19 January 2015

Secrets of the Corvette Z06

The Z06 Corvette option has typically had a single purpose: To humble would-be Corvette competitors foreign and domestic, offering supercar performance and handling at a price point that can’t be achieved by any other manufacturer. Here are a few of our favorite facts about the Corvette Z06:

  1. The first Z06 was built in 1963. The second-generation — or C2 — Corvette was the first to offer the Z06 package. Corvette godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov conceived the option package that mated Chevy’s fuel injected 327 V-8 with uprated brakes and suspension (and in most cases a larger, competition-ready fuel tank) to give privateer racers a leg up in competition during a time when GM couldn’t field a factory race team. Simply called an RPO (“regular production order”) Z06, it was pricey and consequently selected mostly by owners who intended to take their Corvettes racing. Today 1963 “big tank” Z06s are among the most collectible Corvettes.

  2. The option was dormant for 28 years. There was no C3 or C4 Z06, and the name finally returned for 2001 in a very special C5. Offered only in the most rigid and lightest-weight hardtop body style, the 2001 model came with an LS6 small block rated at 385 hp. It was quickly uprated to 405 hp for the 2002 model year — as if the official ratings mattered. In a fine Corvette tradition going back to the 1967 L88, it was found that Chevy had underrated the horsepower significantly; north of 425 hp was closer to the truth.

  3. Since 2001, only model years 2005 and 2014 have been without a Z06. In every iteration but the C2, there has been at least a one-model-year lag to let the new vintage breathe before shocking the crap out of enthusiasts with the introduction of the Z06. The C6 Z06 arrived as a 2006 model and the C7 Z06 will be a 2015 model.

  4. The 2004 C5 Z06 and 2012 C6 Z06 are among the elite group of street cars ever to have broken an eight-minute time around the Nordschleife, part of the Nürburgring complex near Cologne, Germany. The 2015 Z06 will almost certainly join this group (probably with the A/C blasting, the stereo on and not otherwise breaking a sweat). Nicknamed “The Green Hell” by F1 pilot Sir Jackie Stewart, the Nürburgring is acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most dangerous circuits in the world.

  5. The 2015 C7 Z06 is the first factory supercharged Z06 and the first to offer an automatic transmission. Reputable aftermarket suppliers like Mid America Motorworks have long offered various superchargers to Corvette owners who want a blower, but the 2015 Z06 is the first to come with a supercharger — and the accompanying wail — straight from the factory. We have to admit, however, to being less-than-enthused about the new two-pedal option. The prospect of Z06 ownership by manual transmission-challenged twits like Justin Bieber and Kanye West is somewhat depressing. Thankfully, the insanely reasonable base price of under 80 grand will likely be terminally off-putting to the Cristal-snorting, Veblen good-obsessed crowd.

Video: Click here to see MotoMan drive both the first Z06 and the latest 2015 Z06, put the cars on the rack, and explain the differences between a standard Corvette and a Z06.

6 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Mark Pugmire Kaysville, Utah January 21, 2015 at 17:16
    There was only one documented production 1963 Z06 Convertible produced, a black two top car with saddle leather interior and a tan rag top. It was driven only a short time and was stored after only having approximately 7,000 miles put on it. It is a true survivor caliber of vehicle. That car was here in Utah for a few years before it changed ownership and I had the priviledge to see and touch this historic car. What an amazing vehicle. I'm lucky to have witnessed it!
  • 2
    Dick Valentine Ohio January 21, 2015 at 19:37
    If I remember correctly a different engine was designed for the 63 Z06 the 327 was a last minute change. I believe the intended engine was aluminum and displaced 331 inches anyone else remember this?
  • 3
    Greg Cape Coral Florida January 22, 2015 at 14:44
    What's with the UGLY black wheels They make the car look cheap!
  • 4
    Marshall McIntyre Hemet Ca January 22, 2015 at 16:11
    I has 63 fuelie soft top with posit reaction. It was real fast and would hold a lot of gas. +- 40 gallons. I was told at Montery a few years ago there was only 1 convertible ZO6. Is that true? That one for $600,000. Was dark blue. Mine was white. ? Where it now is.
  • 5
    Tony Sgro Orlando January 22, 2015 at 06:22
    I noticed an ERROR in your article. RPO stands for regular production option NOT regular production order.
  • 6
    Alan Blay Merrick, NY 11566 January 22, 2015 at 21:31
    First, the Z06 was the optional braking package in 1963. Only 199 Corvettes were so equipped. The package was identical to RPO 684 Heavy Duty Brakes and suspension, available thru 1962, also called Big Brakes. In 1964 the option was called J56, and in 1965 the disc brakes debuted, rendering these options obsolete. Drum brakes needed cooling, so these fans were developed, in addition to sintered iron or ceremetallic brake shoes. Heat and fade from repeated braking in short time periods were the downfall of the drum brake in racing. The Porsche 356 also offered a similar option. The N03 36 gallon fuel tank is very collectible, just like the 1962 and earlier 24 gallon fuel tank. These options were for racing purposes only, and were not suitable for the street, as these brake packages did not work well until they got hot from repeated braking, and the large fuel tanks consumed all remaining space. By 1968 no one was using these drum brake packages for competition, as the disc brake Corvettes were ubiquitous. The 2001 Z06 had nothing, I say absolutely nothing, to do with the 1963 Z06. It was strictly a marketing ploy, playing on nostalgia, just like ZR1, or any of the Ford Mustang nostalgia resurrections.

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