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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 189 - 2005 Corvette
"The First C6 Corvette"
Thanks to the blogosphere, you most likely have seen the C7 by now, but let’s back up some. Thanks to the work of Dave Hill and his team, when the C5 hit the road, it was nearly perfect. It only took two years to make the case that a new platform was needed. So in ‘99, chief stylist Tom Peters started penning the C6 Corvette.
While the internet was by then firmly in place, there wasn’t a white-hot ramp up of speculation over the C6 as we have seen for the last four years over the C7. Still, there were the usual Jim Dunn-like spy photos of disguised C6s that were butt ugly. Then Motor Trend splashed the C6 on the cover of their January ‘04 issue. The blurry photo illustrations by Antoine Guilbaud were close, but... Then the following month, it was BAM! There it was - The COMPLETED C6!
Generational transitions are never easy and the C6’s arrival was no exception. The new kid sort’a-kind’a looked familiar and the grizzled automotive journalists grumbled and took a “we’ll see” attitude. After all, the engine was still in the front and the car didn’t yet have warp drive, so grump, grump, grump. Yes, the design was an evolved C5, but Dave Hill pointed out, “You could put all the parts carried over from the C5 in a bushel basket!” Yes, that’s what an engineer would say, isn’t it. But what about the styling?
Back in the C2 and C3 days, the biggest complaint about Corvettes was the lack of accessible storage space. The market longed for more of a GT Corvette, so the C4’s rear end got, well, big. And when the C5 arrived, the car had a seriously large bahoofy, but owners liked the extra space and didn’t seem to mind. But the C6 designers were listening to the critics. While cargo space was reduced 2.4-cubic-feet from 24.8 to 22.4, the overall interior volume increased 1-cubic-foot to 52.1. VETTE former editor Bob Wallace reported, “to me, the C6 feels smaller, slightly more confined, and more intimate.” However, the overall dimensions showed that the wheelbase was 1.2-inches longer, but the overall length was 5.1-inches shorter, just .1-inch shorter than a 911 Carrera.
Some had complained that the C5 was too rounded and soft. Stylist Tom Peters pulled off a real optical illusion with the C6. While the car seems to have sharp, crisp fender humps, a closer look at any C6 will show rather gentle, rounded surface changes on the fender tops and front leading edges. The “sharpness” is really a trick of light. Then there are the headlights. Peters reported, “There was a lot of internal commotion about this, to go or not go with the fixed headlights was nearly 50/50. Some felt they were cleaner and modern; others saw them as busy and perhaps strangely shaped.” Well, eight years later, I’d say we’re used to them. Overall, in a heartbeat, any car enthusiast could recognize the C6 as a Corvette!
Aesthetics aside and despite Dave Hill’s assertion that, “We weren’t out to fix what wasn’t broken or reinvent the wheel” those longing for a revolutionary C6 were still unsure. While 70-percent of the part numbers were new, the overall structure and design was very similar to the C5: hydro-formed frame rails, next-gen LS2 all-aluminum engine, carry-over six-speed manual transaxle, and similar, but new and improved suspension components. About the LS2 engine. Sorry, no turbos, V-10, or V-12 - but everything from intake to exhaust was tweaked and improved, delivering an increase of 50-hp to an even 400-horsepower and 400-lb/ft of torque. That, the grizzled vets LIKED! Plus, the new aluminum 5-spoke wheels were 1-inch larger in diameter, looked great, and the Goodyear Eagle F1 Run-Flat tires had softer sidewalls for a smoother ride.
When the journalists finally got to drive the C6, 98-percent of the complains went out the window. Hill’s assertion that the C6 delivers 75-percent of the C5’s Z05 did not go unnoticed. With 0-60-mph times of 4.3-second (just .3 off the ‘01 Z06), 1/4-mile times of 12.7 @113-mph (12.4 @ 115 for the ‘01 Z06) and a new highest top speed ever for a base Corvette of 186-mph, it was nothing but smiles. All that for $290 LESS than the price of the ‘04 Corvette.
Dave Hill retired in January ‘06 with the highly successful C5, C5 Z06, C6, and C6 Z06 to his credit. A job well done, I’d say.
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 126 - 2005 C6.R Corvette
"Continued Racing Success"
By the beginning of 2004, the design work for the C6 was complete, and the Corvette team was busy getting the new Vette ready for production. At around the same time—several months before the C6 street car’s debut—C5-R builders Pratt & Miller were brought in to begin development work on the first C6.R.
While all this was going on, Corvette Racing was having its best year ever. From 1999 through the end of the 2003 season, the team won its class in 25 of 44 races entered. Class wins at Le Mans came in 2001 and 2002, followed by a Second Place showing in 2003. In 2004, the team won each of the 10 races it entered and scooped up its third Le Mans victory. To say there was pressure involved in the development of the C6.R would be a serious understatement.
One of the things that makes GT-class racing so popular is the fact that the race cars are closely related to production sports cars. Pratt & Miller initially built two C6.R racers based on the upcoming C6 Corvette. With the wheelbase being 1 inch shorter, and the body itself being 5 inches shorter, this wasn’t going to be a mere re-skin of the C5-R.
Since many of the C6’s chassis details had been worked out using lessons learned from the C5-R program, the new C6.R was already ahead of its predecessor. The car used the same hydro-formed frame rails, slick shape, and flush headlights as the ‘05 production Vette. And with the addition of a large rear wing and a deep front spoiler, the C6.R had a superior lift-to-drag ratio.
The car’s all-aluminum LS7.R powerplant was such a gem that at the end of the 2005 racing season, it was honored with the Global Motorsports Engine of the Year Award. The fuel-injected, 427ci small-block was equipped with a dry-sump oil system, CNC-ported cylinder heads, titanium valves and connecting rods, a forged steel crankshaft, and plate-honed cylinder bores.
The C6.R used the same driver’s air-conditioning system that the C5-R cars had employed since 2000. The unit pumped cool air into the driver’s suit and helmet to combat heat exhaustion. Other noteworthy features included a small, flat-screen monitor connected to a rear-mounted video camera; sensors and electrical plug-in receivers to remotely monitor engine functions; and a light-activated sensor to measure side-slip while racing.
Coming off a best-ever year in ‘04, the pressure was really on the Corvette Racing team to perform. The 12 Hours at Sebring was the only race of the ’05 season in which a C6.R didn’t win First in class. The cars took Second and Third—a commendable accomplishment for a debut outing. Were it not for two minor tire problems, the team would have taken Sebring as well.
But Le Mans is always the big prize, and here, the C6.Rs did not disappoint. The Aston-Martin DBR9s qualified Nos. 1 and 2 in class, with the Vettes qualifying Nos. 3 and 5. Corvette Racing’s strategy was simple: run consistent, 3:55 laps and avoid breaking anything.
The race started at 4 p.m., and soon the Astons and C6.Rs were swapping the GT1 lead. In the second hour, C6.R No. 64 experienced two left-rear tire failures, but it remained within striking distance of the Astons. At hour 17, the top three cars were within 4.5 seconds of each other, and the heat was climbing into the 90s. Hour 19 sealed the deal for the C6.Rs when the No. 59 Aston pitted for heavy repairs. The Corvettes were now in first and second place in GT1. At hour 23, the No. 58 Aston ran out of gas and retired.
In the end, Jan Magnussen took the checkered flag in the No. 64 C6.R, giving the team its third Le Mans class win in four years and a Fifth Place overall. Johnny O’Connell brought the No. 63 car home in Sixth overall and Second in class. The Third Place Aston was 16 laps and 136 miles behind the winning C6.R.
We should also mention the brilliant work of the Corvette Racing pit crew. In 2005, the team only experienced two crashes, one at Sebring and the other at Lime Rock. In both instances, the cars were driven back to the pits, repaired, and re-entered in the race. The C6.R went on to win its class in 10 out of 11 races in 2005. When the Z06 was released in ‘06, the family connection to the C6.R was obvious, and the buyers were the winners. - KST
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 122 - 2005 Corvette Roadster
"Top Down WOW!"
For many auto enthusiasts, there is nothing quite like a convertible. The Corvette was born as a roadster in ’53, and except for a nine-year stretch from ’76 through ‘85, there has always been a topless Vette available. Sure, the C2 coupe’s styling is timeless, and the removable-roof-panel coupes from ’68 on are terrific. But there’s nothing like having the sun on your face and the wind in your hair while driving a Corvette. The new C6 took that roadster experience to a new level.
When Dave Hill took over as Chief Engineer for the Corvette in ‘92, many wondered what the former Cadillac engineer could possibly contribute to the evolution of Chevy’s sports car. As it turns out, Hill brought to the car something no one anticipated: flagship quality. Beating up on Corvette quality had almost become a sport in the automotive press. Thanks in part to Hill, the C5 all but put an end to that. But while the basic C5 design was incredibly good, engineers quickly identified numerous areas for further improvement. Enter the C6.
Thanks to the extraordinary power potential of the LS-series engine family, hitting the 400hp mark wasn’t much of a stretch. But unlike the olden days of the solid-lifter big-blocks that could be tricky to live with, the new LS2 engine delivered a tractable, easy-to-use 400-horses and 400 lb-ft of torque. Suspension and brakes were dialed in to a level unimaginable a few decades before. All that was left was to develop a platform that performed as if cut from a single piece of billet aluminum. The C6 chassis platform took everything learned from the C5 and the C5-R race car and delivered an out-of-the-box, world-class sports car for $52,245. That’s $140 less than an ‘04 Vette!
Usually, it takes a year for buyers to warm up to a new-generation Vette, but this was not the case for the ’05 model. Buyers put their money down on 3,308 more Corvettes in ‘05 than in ’04. An ‘05 convertible stickered for $52,245 (around $65,000 loaded), and 10,644 enthusiasts said, “I’ll take one!”
The ‘05 Corvette was not only faster than ever (top speed was an impressive 186 mph), it was safer as well. Constructed mostly from extruded aluminum, the door pillar and windshield frame passed the federal roof-crush standards without the use of a roll bar. Because the driving experience happens behind the wheel, extra attention was paid to the interior. One of the most pervasive problems among convertibles is the phenomenon known as “cowl shake.” In the C6, hydroformed frame rails with extra bracing at the suspension-mounting points and a hydroformed lower instrument-panel brace completely eliminated this problem. The roadster’s interior also received an additional 15 pounds of sound insulation, and there was extra padding for the aerodynamically shaped soft top. The net result was that the roadster had less wind noise than before and weighed only 20 pounds more than the coupe.
The soft top was available in black, gray, or beige and used a single handle-release mechanism. The speedster-style, built-in tonneau cover was hinged from the back, allowing the top to drop back into the trunk. And for the first time ever in a Vette, there was an optional power top ($1,995) that took just 18 seconds to transform the car into a roadster. The system used no additional trunk space, weighed only 15 pounds, and was developed by Car Top Systems, the same company that designed the Cadillac XLR top. And if all this wasn’t enough, the Bose Autopilot sound system used a sound-equalizing algorithm to reduce interior noise when the top was down.
Some Corvette buyers were hoping for a roadster version of the Z06. While that wasn’t in the cards, the $1,495 Z51 Performance Package did deliver much of the Z06’s on-track performance. This bargain-priced option included stiffer shocks and springs; larger, cross-drilled front and rear rotors; engine oil, transmission, and power steering coolers; unidirectional tires; and modified transmission gearing. To top it all off, a red ‘05 roadster paced the Indy 500 for the sixth time, with General Colin Powell behind the wheel. Sweet! - KST
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 121 - 2005 Corvette
Nothing stokes Corvette enthusiast like the prospect of an all-new Vette. Considering that the C4 generation lasted 13 years, early talk of a new generation Corvette in ‘99 seemed premature. Chief designer Tom Peters began sketching the new C6 shape in the fall of ’99 with an intended C6 launch date of ‘03 to coincide with the 50th anniversary. But a few things happened along the way.
When Peters was working out his early sketches, it seemed that the Dot.com bubble would go on forever. But the bubble indeed did burst and then 9-11 helped tank the economy. Meanwhile, Corvette designers found themselves with an interesting dilemma. The C5 was so good and was selling so well, some may have opted to leave the car alone. Why mess with success?
But it didn’t take long before the designers had fixed nearly everything they weren’t happy with on the C5. To check off everything on their wish list, the car would have to have a major redesign. The projected release date for the C6 was pushed ahead to ’05. While this may have disappointed the design team, it gave them more time to refine the car. Dave Hill, Chief of Corvette Engineering said, “We’re not inventing, we’re perfecting.”
The design team had several objectives - make the car tighter and more trim, raise the base power up to the Z06 level of at least 400-horsepower, reduce interior noise, and improve ride comfort. Hill summed it up by saying, “You drive a C5 500 miles and you still feel good; you drive a C6 600 miles and feel great.”
Designing the shape of every new generation Corvette is one of the most challenging jobs in Detroit. Peters said, “Basic aesthetic attributes that form the foundation of the Corvette design were best exemplified by the mid-year Corvettes from 1963 to 1967.” This clearly shows up when you look at the fender bulges. The rear glass hatch picks up the C2 Sting Ray coupe shape. There’s also a slight bit of coke bottle shape on the side rocker panels, reminiscent of the C3 Vettes. While the overall look is somewhat similar to the C5, it is crisper with more surface details.
The new C6 had some dimension changes that helped create its new look. The length was shortened 5.1-inches to 174.6-inches and the wheelbase lengthened to 105.7-inches. The width was reduced 1.1-inches to 72.6 and the height increased to 49.1-inches. The overall look tighter and lighter. The most striking new feature was the exposed headlights, not seen since ‘62. The new headlights helped keep weight down and keep the car aerodynamic when the lights are turned on. The roof section has a more pronounced double-bubble shape and the tail lights went back to the traditional round designs of the C2, C3, and C4 Vettes.
Wheels and tires were increased 1-inch to 18 x 8.5-inchs on the front and 19 x 10-inches on the rear. Tires were the latest run-flat Goodyear Eagle F1 EMT measuring P245/40 ZR-18 on the front and P285/35 ZR-19 on the rear. The front and rear suspension was similar to the C5, but incorporated lessons learned from the Cadillac XLR.
Under the hood the new LS2, 4th generation small-block engine squeezed 400-horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque from 364 cubic-inches. The power increase came from an improved intake manifold, larger valves, higher 10.9:1 compression, improved thin-wall cast iron exhaust manifolds, and less restrictive exhaust. Buyer could order either the 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission at no additional charge.
The new interior was an improved version of the C5 with materials, fit, finish, switches and controls that don’t look like parts from a Monte Carlo. The only thing that wasn’t standard was the Bose stereo, XM Radio, and OnStar.
Performance of the new C6 was astounding; 0-60-mph in just 4.1-second, quarter-mile in 12.5-seconds and a fastest ever stock Corvette top speed of 186-mph. All that for just $44,245 for the coupe ($290 less than the ‘04) and $52,245 for the convertible ($140 less than the ’04). What’a bargain!
We’ll be talking about this car for a long time. - KST