Here's the story...
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 112 - 2001 Corvette
"In the Shadow of the Z06"
A funny thing happened to the ‘01 Corvette on the way to the showroom. It got lost in the shadow of its own offspring - the new Z06. The base ‘01 Vette could smoke almost any machine from the glory days of the ’60s and early ‘70 and still get 30 mpg on the highway. But because the Z06 took Corvette performance to the level of quasi-racer, with street manners intact, car magazines hardly noticed the standard model.
Corvette product planners have an interesting way of rolling out new options and features. The first three years of the C5 Corvette saw a splashy introduction in ’97, followed by the convertible in ’98 and the hardtop in ‘99. To kick off the new millennium, all Corvettes got revised five-spoke alloy wheels and a host of small improvements. They were just catching their breath in ’00.
The Z06 debut in ’01 was so big that hardly anyone noticed the next round of incremental improvements. Early Corvettes drew fire from reviewers over the fact that the car cost as much as a Cadillac but had the fit and finish of a Chevette. By 2001, those days were over. Chevy officials had long since realized that while the Corvette could get by on the strength of its performance, there was no reason it couldn’t exhibit excellent quality as well.
Aside from a few color changes and the addition of chrome exhaust tips, the ‘01 Corvette was identical to the ’00 model. Under the hood, engineers were able to squeeze an extra 5 horsepower and 25 lb-ft of torque from the LS1 by revising the intake manifold with a larger plenum and smoothing out the intake runners. The base engine now packed 350 hp and 375 lb-ft when paired with a manual transmission.
To handle the extra power, a stronger clutch was installed, yet the pedal effort was reduced. Unlike the clutch on the old L-71 of the ‘60s, one could actually live with this new system. Another subtle improvement was the use of a lightweight, absorbent glass-mat battery. This new battery was more heat resistant and could be recharged more often, important features in a car with luxury-car-type electrical amenities.
All Corvettes now had the active suspension as standard equipment, and small improvements were made to both the manual and automatic transmissions. Automatic cars had smoother shifting, thanks to a new alternator clutch pulley, while manual cars had their synchronizers upgraded. Reflecting advancements in both engine build quality and synthetic-oil technology, Chevrolet now recommended oil changes every 15,000 miles, up from the previous 10,000-mile recommendation.
The convertible tops were improved with new weather stripping to reduce interior noise and improved insulation for a smoother exterior look. Auto writers were impressed with the car’s seat comfort, instrument layout, and cabin-noise level and gave the car’s interior rave reviews.
Sales saw an increase of 1,945 units, for a total of 35,627 for the year. That’s the highest number since ‘85! Of those, 5,773 units were hardtop Z06s. Ironically, the hardtop Corvette had gone from being the least expensive to the most expensive model, now listing for $47,000. The base price for the Vette was up $1,000 for the coupe (to $40,475) and $1,200 for the convertible ($47,000). MY ’01 sales included 14,173 convertibles and 15,681 coupes, the most even distribution between the two configurations in the car’s history. A fully loaded ‘01 Corvette convertible with the optional paint went for close to $57,000.
Performance figures for the ‘01 Corvette would have been the stuff of wild day dreams of the past. The car ran 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds in the manual form and 5.0 seconds for an automatic. Quarter-mile times were in the low 13’s.
In the early days the base Corvette was pretty tame. No one would have imagined a day when all Corvettes would be thoroughbred runners. - K. Scott Teeters
Here's the story...
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 113 - 2001 Z06 Corvette
"The Incredible Z06!"
This was the Corvette to die for. When we think of high-performance Vettes, we usually think of the glory days of the big-blocks or the exotic, DOHC ZR-1. Those stump-pulling big-blocks were pricey, however, and not always easy to live with. And while the ZR-1 was a jewel, it cost nearly twice as much as the base car. All that changed in 2001, with the arrival of the Z06—a genuine performance bargain.
The Z06 was a runner, with performance numbers to prove it. With a power-to-weight ratio of 8.09:1, the car could sprint from 0 to 60 in just 4.0 seconds and complete the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 114 mph. Top speed was just over 170 mph. Even gas mileage was astonishing. So long as you weren’t hot-dogging around, the Z06 could get 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The best part was that this kind of performance could be ordered from your local Chevy dealer for about the same price as a Corvette roadster.
The hardtop version of the C5 was the perfect platform for the Z06 because it was the stiffest of all three Corvette body styles. Since another 35 horsepower were being added to the car with the new LS6 (whose name saluted the old 454 days), the chassis and body had to be a rigid as possible.
The name “Z06” was borrowed from an obscure “off road” option for the ‘63 Sting Ray. For an additional $1,818 a buyer got a great foundation for a road racing Corvette. A loaded Z06 optioned ‘63 Corvette cost almost $6,700. That’s 58% more than the stock Vette in 1963 and was not an easy car to live with on the street.
To sweeten the deal in ‘01, Dave Hill and his gang used basic hot-rodding tricks - add more power and take out weight. The new Z06 weighed 100-pounds less than the coupe and convertible with the use of lighter glass, a smaller backlight, a titanium exhaust system, and lighter Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
Under the hood the new LS6 used a new block casting that was shared with the stock LS1. The air cleaner and intake and exhaust manifolds had their ports smoothed out and higher capacity fuel injectors were used along with a new PCV system that reduced crankcase pressure. Compression was 10.5:1 (up from 10.1:1 in the base LS1) thanks to new pistons and redesigned heads with pent-roof combustion chambers. It all added up to 385-horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque @ 4800 rpm. The transaxle was stock, except for the more aggressive ratios and a 3.42:1 axle.
The suspension was already in great shape, so only larger stabilizer bars and stiffer springs were needed. The front and rear camber settings were also adjusted for improved stability.
The interior was available in all-black or black-and-red leather, with extra side bolsters, special embroidery on the headrests, and a 6,500-rpm tachometer. A transmission-temperature sensor was also added, and shifter feel was improved by eliminating the rubber bushings. Electronic dual-zone air conditioning was also standard.
Unlike the ZR-1, the Z06 was impossible to miss on the street. The car’s model-specific wheels had the same diameters as the stockers but were an inch wider. Just in front of the rear wheels were mesh-covered brake-cooling ducts. And to finish things off, there were the Z06 badges on the front fenders.
Costing just under $48,000, 5,773 buyers signed on the dotted line. The official Chevy disclaimer reads, “The Z06 is for the extreme Corvette enthusiasts.” No argument about that! - K. Scott Teeters
Here's the story...
lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 114 - 2001 Le Mans-Winning C5-R Corvette
"Victory at le Mans"
Had it not been for Zora Arkus-Duntov, there never would have been a C5-R. The Corvette’s first chief of engineering knew firsthand the value of racing. In 1952 and ‘53 he co-drove an Allard sports car at Le Mans. Then, in ‘54 and ’55, he drove a 1,000cc Porsche Spyder to a class win. While Duntov never got to see all-out factory support for a Corvette racing team, his passion for motorsports lived on in the hearts of the C5 design team. With the car having proved more successful than anyone in GM’s upper management could have imagined, 1999 seemed like the perfect year to introduce a factory-supported Corvette racing program.
GT endurance competition is arguably one of the most difficult forms of auto racing. Cars have to be fast, powerful, and durable. Drivers must have stamina, and teams need to work together perfectly. And, of course, there’s always the luck factor. Fortunately, the C5 came with all the basic elements a racing engineer could want, giving the ‘99 C5-R a great platform from which to start.
The ‘99 C5-R made a great showing in its first five races, even taking Second at Laguna Seca. The ‘00 season got off to a great start, with the Vettes taking Second place at Daytona. The year ended with two wins, three seconds, and a creditable Third place in the GTS class at Le Mans. 2001 proved to be the best year yet, bringing the Corvette’s first-ever overall win at the 24 Hours at Daytona. The stage was set for Le Mans.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the pinnacle of modern endurance racing, and the ultimate feather in any sports-car manufacturer’s cap. The 8.45-mile course is mostly made up of two-lane country roads. By the third season the cars were well sorted out, and the team was primed for victory. The ‘01 C5-Rs were called the “wide body” cars because they had been built to the maximum allowable width for the GTS class. A little-known fact is that the GTS cars actually had to be crash-tested as part of the certification process.
As noted, luck can play an important part in endurance racing. The 2001 Le Mans race was one of the wettest in memory, with vicious rain starting just 10 minutes after the green flag. Most cars had to quickly pit to exchange their racing slicks for rain tires. Rain caused two of the four Vipers to crash, and a third had to drop out of the race due to electrical problems. The three controversial S7R Saleen cars all broke. For decades the Corvettes had borne the brunt of the bad luck and durability problems. This race was C5-R’s time to shine.
Through the night the No. 63 and No. 64 C5-Rs swapped the lead several times. At one point, the No. 64 car made a 15-minute pit stop to fix a broken starter. Then, the car spun out two times in as many laps, putting it far back from the leaders. One hour before the end of the race, it poured again, and the pace car had to come out. When this happens, hard-fought leads shrink, as cars can catch up with—but not pass—one another. When the checkered flag came down, C5-R No. 63 crossed the finish line with C5-R No. 64 slightly behind.
The C5-R team finished First and Second in the GTS class and Eighth place overall. The 63 car—driven by Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, and Scott Pruett—ran 278 laps totaling 2,349 miles. The 64 car—driven by Frank Feron, Andy Pilgrim, and Kelly Collins—ran 271 laps totaling 2,289 miles. Speedvision (now the SPEED Channel) said, “Nobody at Le Mans knows the Corvettes won at Daytona, but everyone at Daytona knows that Corvettes won at Le Mans!” Thanks, Zora. - K. Scott Teeters