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by Ted Grozier
In 1963, under the direction of legendary chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, Chevrolet offered the Z06 RPO (Regular Production Option) package on its new “split-window” Corvette Sting Ray coupe. Checking the Z06 option box added a whopping 58 percent to the Sting Ray’s $4,257 base price, but it resulted in a level of performance that Arkus-Duntov proclaimed was “hard to equal or surpass by even the world’s costliest cars.”
Only 199 Z06-equipped Sting Ray coupes were produced, and they have become some of the most collectible in the 47-year history of Corvette. Should you come upon one, look for the Z06 package’s upgraded drum brakes, heavy-duty suspension, larger 36.5-gallon fuel tank, fuel injection, four-speed manual gearbox, and Positraction rear axle. Though the Z06 package was a “regular production option,” it was specifically tailored for the GT-class and SCCA racers of the day (GM at the time was observing the Automobile Manufacturing Association’s ban on direct involvement with motorsports) such as the famous Bob Bondurant, Dave McDonald, Jerry Grant, and Doug Hooper, among others.
Today’s Corvette Z06, like the legendary 1963 model, is every bit the showroom race car, and just as promised of its namesake, it is as potent as the world’s costliest cars, but starts at a somewhat reasonable $48,055. General Motors claims that acceleration to 60 mph takes just four seconds flat, for example, and that the quarter mile dash can be covered in just 12 seconds elapsed time. The Z06 also builds on the excellent handling and refinement of the fifth-generation “C5” Corvette to earn it status as a world-class sports car.Heart of a racer
At the heart of the Z06 is a new engine that raises the bar on showroom-stock performance. Based on the 5.7-liter all-aluminum V-8 used in the other Corvette models, the LS6 (as GM calls it) has such novelties as a low-restriction titanium exhaust system, special aluminum pistons, and a composite intake manifold in addition to the high-compression heads and aggressive cams typically used on uprated engines. These powerplant tweaks result in nearly 12 percent higher output for a total of 385 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque.
2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 engineEnlarge Photo