Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 115 - 2002 Corvette
"Record Sales & More Z06 Juice"
The C5 Corvette was just getting better every year, and the 2002 model year was no exception. The ’02 edition hit a sales high for the fifth-generation cars, and the Z06’s output climbed to an even more impressive 405 horsepower.
Dave Hill and his gang did such a superb job with the basic layout of the car that the only thing left to do was make incremental enhancements. Even better, the car’s base price had only increased $3,955 over the six years since its 1997 introduction. Keeping the price in check, while making gradual performance improvements, played a major role in the C5’s surging sales. The icing on the Corvette cake was the C5-Rs’ second consecutive 1-2 class finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The overwhelming success of the C5 virtually guaranteed corporate approval of the upcoming C6 program.
The base price of the ‘02 Coupe was $41,450, up $975 from the previous year. The Convertible’s base price was $47,975, up $500 from ‘01. And, lastly, the Z06’s price was $50,150, up $2,650. But despite this comparatively steep price hike, a total of 8,297 Z06s were sold – more than triple the’01 sales total. At the end of the year, total production for all models stood at 35,767 units - up 140 from ‘01
The coupe and convertible saw only minor changes in ’02. The front stabilizer bar was now the same size as the Z51 unit and was made of aluminum. Convertibles with heads-up display had thinner, lighter windshields, the same as the Z06. Two exterior colors were dropped, and one new color added.
For performance fans, the real action centered around the Z06 package. The LS6’s output increased from 385 to 405 hp, and torque went from 385 to 400 lb-ft. To celebrate this new high-water mark in Chevy small-block engines, the Z06 received a front-fender badge that read “Z06 405 HORSEPOWER.”
The extra 20 hp was squeezed out with slight improvements in the intake, exhaust system, and valvetrain. Airflow through the induction system increased 5 percent, and a new camshaft—with the highest lift in Chevy-small-block history—netted another 5 percent flow increase. Lighter intake and exhaust valves were used, and new valve springs increased seat load by 14 percent. At the back end, exhaust pressure was reduced by 14 percent by removing two small catalytic converters and adjusting the material used in the remaining converters. Other small Z06 improvements included revised rear shocks, an improved clutch, a thicker front anti-sway bar, a new front brake-pad composition, and a modified steering system that took two feet off the car’s turning radius.
Road testers simply adored the latest Vette. They loved how civilized and powerful the coupe was. They were amazed at how the convertible had no cowl shake. And they were just beside themselves over the Z06 and how easy it was to drive so close to the edge. The price was right, and the performance was finally world class. With just two years left for the C5, Corvette planners had two more special Vettes waiting in the wings. - K. Scott Teeters