oversized tires (ala the C3 L-88 fender flares), the entire back end of the car was widened. Unfortunately, the change was only noticeable to those with a keen Corvette eye or if the ZR-1 was next to a regular C4 Corvette. But, we won’t pick, as it was a magnificent car. Continue reading

The New King of the Hill is NOT the ZR1 Corvette! WHAT?

Dateline: 11.17.11

What’s a MUSTANG doing at CorvetteReport.com???

I suppose we should have known it wouldn’t last forever. Since 2009 the 638-HP LS9 engine that powers the C6 ZR1 has been the official “Most powerful mass production engine in Detroit history.” Well, it seems that Ford has a better idea and weren’t about to let GM hold the gold forever.

The new Shelby will be packing 650-horsepower and 600 lb-ft or torque from it’s supercharged 5.8-liter V8. While that’s only 12-horsepower and more than the LS9 and 6 lb-ft of torque less than the LS9, bragging rights are bragging rights. In the real world, will it matter? No. But the numbers are the numbers. The question is this. Will Chevrolet engineers pull out the “special chip” to goose the ‘12 or ’13 LS9 past the new Mustang? Aftermarket engineering companies, such as Lingenfelter Performance Engineering have proven that there’s PLENTY of red meat left in the stock LS9, such that with just a few bolt-on changes, the LS9 can easily close in on 700-horsepower. Continue reading

Vette Videos: How Hi-Tech Z06 & ZR1 Aluminum Frames Are Made

Dateline: 10.17.11

What was once considered pie-in-the-sky and experimental, is now regular production!

To see the much larger version of the Z06/ZR1 chassis, just click the above image

Aluminum has been the automotive industry’s magic material for over 60 years. Corvette engineers have been thinking about an all-aluminum engine and drive train for the Vette since the 1957 Q-Corvette proposal. While it took until 1997 to get there, the engineering department seeded aluminum parts whenever they could.

Nearly 40 years ago, Corvette engineering decided to explore an all-aluminum Corvette. Everything but the tires, plastics, wiring, glass, and other essentials was to be aluminum. Working with Reynolds Aluminum Company, the experimental XP-895 was debuted to the automotive press in 1973. The chassis design was the same as the experimental 2-rotor Corvette, but power was supplied by a 400-CID small-block engine. The completed aluminum car weighed 400-pounds less than the steel bodied XP-892 Wankel-powered experimental. While the styling of the aluminum “Corvette” was interesting, the only design element that connected it to anything Corvette was the aft portion of the roof, from the B-pillar back. Overall, it did not scream “CORVETTE!” but then again, the all-aluminum car wasn’t supposed to be a styling exercise for the C4 Corvette, it was a feasibility study.

The B-pillar roof section of the car looks like a Corvette, but not much else.

Fast forward to the 2006 Z06 and its aluminum chassis. One of the biggest challenges with an aluminum chassis is the strength of materials issue. Lightweight aluminum is soft, so there were interesting shape and construction problems that had to be worked out to mass-produce such a chassis. While it is true that the Z06 wasn’t the first car to use an aluminum chassis (many hand-made exotic cars had aluminum chassis) the Z06 was the first “mass produced” car to have an all-aluminum chassis, engine, and suspension. The net result to that the 2012 Z06 weighs about the same as a C2 mid-year Corvette… with nearly double the horsepower as a base model C2. That’s progress for you. Continue reading

Vette Videos: Visit Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant… On Your Computer!

Dateline: 10.13.11
Check out the state-of-the-art Bowing Green Corvette factory on “Ultimate Factories.”

Back in the olden days, you know, pre-Bowling Green, if you wanted to buy a Corvette, you simply went to your friendly local Chevrolet dealer and bought your car. While some Corvette buyers may have been aware that their Corvette was built in St. Louis, most couldn’t have cared less, and were more focused on the experience of owning and driving their Corvette, rather than where it was assembled.

All Corvettes from 1953 to 1980 were built in the old St. Louis assembly plant. If you go back and read early road tests from the ‘60s and ‘70s you’ll see a consistent complaint – spotty to poor build quality. Some cars were built very well, most okay, and too many not good at all. It was a time when you didn’t want a “Monday car” for obvious reasons. Owners and magazine writers complained and GM listened. By ‘77 GM started looking for a new Corvette facility. Four location candidates were identified: Waco, Texas, Wichita, Kansas, Montgomery, Alabama, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. The little town of Bowling Green, Kentucky  won the contest after granting GM some serious tax breaks.

Once the deal was signed, GM had just 15 months to convert the old Chrysler AirTemp plant into a state-of-the-art assembly plant, ONLY for Corvettes. Floor space was enlarged to a million square feet – about 22 football fields. This move on GM’s part put to rest all concerns as to how serious GM was about building Corvettes. On June 1, 1981, Kentucky Governor John Brown drove the very first Bowling Green-built Corvette off the assembly line. (I wonder how much THIS car will go for at auction some day?) This was arguably one of THE most important developments in Corvette history. Continue reading

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