The 47-year history of the Corvette is packed with stories and legends, and the Z06 and LS6 designations that today's Corvette Team has chosen to identify the hottest Corvette to-date and its 385-hp engine are not new. They are terms from Corvette's glorious past, and it was precisely for that reason that these designations were chosen - to recognize and pay homage to the significant accomplishments of past Corvette Teams.
Zora Duntov's Z06
Today's Z06 is the evolution of a concept first put forward by the legendary Zora Arkus-Duntov.
In 1962, GM was observing the Automobile Manufacturers Association's ban on all forms of competitive activity, a ban that had been in effect since 1957, and Zora was chafing under its restrictions. As every student of Corvette history knows, Zora delighted in finding ways to circumvent authority and go fast at the same time. In 1963 this rebellious streak manifested itself in the form of the Z06 RPO (Regular Production Option) ... a package specifically designed for competition-minded Corvette buyers who could order a race-ready model with just one check of an option box.
The Z06 RPO debuted on what was then a startling new Corvette, the 1963 "split-window" Sting Ray coupe, a car that would go down in Corvette annals as a defining moment in more ways than one.
The Z06 package was not a cheap date in those days. It added $1,818.45 to the Sting Ray's $4,257.00 base price. In addition, Z06 required $661.75 in forced content, including the optional fuel injection ($430.40), four-speed manual transmission ($188.03) and Positraction rear axle ($43.05). All together it resulted in additional option costs of $2,480.20, or 58-percent of the Sting Ray's base price.
Included in the Z06 package were Al-Fin power drum brakes with sintered-metallic linings (four-wheel disc brakes would not be offered until the 1965 model year), heavy-duty front and rear stabilizer bars, stronger shocks, much stiffer-than-stock springs, a dual master brake cylinder, and a long-distance 36.5 gallon gas tank for endurance racing.
As a reflection of Zora's determination that the Sting Ray coupes be GT-class or SCCA contenders, the Z06's debut was particularly auspicious. In the fall of 1962, a group of Z06-equipped Sting Rays headed west from the St. Louis factory to California. They were driven by Bob Bondurant, Dave McDonald, Jerry Grant and Doug Hooper. The destination was the Riverside Raceway and the Los Angeles Times Three-Hour Invitational Race scheduled for October 13, 1962. The drive served as the break-in period for the powertrains, and upon arrival the cars were race-prepped for the event. Bondurant, McDonald, Grant and Hooper would also do the on-track driving honors.
As luck would have it, that race also marked the debut of Carroll Shelby's soon-to-be-legendary Ford-powered British sports car known as the Cobra. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown.
In what must have been a moment of pure ecstasy for Duntov, one of the Z06 Sting Rays, owned by Mickey Thompson and piloted by Doug Hooper, took the checkered flag for an out-of-the-box win. Even Mickey Thompson seemed stunned, reportedly exclaiming, "I don't think it's ever been done before ... a new production car winning the first time out."
Ultimately, only 199 Z06-equipped Sting Ray coupes were produced, making it one of the rarest and most collectible Corvettes of all time. And even though the package was eventually offered for the Sting Ray convertible (with an option price of $1,293.95), records indicate that no such cars were built.
Later on Zora Duntov stated, "Suitably equipped and set up, the new Corvette promises a potential that is hard to equal or surpass by even the world's costliest cars. To make the Corvette this kind of vehicle is the goal of Chevrolet's engineering personnel."
Almost 40 years later, those words could be used without alteration to describe the target that today's Corvette Team aimed for in the development of the 2001 Z06.
Another Corvette Legend: The 1971 LS6
The LS6 engine RPO has been offered once before in Corvette history, but only for one model year (1971). With 454 cubic inches (7.4 liters), a cast-iron "big-block" and aluminum heads, the first LS6 was second only to the full-blown L88 racing engine offered from 1967 through 1969 - in terms of both power and legend.
The original LS6 produced 425 bhp (gross) and was the most powerful engine offered in 1971. Only 188 cars were produced with this powerplant, less than one-percent of Corvette's 21,801-production run for the year. The option price was $1,221.00, or 22-percent of the coupe's $5,496.00 base price.
When tested by a leading automotive magazine, an LS6 with a four-speed manual and a 3.36:1 limited-slip differential produced the following numbers:
| 0 to 60 mph =
| Quarter-mile =
13.8 seconds@105 mph
| Fuel economy =
Also in 1971 a ZR2 package was offered. It was priced at $1,747.00 and included the LS6, a heavy-duty, close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, heavy-duty power brakes, transistorized ignition, lightweight aluminum radiator, special springs, shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars. A total of only 12 ZR2-equipped Corvettes were produced, making them even rarer than the Z06 models referenced earlier.
Because of what they've accomplished with the new Z06 and LS6, today's Corvette Team members are sure that somewhere Zora Arkus-Duntov is smiling.
National Corvette Museum
Corvette is one of the few cars in the world to have a museum created in its honor by its customers and fans, and a spectacular creation it is.
The National Corvette Museum (NCM) is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, right across the street from the Corvette assembly plant. Corvette fans can tour both facilities in a day, getting a full appreciation for Corvette old and new, and for the men and women that have lovingly worked over the years to make it America's favorite sports car. For more information, call 1-800-53-VETTE.