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.

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