The Ballad of Red Eldor’s and His Faithful 2009 Corvette, “Nasty Red”

Roger “Red” Eldor and Paula “Trigger” Lawson-Eldor blend their passion for horses with their passion for Corvettes!

Dateline: 2-8-22 Written by K. Scott Teeters, Photos by Roger “Red” Eldor & Paula “Trigger” Lawson-Eldor. This story first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Vette Vues Magazine – Our teen years are arguably the most impressionable years of our lives. Roger “Red” Eldor of Spring, Texas had two powerful interests as a kid; horses and Corvettes. Horses came first, as Red grew up with pigs, cows, and horses; and his family grew their own vegetables. Over the years Red has owned four horses and even started a riding club called, “Cadillac Cowboys and Cowgirls”.

Next came Corvettes. Red was just twelve-years-old when his next-door neighbor brought a brand new 1977 Corvette. It was just the coolest thing he’d ever seen. You could say that was the day when the shark bit him.

All young men have to find a career, so in his early 20’s Red started driving trucks. By 1989, he got his Commercial Driver’s License and has been driving big rigs ever since. In 2016, 2 years after meeting his wife, Red and Trigger started their transport business; BGV Transport, LLC., specializing in the enclosed transportation of high-end vehicles; mostly working in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

When you spend time as an over-the-road trucker, you can have long periods of time to “think”; and in Red’s case, that meant envisioning the day when he would get his first Corvette. One day in 2009, Red saddled up and rode to Sugarland Chevrolet, in Sugarland, Texas, and left in a new Corvette; Black, Ebony/Cashmere interior, 430-horsepower, six-speed, and the 2LT Equipment Group.

In an interview, former Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill explained that Corvette designers are there because they want to be there to be a part of something that is beyond just transportation. Hill said, “… these cars change people’s social lives…” I think we can all agree on that.

Red started attending car shows and began to study the various cars that won trophies to see how they did it. If you go to car shows and just “look at the cars”, it may not be obvious what it takes to present your unique Corvette.

Enthusiasts have been personalizing their Corvettes since around 1954-1955 as aftermarket businesses started offering custom parts for Chevy’s new sporty car. These were the early days of the “Custom Cars” era when the post-war economy was burgeoning and young men (mostly) had extra cash to spend on their cars to personalize and customize. Corvettes have been the subject of some of the wildest custom cars ever built.

By 2012 Red started his project car where many of us do; performance wheels and bigger tires. Red got a set of Savini Forged Wheels, “Signature Series”, 19”x8.5” on the front and 20”x10” on the rear; shod with Hankook Low Pro tires; 245/35 ZR19 on the front; and 305/25 ZR20 on the rear. The low-profile wheels made the car look lowered, especially after Red installed the Ecklers ZR1-style front splitter and ZR1-style ZR1 side skirts.

Custom cars typically have custom interiors. This was around the time Red decided to just go for it and make his personalized Corvette a show car that was also still drivable. Few modifications on show cars makes a bigger splash than a set of Lambo-type door hinges. Red went with a set of hinges by Vertical Doors, Inc, and installed by Josh Williams of Aggressive Dream Cars. The high-rise custom hood by Duraflax was painted and installed by Josh. Aside from the hood, all of the paint is factory and has been color-corrected and ceramic coated by Mario Cuppepper of Zenith Auto Works, in Houston, Texas.

LED lights with special colors are made for custom car projects. Red upgraded his car with LED lights by Oracle. The under-the-car and behind-the-wheels LED lighting kits are also from Oracle. Josh Williams did all of the LED work. All of the exterior under-the-car LED lights are hidden and tucked away so that the only things you see is the glow.

The rear taillight bezels are billet chrome from West Coast Corvettes. Bill Mitchell, the Father of the Sting Ray loved flourishes he called, “elements of discovery”. The chrome “elements of discovery” on Red’s Corvette all came from RPI Designs, Corvette Central, West Coast Corvettes, American Car Craft, and Ecklers. Note Red’s custom license plate, “NA5TY”.

Custom cars typically have some extra grunt to go along with the extra blink inside the engine compartment. Red’s 430-horsepower LS3 engine received a set of Kooks Long-Tube Headers’ and B&B Billy Boat cat-backs and exhaust tips installed by PowerFab, in Spring, Texas. Red is very happy with the car’s performance, and after all, it’s a show car.

While we are talking about what’s under the hood, we must call out the airbrush art throughout the car. The design for all of the art on the car came from Paula “Trigger” Lawson-Eldor. Trigger worked with airbrush artist Robert Clarke of Clarkes Custom Airbrushing, in Houston, Texas to create Red’s homage to his first passion, horses. Although Red is an over-the-road trucker, he’s a cowboy at heart; cowboy boots, hats, the whole setup.

The three horses under the hood are jumping through fire; perhaps the fire coming from the LS3. A cover forward of the radiator, as well as several covers, are painted black with airbrushed flames. The fuel rail covers were painted black with red inscribed “Corvette LS3” lettering. Chrome filler caps, hood hinges, and struts finish off the engine compartment.

Red’s interior looks like what Chevrolet could have done. The Cashmere interior already looked great, but Red took things to the next level. The beginning design for the custom upholstery work was created by Manny Garcia III. Manny redesigned the seat inserts, armrests, and door covers with long embroidered stitching in three lines. Several years later, 5 Star Upholstery from League City, Texas duplicated that design on leather to wrap and custom-stitch the sun visors, gas and brake pedal booties, shifter, and the hatch strut covers. The custom upholstery work also extends back into the trunk, which was the most challenging part of Red’s “Nasty Red” custom Corvette. Black floor mats with “Nasty Red” embroidery are a nice contrast with the Cashmere interior. The rear cargo shade art was also airbrushed to match the car theme of “Cowboy Up”.

Red said that the sound system was the hardest part of building Nasty Red. The design was Josh Williams’s idea, the sound system was built by Josh Williams of Aggressive Dream Cars in League City, Texas, and the woodwork was done by “Derek”. The housing box is all wood with a Texas-shaped plexi cover etched by Josh with a matching horse head. The system uses two Fosgate 10-inch woofers, and a Rockford amp with a Shuriken 600w show trunk battery. The upholstery on the box, the cream-colored center inset, and the storage lids were done by 5 Star Upholstery.

When it comes to making a big impression at car shows, staging is everything. By this time in the “Nasty Red” project, Trigger (aka, Paula) had taken on the role of art and design director. Since Nasty Red is liberally decorated with horses and fire, plus the 450-or-so horses inside the LS3 engine, all those “horses” needed to be in a coral! Trigger worked out the details of her vision and Derek at Aggressive Dream Cars built the coral. Everything is real wood, custom-burned, and finished by Derek.

Car Shows are all about having fun. An awesome customized car with fun staging and lights can make a lasting impression. Who knows, twenty years from now some young person might say, “When I was a kid, I saw a beautiful black custom Corvette decorated with horses and sitting in a coral. And that’s how I got into cars.”

While Nasty Red is a “show car”, it’s also a driver’s car. Red and Trigger have taken Nasty Red to shows from Ohio to Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and of course, Texas. For small local shows, they just drive Nasty Red to the show. For bigger shows when they can set up their coral, they use an enclosed trailer. At the World of Wheels Show in Louisiana, Red won the Best Display Award. At a car show at the National Corvette Museum in 2017, Nasty Red won 2nd Place in Custom Class and a Celebrity Choice. To date, Nasty Red has won Best in Show four times.

Red has declared Nasty Red “completed”. Trigger has a 2001 coupe, so maybe they are already dreaming up something for her ride. Trigger and Red started a Corvette apparel online store offering shirts, tops, and gear for Corvette people under the brand name “Bad Girl Vettes LLC”.

Red and Trigger also have a special Corvette mentor, former Bowling Green Plant Manager, Wil Cooksey, and his wife, Liz. They are now part of “The Cooksey Crew” and attend car shows, such as Corvettes at Carlisle and other shows. Dave Hill was so on the money when he said that Corvettes change people’s lifestyles. Red and Trigger, along with Wil and Liz Cooksey, and others are having the time of their lives! – Scott

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Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 5 or 5: Tadge Juechter

Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter delivered the C7 Corvette, the C7 Z06, the C7 Grand Sport, the C7 ZR1, and soon the 2020 mid-engine C8 Corvette.

Dateline 1.29.21, Images: Graphics by the Author, Image from GM Archives – All five Corvette chief engineers contributed mightily and in their own unique ways. But only Tadge Juechter has the distinction of having done hard engineering on five generations of Corvettes. When Juechter went to work in 1993 as chief engineer Dave Hill’s right-hand-man, there were two objectives; keep the then-current C4 fresh and interesting; and design and develop the most revolutionary Corvette to that date, the C5. After Hill’s retirement, Tom Wallace was Vehicle Line Engineer (VLE) and chief engineer for the Corvette. Wallace accessed that because of Juechter’s 15 years of experience, he was the right man for the chief engineer position. Wallace stayed on as VLE and eventually took an early retirement offer.

While Juechter didn’t have the racing background that Hill and Wallace had, he was raised in a Porsche household and liked to tinker around with mechanical things. As a young teenager growing up in Chappaqua, New York in the ‘70s, Juechter built a prehistoric mountain bike with a full front and rear suspension. His folks even gave him their wrecked Cadillac to take apart.

During Juechter’s college years at Stanford, he worked two summers on a GM assembly line, an experience not to his liking. Juechter graduated with degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering and had no intention of working for GM. Then in 1978 a friend asked Juechter to tag along to a GM interview and ended up interviewing as well; and was offered a job. The late ‘70s and ’80 was a challenging time for the American car industry, but at least Juechter had a solid job. In the car business, if your ambition is upper management, an MBA is a must-have degree. Juechter earned his MBA from Stanford GSB in 1986.

By the time Juechter interviewed with Hill for the position of Assistant Chief Engineer, he was aware of the aging Corvette and impressed with the in-the-works C5. The C4’s plastic interior was a major bone of contention with Juechter. Hill was impressed and Juechter got the job. The jump from the early ‘80s designed C4 to the C5 was revolutionary. The creation of the Corvette Racing Team was the beginning of the deliberate merger of Chevrolet engineering and Corvette racecar engineering that was poured into the C5 Z06. Early on, Chevrolet general manager Jim Perkins wanted an inexpensive Corvette that would appeal to racers; this became the ’99 Hardtop and the Hardtop became the C5 Z06. While the C6 was an evolved version of the C5, no one was expecting the 505-horsepower 427 Z06 with an aluminum frame and dry-sump oil system.

From 2005 to 2008 sales averaged 36,816 cars per year. In 2006 Tom Wallace was Corvette VLE and chief engineer. While Wallace was a racer, his Corvette experience was a little thin. When Wallace learned that Juechter and his team were working on a mid-engine prototype, he knew that Juechter was the brains behind the Corvette. Juechter was promoted to chief engineer, North American Corvette.

Juechter has said that he was shocked when given orders to make the C6 ZR1; the goal was to build the best possible Corvette for $100,000. A big-block was briefly considered but rejected because of its weight. All-Wheel-Drive was not possible on the C6’s platform. The Z06 was to be the track car and the ZR1 would be GM’s halo, Grand Touring supercar.

Then the economy stalled out and the in-the-works C7 was put on hold indefinitely. Wallace took GM’s early retirement offer, leaving the Corvette all to Juechter. When GM slammed into bankruptcy in June 2009, for a time it looked like it was curtains for GM. But it turned out that the government auditor that was looking into the Corvette was a car enthusiast and knew about the pending C7. Upon examining the books, it was discovered that the Corvette was one the few GM car lines that was making money. Juechter’s team was told to get busy on the C7. The Corvette and the Bowling Green assembly plant were spared.

By the time you read this, the C8 will have made its debut and will be the most revolutionary Corvette ever. Previously, the C5 had that honor because of its all-new engine and drivetrain, and its hydroformed perimeter frame and backbone center section. The C6 and C7 generations are both evolutionary versions of the C5. The C5 and C6 are Hill’s Corvettes; the C7 and C8 are Juechter’s Corvettes. As of this writing, we know the basics of the C8, but none of the hard details. So lets look a Juechter’s C7.

A big part of Juechter’s job as VLE is to make sure there’s a Corvette for everyone with a variety of price points, and a base car that offers outstanding visual and performance value. Juechter said, “It helps having worked on the C5 and C6 because you know where a lot of the land mines are.” With horsepower ever increasing, it’s critical that the car be made easier to drive. The base C7 has 455-net horsepower; way more than any big-block ever had; yet the C7 is a car that is easy to live with. The 755-horsepower 2019 ZR1 is absolutely astonishing; it can perform on par with exotic sports cars, yet be a comfortable, usable GT machine. Electronic suspension, steering, braking, rev-matching, paddle-shift 8-speed automatic and fuel management are responsible for a balance of extreme power and civility. Imagine trying to drive a Greenwood widebody racer on the street.

When the C7 was unveiled, fans were stunned to learn that the base model had an aluminum frame and that later the Z06 and ZR1 would be available as a coupe or convertible and with an 8-speed manual or automatic transmission. Another first was achieved; the 8-speed automatic was quicker than the manual version.

Corvette interiors have often been a bone of contention with critics and the C6 took big hits for its interior. To get C7’s interior spot-on, Juechter made sure designers had set-of-the-pants experiences of life inside a 1-G cockpit; to know what it feels like having skin pressing on hard objects. He also made surer there were no distracting infotainment systems; just important information for spirited driving. The C7 has received rave reviews for its interior.

Concerning the C7 ZR1, initially there were no plans to make the car, as designers didn’t think they could do more beyond the Z06. But after a few years, plus aero input from the Corvette racing team, a new plan emerged to make the ZR1 the most powerful, stable, advanced front-engine Corvette ever offered. Many speculated that Chevrolet might build the front engine and mid-engine Corvettes side-by-side, but that will not be the case. C7 production will end in summer 2019 and the last C7 will be a black Z06 that will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

While Juechter was an integral part of the C5 and C6, those were Hill’s Corvettes. Even though Juechter guided the C7, the C5, C6, and C7 all have Hill’s Corvette DNA. The C8, on the other hand, is Juechter’s Corvette. People expect more of everything today, and everything is riding on the mid-engine C8. – Scott

This concludes my Corvette Chiefs Series. Below are links to parts 1-to-4. Enjoy

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 1 – Zora Arkus-Duntov

Corvette Chiefs, Pt.2 – Dave McLellan

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 3 – Dave Hill

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 4 – Tom Wallace

The above articles originally were published in Vette magazine as part of my Illustrated Corvette Series monthly column.


Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 4 of 5 – Tom Wallace, Racer C6 Chief Engineer

Former race car driver, Tom Wallace takes the helm as the new Corvette Chief of Engineering

Dateline: 11-5-20 – During Corvette’s early years, as a result of his racing at Le Mans, Zora Arkus-Duntov got the lion’s share of media attention. Credit also goes to three-time Indy 500 winner and automotive engineer Mauri Rose who helped develop the first Corvette chassis on the shop floor as they were being hand-built in Flint, Michigan. Rose and Duntov were friends but Rose wasn’t impressed with Duntov’s driving and used to say, “Zora couldn’t drive a nail with a hammer.” But by the late 1950s, Duntov was the face of Corvette racing.

We have pointed out that Duntov’s successor, Dave McLellan owned and appreciated sports cars and that Dave Hill raced a Lotus Super 7 in SCCA competition. What most Corvette fans don’t know is that while Tom Wallace had the shortest tenure of all of the Corvette chiefs (2 years and 10 months), he raced SCCA A/Sedan class cars in the early ‘70s and was professionally racing IMSA cars in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Wallace raced the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and won at Talladega. Why didn’t Wallace continue professional racing? Because it was interfering with his day job at Buick.

Wallace was a typical car-crazy kid growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. His Dad had an Opel Cadet that he kept running with help from a parts donor car. Before Wallace had his driver’s license, he bought a ’55 Chevy, replaced the stock 3-speed transmission with a 4-speed, rebuilt the engine, and added dual quads. After getting his license, he had the quickest car in high school and rarely lost a drag race.

Thanks to his excellent grades, Wallace went to General Motors Institute after securing a sponsor to become an automotive engineer. Wallace wanted to get into Chevrolet, but there were no openings, so he opted for Buick. One of his first projects was the design and development of the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve that siphons off a small amount of exhaust gas and returns it back into the intake charge. This results in lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

Wallace graduated in 1970 just as the muscle car era peaked and was ending. Performance was being phased out and emissions, fuel mileage, and safety were Detroit’s new mission. Lloyd Reuss, Buick’s chief engineer was aware of Wallace’s interest in racing and asked him to research adding a turbocharger to their old V6 engine. Wallace’s reported that it could be done and Reuss instructed him to install a turbo on a Buick Century to pace the 1976 Indy 500. As part of a three-man team, Wallace was the engineman, the others did the suspension and brakes. In total Wallace produced six Indy 500 pace cars. Wallace’s turbo Buick V6 project eventually lead to the Buick Grand National, Turbo-T, T-Type, and the frightful GNX series cars that ran from 1982 to 1987.

Wallace enjoyed engineering and racing, but he knew that if he was to rise up in the ranks in GM, he needed to curtail his racing and get more education. In the early ‘80s Wallace got his Masters in Business at Stanford and over the next twenty years had a variety of chief positions with Buick, Olds, Cadillac, and Chevrolet groups. When GM started its Vehicle Line Engineer (VLE) management structure, managers were in charge of everything from design-to-production, sales, and service. Wallace ran the Trail Blazer, Envoy, Bravada, Saab 9-7, Colorado/Canyon pickups, and the Hummer H3 lines.

Dave Hill was the VLE of Performance Car that included Corvette, Cadillac XLR, Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice, Opel GT. One day during a group vehicle-program review meeting with Bob Lutz; Wallace heard Hill outlining the Z06 with 505-horsepower and a dry-sump oil system, he said to himself, “What the!” Wallace said to Lutz, “My goodness, this is unbelievable. Do you know what Dave is about to do?” Wallace said that some of the VLEs had no idea what Hill was talking about. When Wallace expressed real concern about selling 505-horsepower cars to novice customers, it was explained to him that only select dealers get Z06s. These dealers understand performance and coach customers to have respect for the car and help get them into a driver’s school.

Late in 2005 Wallace got the surprise of his career. After a VLE meeting, Lutz told Wallace that Hill was retiring on January 1 and that he wanted him to take the position of VLE and Chief Engineer for Corvette. Wallace was stunned and fully aware that he was inheriting a great team with Tadge Juechter as his lead engineer. But unforeseen circumstances would make this a short-lived position – only two years and ten months.

When Wallace took over the Corvette program, the C6 ZR1 was a concept on paper and was deemed too expensive. Wallace and his team worked out the cost, got the project approved, and started the ZR1’s development. It wasn’t long before rumors of a super Vette surfaced with names such as “Blue Devil” and “SS”. Then someone inside GM posted a photo of a development ZR1 as it was being shipped to Germany for testing. The Corvette world knew for sure when a cell phone video was posted of a disguised Corvette with the unmistakable sound of a supercharged engine. WOW, a supercharged Corvette!

When the ZR1 was released to the press in late 2007, Wallace explained, “We want to push the technology envelope into the supercar realm. We want a Corvette that can take on any production car in the world.” While Corvette fans were feasting, GM was heading for bankruptcy. Corvettes had a history of platforms running too long. Hill said that the planned six-year duration might even be too long. Wallace and his team started work on the C7 in April 2006. As things got worse for GM, it was discovered that the only full-size trucks and Corvettes were moneymakers. Regardless, future plans had to be stopped.

In October Lutz informed Wallace that the board of directors did not approve funding for the C7, he would have to proceed with paint and decals for the foreseeable future. Also, to preserve cash, top-level executives were offered early retirement to reduce headcount. For a car guy/racer, babysitting the Corvette was not how Wallace wanted to end his GM career, so he retired on November 1, 2008.

Photo Credit:

Wallace didn’t get to do as much with the Corvette as he wanted, but he did several things that made a difference. He knew that it would be very beneficial for his engineers to get track training at the National Corvette Museum’s and to talk with customers about what they like, don’t like, and want for future Corvettes. As Wallace had expressed concerns over selling powerful Corvettes, included in the price of the ZR1 was high-performance driver training. And with his racing background, Wallace was the perfect lead engineer to work with Pratt & Miller on issues with their C6.R cars. This intense relationship caused more racecar to be built into the C7. While Wallace wasn’t able to usher in the C7, his efforts set up the program for the capable hands of Tadge Juechter. – Scott

PS – Be sure to catch all 5 parts of my Corvette Chiefs Series

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 1 – Zora Arkus-Duntov

Corvette Chiefs, Pt.2 – Dave McLellan

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 3 – Dave Hill

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 4 – Tom Wallace

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 5 – Tadge Juechter



Corvette Chiefs, Pt 3 Dave Hill

Dave Hill, Cadillac-Man Saves the C5 Corvette

Dateline: 8-11-20 – This story was originally published in the now-defunct Vette magazine, August 2019 issue. Story, Illustrations & Graphics by K. Scott Teeters) On November 18, 1992 when it was announced that Cadillac Engineering Program Manager David C. “Dave” Hill would become the new Corvette Chief of Engineering, the Corvette community asked, “Why is a Cadillac man taking over the Corvette and what can he bring to the brand?” Hill was the right man for the job, at the right time, and he brought a lot!

In the early ‘90s GM was in financial trouble. The company had lost its way in the ‘80s and in 1989 when Jim Perkins came back from Toyota to become the general manager for Chevrolet, he said he didn’t recognize the place. Moral was low and infighting was rampant. To stop the financial hemorrhaging, every car line was being looked at, and once again, Corvette was on the chopping block.

Thanks to Dave McLellan, the C5 was in the planning stage but only “on paper”. Perkins was Corvette’s “corporate angel”. He argued with GM brass that “Corvette” was one of the best-known automotive names in the world. He told them, “… if you don’t have enough confidence to trust my judgment that we can make money on this car, then I shouldn’t be here.” Perkins won the argument, but with McLellan ready to take early retirement, he needed a new Corvette chief with the know-how for profitability, performance, and quality.

Hill graduated in 1965 from Michigan Technology University with a degree in engineering and went right to work for Cadillac in their engine power development lab. From there, Hill worked his way through many departments. In 1970 he earned his Masters Degree in Engineering from the University of Michigan. Through the ‘70s and ‘80s at Cadillac, Hill was a Senior Project Engineer; Staff Project Engineer; Body and Chassis General Supervisor; Development, Emissions, and Transmission Staff Engineer; and Chief Engineer for the Allante, DeVille, and Concours models. In May 1992 Hill was promoted to Engineering Program Manager for Cadillac. Hill was deeply versed in GM’s premiere car line.

During Hill’s tenure, Cadillacs weren’t the performance cars they are today, but don’t conclude that Hill was into cushy Caddys; he was into sports cars and racing. Hill owned a 1948 MGTB, a 1970 350/350 Corvette Coupe, and from 1968 to 1972 he raced a Lotus Super 7 in SCCA competition.

Like McLellan, Hill had two objectives; first, keep the C4 fresh, and second, design and develop a totally new Corvette. Sales for 1991-to-1996 Corvettes averaged around 20,000 units; a big drop from 1984 when 51,547 Corvettes were sold. Everyone knew the C4 needed to be replaced. From ’93 to ’96 Hill and his team made small improvements and special editions to keep things interesting. In 1993 the 40th Anniversary Package was offered. The ’93 ZR-1 got a power boost from 375-to-405-horsepower. In 1995 the Indy 500 Pace Car Replica, was limited to 527 units. The 1996 lineup had two special editions; the Collector Edition (5,412 units built) and the Grand Sport (1,000 units built; 810 coupes and 190 convertibles).

The transition from the C4 to the C5 Corvette was the most radical of all generational transitions. Typically, when we think “radical,” we think “mid-engine”, “double-overhead-cam” or “turbocharging”. The C5 wasn’t any of that; it was better. In one fell swoop, the basic Corvette had the following; a hydro-formed perimeter frame with a wishbone backbone center spine, an all-new all-aluminum fuel-injected engine (the LS1), connecting the engine and new transaxle was a torque tube; the suspension and brakes were mostly aluminum, slim and lightweight; and an all-new slippery body and lush interior. The entire structure of the car was locked in together with each component designed as a stress-member and was designed to be a convertible. The design was so efficient it had over 1200 fewer parts. This was a Corvette like no previous model had ever been. It was the most radical Corvette to date and the basic structure concept is still used in the C7. The mid-engine C8 will be here soon and if Chevrolet decides to offer front and rear-engine configurations, a C9 will likely use the C5/C6/C7 concept, possibly in carbon fiber.

Sales of the 1997 Corvette didn’t look good, coming in at 9,752. It wasn’t that buyers didn’t like the new car, Corvette plant manager Wil Cooksey made sure that as cars were being built, all problems and process issues were solved and implemented. In 1998 the convertible was released and sales hit 31,084; the best since 1987. C5 sales never went below 30,000 and the best year was 2002 with 35,767; the best year since 1986. Customers were very happy with their C5s with its vastly improved structure that allowed the suspension to be calibrated like never before.

When the C5 was still on the drawing board, a “Billy Bob” strippo model was considered but not explored. Not long after the C5 was released, that concept was flushed out and the result was the ’99 Hardtop model. There wasn’t much of a savings as the Hardtop was only $394 less than the coupe. Sales only hit 4,031 in ’99 and 2,090 in ’00. But engineers learned something interesting. By bolting on and bonding the hardtop, the overall structure was 12-percent stiffer. This was that “something extra” that a performance model could use. The C5 Z06 was genius. With the more powerful 385-horsepower LS6, upgraded brakes, suspension, wheels and tires, a new Corvette legend was forged.

Hill had another ace up his sleeve that brought racing glory to Corvette and impacted the C6. In the fall of 1998, a factory-backed racing team was approved and the cars were christened, “C5-R”. Racecar builders Pratt & Miller were contracted to build the race cars. Hill used Pratt & Miller as his defacto racing engineering team. The Corvette Racing Team became world-class champions, won 1st and 2nd at Le Mans in 2001, 2002, and 2004, as well as every race in 2004!

By 1999 Hill’s engineers informed him that they had done everything they could with the C5 platform. To take the car to the next level, they would have to start the C6. While the C5 and C6 structure is similar, the C6 is all-new; with no important carryover parts. But what no one was expecting was that the Z06 would get a 100-horsepower bump, plus have an aluminum frame. No one was asking for this, but that’s what they got. The C6 Z06 was the most brutish Corvette ever offered.

Hill once said, “My favorite Corvette is the next one.” Mr. Cadillac insisted on three key things; state of the art performance and technology; passionate design; and tremendous value. In an interview with, Hill said, “Being involved with Corvette brings out the best in all of us who have the privilege of working on it. It represents the best that GM has to offer; along with the best America has to offer. The Corvette is very personal. We’re not talking about transportation here; we’re talking about a product that changes someone’s lifestyle, and that causes us to be enthusiastic about our duty.” Hill retired on January 1, 2006, and was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2006. – Scott

PS – Be sure to catch all 5 parts of my Corvette Chiefs Series

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 1 – Zora Arkus-Duntov

Corvette Chiefs, Pt.2 – Dave McLellan

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 3 – Dave Hill

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 4 – Tom Wallace

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 5 – Tadge Juechter



Chassis History, Pt 5: Dave Hill Strikes Again! Delivers evolutionary, but superior C6

Dave Hill’s 2006 Z06 stunned everyone with its stiffer than stock aluminum frame.

Dateline: 1.17.20 – Graphics by K. Scott Teeters, Images from GM archives: Corvette fans have been frustrated for years with Chevrolet’s evolutionary Corvettes. The “pie-in-the-sky” mid-engine Corvette has been around since the 1960s and anything less was evolutionary. The pending C8 aside, the C5 was the most revolutionary Corvette; because of the hydroformed steel perimeter frame, center backbone, all-aluminum LS1 fuel-injected engine, and transaxle. The C5 was the most solid Corvette ever offered and allowed engineers to vastly improve the basic suspension, the Z51, and the Z06. The racing C5-R won its class at Daytona in 2001 and 2003; won its class at Sebring in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and won its class at Le Mans in 2001, 2002, and 2004. This never would have happened without the superior basic C5 chassis. Dave Hill’s team got the C5’s chassis design so right that by 1999 they determined that a C6 needed to be started.

Whereas the C5 structure was revolutionary, the C6 was evolutionary. While the C6 chassis is different from the C5, it is essentially the same hydroformed steel perimeter frame with a center backbone, with the engine, torque tube, and transaxle all as stress members of the overall structure.

Photo: GM Archives

Let’s start with the basic C6 chassis. The chassis has a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase of 105.7-inches, but the overall length is 5.1-inches shorter than the C5 chassis. To achieve this, engineers shortened the frame rails 2.4-inches and changed the tube-formed front bumper beam to a unit made with two channels welded together to save 2/3s of an inch. The shorter frame with less overhang on the body achieved a total of 5.1-inches of length on the C6, over that of the C5. The shorter frame also increased the torsional stiffness. And to reduce squeaks, rattles, and vibrations, high-strength steel braces were added to the frame to improve structural rigidity.

Weight savings were picked up by using extruded aluminum beams in the interior instead of the cast aluminum beams from the C5. The instrument panel has additional brackets for the beam under the dashboard. Side-impact beams were made of aluminum and saved 4.5-pounds, plus the doors do not have traditional latch and lock mechanisms. Aluminum braces were used through the structure to improve crash performance. The front skid-bar in front of the radiator is also aluminum. An aluminum panel that saved 1-pound and increased stiffness replaced the steel driveline panel under the driveline torque tube. To increase upper rigidity, the windshield frame has extra gussets. And the trunk uses lightweight plastic braces. Corvette systems engineer Ed Moss said, “We are making it (the C6) smaller, lighter, but stiffer.”

The issue of stiffness in high-powered sports cars with wide tires cannot be under-estimated. Increased grip, torque, and horsepower will put tremendous added stress to a performance car’s structure. Imagine what would happen if a LT5 engine and big tires were applied to a stock C1 chassis. The C5 1999-2000 Corvette Hardtop, with its bolted and bonded hardtop increased the overall structural stiffness by 12-percent, enough to make it an excellent base to build the Z06 upon. The basic C6 platform offered a significant improvement in stiffness that made it an excellent platform to build the Grand Sport that used Z06 suspension parts and wide tires. Without any increase in power, the Grand Sport was a better Corvette. Stiffness matters.

Photo: GM Archives

While the C6’s suspension is similar to the C5’s, there are no carryover parts. The basic design of the short-long A-arms, transverse composite leaf springs independent suspension is the same. The control arms, springs, dampers, bushing, sway bars, and steering gear are all completely redesigned. New hub knuckles and dampers allow for greater suspension travel thanks to improved clearance. One issue with C5s was road noise and twitchiness on rough roads. To improve handling and ride, steering geometry and the progressive rates of the composite springs were improved.

Like the C5 the C6 offered customers three levels of suspension performance. Chevrolet calls the basic C6 suspension, “tuned for balance, ride comfort, and precise handling.” This is for the customer that wants a Corvette because they like “driving a Vette” with 400-horsepower on tap when they want a brief thrill, but aren’t interested in exploring the limits of tire grip.

Photo: GM Archives

The F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control was a $1,695 option with some amazing technology. Magnetorheological dampers use metal-infused fluid that controls the viscosity of the fluid with a magnetic field created by an electromagnet. This semi-active suspension adjusts the fluid via a computed to adjust damping rates based on road surfaces down to the millisecond. The active handling and antilock systems were smarter and less intrusive.

And for the enthusiast that doesn’t want to go for the serious big gun Z06, but wants the most from their base model Corvette, there was the $1,495 Z51 Performance Package. The F51 option has been around since 1984 with a starting price of $600 with prices fluctuating through to 1990. Then from 1991 to 1995 Chevrolet offered the $2,045 Z07 Adjustable Suspension Package. The Z51 option was back in 1996 but consisted only of stiffer springs and stabilizer bars for $350 from 1996 to 2003, then $395 in 2003 and 2004.

Photo: GM Archives

The Z51 was part of the C6 lineup from 2005 to 2009 and was a whole different animal. Costing $1,495 in 2005, then $1,695 from 2006 to 2009, the Z51 package was the most comprehensive Z51 package ever offered, consisting of; higher rate springs and shocks; larger sway bars; larger cross-drilled rotors – 13.5-inch diameter on the front and larger 13-inch diameter on the rear; coolers for the engine oil, transmission, and power steering; higher-grip Goodyear EMT tires; revised gear ratios for the 6-speed cars.

Photo: GM Archives

An interregnal part of the overall objective of a smaller, lighter, and stiffer C6 was the body. For the body part of the C6, designers wanted to improve the fit of the body panels and reduce weight. For the broad flat parts, such as the hood, doors, trunk lid and tonneau cover on the convertible, SMC – Sheet Molded Compound was used. This is a fiberglass mixed with resin that is compressed into a mold, with a chemical reaction and the heat from the compression curing the part. For more complex shapes, such as the front grille and the rear fascia, PRIM – Polyurethane-Material Reinforced-Reaction Injection Molding was used. The removable roof panel was made from Polycarbonate, either transparent or painted.

Photo: GM Archives

But the major breakthrough for the C6 chassis was the all-aluminum chassis for the Z06 and the ZR1. The basic chassis design is the same except that the hydroformed side rails are made of 4-mm 5745 aluminum alloy. The standard C6 steel frame thickness was 3-mm and weighs 502-pounds while the aluminum Z06 frame weighs 392-pounds; that’s 110-pounds lighter, or 22.5-percent lighter. The Z06 frame is 50-percent stronger in torsional and bending stiffness. The Metalso Metal Fabricator, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky manufactured the aluminum frames and then shipped them to the Corvette Bowling Green assembly plant. The engine cradle and fixed-roof panel are magnesium, and the floorboards were carbon fiber.

Everything tends to move upward in the world of Corvettes. When the Z06 debuted in 2006, no one imagined that the C7 base Corvette would ride on a C6 Z06-like chassis.


Corvette Chassis History, Pt 1 – C1 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 2 – C2/C3 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 3 – C4 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 4 – C5 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 6 – C7 Chassis – HERE



WHAT??? Chevy Volt Outsells Chevy Vette???

Dateline: 6.6.12

Good for the Chevy Volt, ah, not so good for GM’s halo Corvette


Apples & Oranges. Chevy’s baseball and apple pie Corvette vs the green Volt. Same badge, worlds apart.

When the Chevy Volt concept car came out at the North American International Auto Show in 2007 it was a genuine attention grabber. Even a died-in-wool Corvette fan like me said, “Hey, pretty cool!” Between the big diameter wheels, the chopped and channeled look, and the promise of 50-plus mpg, it looked like Detroit was serious about taking the lead away from the Toyota Prius.

We all thought THIS was going to be the Chevy Volt!

But when the production Volt came out, enthusiasts said, “Ahh… Excuse us, but what happened?” Of course, fans of the Prius “larva school of styling” cheered, but were not electrified buy the Volt. And why would they? At over $40,000, the car cost $12,00 to $10,000 more than the Prius. It looks like a Malibu variant. The Malibu is a nice car, but it’s just a “nice” car. Even the Motor Trend Car of the year didn’t help the Volt. But by October 2011, the Volt was getting many buyers charged up with sales, as only 3,895 Volts had been shipped. GM had projected 10,000 Volts for ‘11.

So the big “WHOO-WHOO” news for Volt lovers (and GM) is that by the end of May ‘12, Chevy had sold 7,057 cars. I’m certain that the major reason for the bump in Volt sales was the price reduction to just under $32,000. But for some reason, the media has chosen to compare the Volt’s sales with the Corvette’s sales – and it doesn’t look good for the Corvette. What’a dopy comparison! First of all, greeny Volt fans most likely wouldn’t be caught dead in a Corvette, and visa-versa. While Corvette sales are up somewhat from ‘11, they’re still WAY off the ‘07’s total of 40,561 Corvettes. Sorry guys, but it’s apples and oranges here. Continue reading “WHAT??? Chevy Volt Outsells Chevy Vette???”

My FAVORITE Corvette TV Commercial, Plus, One Right in Your Eye!

Dateline: 9.11.11
One for the heart and one with ATTITUDE!

We all have that “special Corvette moment.” You know, that moment that defined and marked our passion for Corvettes. The moment that before it happened, Corvettes were NOT a part of our awareness. And afterwards, everything was different. For me, it was tagging along with my big brother in 1966 to a local Chevy dealer where I saw a ‘66 Coupe sitting on the showroom floor and a salesman gave me a brochure. It’s different for each of us, but I’d venture to say that if you think back, there was a definite “moment.”

The “Jump’n Jack Flash” commercial for the then-new C6 Corvette does an excellent job of capturing “that moment” for a young lad. While I didn’t have such a vivid day dream and Suzy Holcomb didn’t “wink” at me in HER Corvette as we passed by one another flying through the air in our respective Vettes, the spirit of “the moment” is spot on and so is the closing line, “The all-new Corvette! The official car of your dreams!” This commercial ROCKS!

The second commercial positions the new Chevy Cobalt as the younger family sibling that doesn’t know when to leave its “older counterpart” alone. Like a big cat, the C6 Vette grumbles after a few taps then ROARS, BURNS RUBBER, DOES A 180, and Continue reading “My FAVORITE Corvette TV Commercial, Plus, One Right in Your Eye!”

2010 Production Corvettes, Grand Sport, Z06 & ZR1

The Return of the Grand Sport & Boutique Corvettes”

The Grand Sport option is available in all colors, enabling customers to personalize their ride.

In retrospect, ‘09 can be best summed up with a Charles Dickens quote from his classic book, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 2009 should have been an awesome year for Corvettes. But it turned out to be the worst sales year since ’61. Sales went from 35,310 units in ‘08 to just 13,934 for ’09 – a 60-percent drop! Of course, this lead to a lot of internet speculation that the bottom has dropped out of the sports car market, because nearly all sports car marquees saw sales plummet. So, people don’t want sports cars, now? Hardly. It’s the economy, stupid! Continue reading “2010 Production Corvettes, Grand Sport, Z06 & ZR1”