Tracing the History of the Chevy . Ras-Bed Corvette

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  • The Chevy Corvette Z06 2023 is the fifth iteration of the track-focused trim, and while it’s the most exotic, it’s still road-friendly.
  • In 1963, the Z06 moniker first appeared as an optional equipment package for Corvette owners who wanted to race their cars.
  • Since the Corvette C5, every generation has had a version of the Z06, with each raising the bar on its race pedigree.

Who’s ready for a history lesson? Every Chevy Corvette fan will almost certainly be familiar with the track-focused version of the Z06, especially after the arrival of the exotic mid-engined Corvette Z06 2023. However, not all fans are aware of the car’s origin story, which can be traced back almost 60 years to 1963, when legendary Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov first developed it as a package of choice dedicated to customers looking to race their cars on the track. Thus, an icon was born. The rest is history. sort of. The Z06 moniker would sit in the hole for about four decades until it returned to glory on the 2001 Corvette. Since then Chevy has offered the Z06 model in every generation, and each has raised the bar for its race pedigree. Here’s a look at the five installments of the Chevy Corvette Z06.

1963: OG Z06

If you haven’t heard of Zora Arkus-Duntov, do yourself a favor and read her story. You don’t have to thank us, but you can thank big Z for contributing to the greatness of the Corvette. As we mentioned, he was responsible for creating the original Z06 in 1963. Zora is a racing advocate, and he convinced GM top brass to commission an option package for Corvette customers in the racing community. This led to the Z06’s then little-known Regular Production Option (RPO) box on car order sheets. Chevy only sold 199 Corvettes equipped with the Z06 package in ’63.

chevrolet corvette z06 racing 1963


Almost all of them are coupes with a 360-hp 327-cubic-inch V-8, four-speed manual transmission, and rear axle Positraction. As an option in the options, the Z06 package can be paired with a larger 36.5 gallon fiberglass fuel tank allowing for longer track sessions. This has led to nicknames such as the “tanker” and “big tank” Corvette. Additionally, along with aluminum wheels and ready-to-wear suspension (thicker front anti-roll bars, larger dampers, stiffer springs), the Z06s features upgraded brake components which include powered drum brakes with sintered metal brake linings, vacuum booster, and dual drum brakes. main cylinder.

2001: Return of Z06

You won’t find a Corvette bearing the Z06 badge from the C3 or C4 generation because it doesn’t exist. In fact, after the 1963 model year, Chevy would not produce the Z06 again for about 40 years. Thankfully, the brand revived the race car-inspired moniker on the 2001 Corvette (aka C5). Following the same formula as its predecessor, the reborn Z06 puts performance above all else, and it will be one of the first production cars to cross the famous Nürburgring in under eight minutes (7:56, for those curious). The C5 Z06 also introduces trademark details such as cooling ducts for the rear brakes that are integrated into the rear fender.

All C5 Corvette Z06s (2001–2004) are based on limited production coupe hardtops which save weight and increase rigidity compared to regular hatchback coupes. That and other dietary restrictions helped the Z06 cut around 100 pounds through thinner glass, lighter wheels, less-sounding materials, adopting a lightweight titanium exhaust, and more. Most notably, the C5 Z06 benefits from the exclusive LS6 engine, which is essentially an enhanced version of the standard Vette LS1 5.7-liter V-8. The LS6 features a hotter cam, higher compression ratio, redesigned intake and exhaust manifolds, and other internal improvements. It originally produced 385 horses and 385 pound-feet of torque, but those numbers rose to 405 and 400, respectively, in 2002. Every Z06 from this era had a six-speed manual and dedicated gear.

2006: Z06 Meets Z07

Once Corvette customers tasted the incredible sauce that was the C5 Z06, Chevy was too keen to follow suit with the tastier ones. It arrived in 2006—one year after the sixth generation debuted—and the C6 Z06 (2006–2013) immediately upgraded the Corvette’s track capabilities. Not only does it have a unique aluminum frame that Chevy claims is 136 pounds lighter than the standard version steel structure, but it also features an exclusive high-speed 505-hp 7.0-liter V-8 engine, dubbed the LS7. At the time, it was the most powerful Corvette ever, and used technology from the company’s racing program (titanium connecting rods, dry-sump lubrication system).

Not only does the 2006 Corvette Z06 have a ton of performance gear like the usual brakes, suspension, and wheel and tire upgrades, it’s also the first version to really differentiate itself visually. The C6 Z06 (again just a hardtop) has wider front and rear fenders, front and rear brake cooling channels, and different aero add-ons. This iteration also introduced the Z07 package in 2012 that opened the limits of the race track to higher levels thanks to parts from the all-powerful 638-hp supercharged Corvette ZR1. With the Z07 package, the Z06 gets more carbon fiber additions, MagneRide adaptive dampers, carbon-ceramic rotors and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. Results? This helped the 2012 C6 Z06 pass the Nürburgring in 7:22.68—about 34 seconds faster than its predecessor.

2015: Z06 Strongest

Despite the pressure to continually raise the bar for performance with each new Z06, Chevy doesn’t let go of the throttle. When the fourth iteration of the Z06 arrived in 2015, following the debut of the seventh generation one year earlier, it came with an incredible 650-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. For those tracking, it’s more powerful than the grind in the previous-generation ZR1. The C7 Z06 (2015–2019) also marks a series of firsts, including the first with an optional automatic transmission and the first to offer a convertible targa and body style. The latter two are due to the Vette’s more rigid aluminum frame.

The Z06 Era also carries a payload of carbon fiber equipment, in particular the optional aero package with splitters, winglets, rocker panels and a spoiler made of lightweight materials. The Z07 Performance Package is also back, adding adjustable aero bits, carbon-ceramic brake rotors, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 grippier rubber. For more proof of the C7 Z06’s prowess, check out our comparison test, where it beat the vaunted Porsche 911 Turbo S. Sure, Vette’s incredible scores played a big part in her win, but we also applaud her ability to be civil or vicious in an instant. It was also the last front-engined Corvette Z06.

2023: Z06 Zenith

This is us. It all leads to this. Mid-engined Corvette Z06. At its heart is the most exotic factory the Vette has ever put into production: the naturally aspirated 5.5-liter 5.5-liter V-8 (engine code LT6). By tradition, the C8 Z06 (2023–TBD) exceeds the power precedent set by its predecessor by 670 horsepower. Oh, and this V-8 sounds like no other Z06 engine, with an 8500-rpm redline that translates to a real race car sound. Unfortunately, this is the first Z06 without a manual gearbox. Instead, each version has an eight-speed automatic clutch, and is again offered in Targa or convertible body styles.

The C8 Z06’s engine is undeniably special, but the rest of the car is also special—optimized for track duties like its predecessor. Even with 20-inch front and 21-inch forged aluminum wheels (optional carbon fiber version) and various chassis upgrades meant to help the wide-body C8 extract every millisecond from every lap, it never punishes, even when the more aggressive Z07 track package (more aero, higher spring speed, carbon-ceramic rotors, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, etc.) are added to the mix.

While we may see more powerful Corvettes—even electric ones—the new Z06 seems to be the pinnacle of the gas-powered group. Big Z will be proud.

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