It was once believed, and probably still is, that owners of the American made Chevrolet Corvette still fall under the stereotype of being trailer park turned money middle aged Caucasians with curly chest hair poking through buttoned down dress shirts outfitted with gold jewelery. That was then. I’m writing this now to shed a brighter light on America’s sports car – the Chevrolet Corvette.
Welcome to 2008 ladies and gentlemen.
The image of the Corvette has since changed. As of 2005 with the release of the C6 it has been very apparent that GM’s new found styling has attracted a much younger crowd. For the better? The last generation C5’s have dropped significantly in price and are more than affordable to most. Don’t be surprised to pick up a 2000 model C5 for just over $15k. And here’s the kicker that I don’t feel is expressed nearly enough: Fuel Economy. With today’s prices of $4.27/gallon of premium the MPG war plays a part in nearly everyone’s car buying experience and overall decision. Let me fill you in on this. The C5 Corvette’s make well over 350hp, have gone 12’s at over 107mph straight out of the box and get… 28mpg or better on the highway. How many economic 6 cylinder cars can say that? 4 cylinders? How do they do that? Well let’s start with a lightweight chassis, 3100 lbs for the Corvette Z06, and 3300 lbs for the coupe. The other is gearing. The engine has enough torque to run an extremely low 6th gear. How does 65mph cruising at less than 1500 RPM sound? The engine might as well be idling.
Now let’s talk about the C6.
Gone with the pop-up headlights of yester-year. No longer is the steering wheel fit for a school bus. This thing doesn’t even use interior door handles any more — they’re push button! How awesome is that!? Clearly the interior quality and appearance is much more up to date and it doesn’t lack in the power department either. The LS2 engine found in all non-Z06 models produces 400 horsepower as rated to the flywheel and GM advertises the Corvette to manage a nice 26mpg on the highway, plus or minus 5mpg depending on the mass of your right foot. Performance is marginally better than the previous generation C5. The C6 is five inches shorter and a tad narrower. The Corvette retains the C5’s massive 12.5″x1.25″ rotors with floating calipers that slow the car down in a hurry from any speed. The suspension is still double wishbone, arguably the best suspension design on earth with wide wheels that have plenty of room to go much larger. The engine sits low, center of gravity is optimal, driving position and feedback(since the steering rack change in 2008) is perfect — even with the commonly bashed transverse leaf springs the handling is superb with 50/50 weight distribution. How about those handling statistics… the C6 with the Z51 package has lapped the famous Nurburgring in under 8 minutes, 7’56” to be exact. And that’s with crappy OEM run flat tires. Switch to a more proper summer tire like the Michelin Pilot Sport 2 and I would venture to bet a several second improvement in lap times. Speaking of suspension. The entire suspension is adjustable from the factory. Want more camber? Done. Want it lower it? Done. Yup — without spending an additional dime.
This can be tricky. The most common issue to arise with C5 Corvettes is Service Steering Column(which I was just struck by). Basically GM incorporated a security lock in the steering column to prevent theft. It can fail and thus prevent the car from being turned and requires a tow to a dealer. The fix is quite easy and cheap. Twenty dollars cheap. The next issue is tires. Tires are expensive if you replace them with OE brands. There are many other options available for less than $500. See our Sumitomo HTR ZIII Track Review for one example. The next common report is for the seats. If you’re a heavy-set guy you might find the seats not strong enough to support your fat ass and they start to wiggle around. There are fixes for this as well that can be done at home. The C6’s are very similar in costs but are free of the lovely Steering Column lock and flimsy seat back. Tires are still expensive. Go figure. Brake rotors can be found for under $40 a pair and pads run about $150 a set. Replacing them is cake. Take off the wheel and remove just one of the two caliper bolts to slide it aside and replace the pads. A few more bolts and the rotor comes off too. No need to spend $500 at the ‘stealership.
Do you have the mod bug?
If you don’t we might consider you lucky. If you are stricken with this wonderful ailment then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s relatively easy on the wallet to exponentially increase the performance of a Corvette. The LS1 engine found in the 1997 to 2004 models responds very well to mods. The LS6 intake manifold from the Z06 can be had for several hundred bones and increases power by roughly 15hp and plenty of torque to match. Headers can be found for $400 and a cam at $500. With a tune your LS1 Corvette can be putting down 380whp with the right combination. That’s roughly 450 advertised ponies. With that much power you can expect to take a trip down the quarter in roughly 11 seconds. If you already have an LS6, LS2 or LS3 then you’re one step closer to start. Want to improve the handling? How about a set of C6 Z06 shocks for $280 shipped to your door and a set of Z06 swaybars for $250? Installation takes a few hours with hand tools in your driveway and you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done this before. Why not aftermarket suspension? Well you could go with PFADT or Hotchkis, but if you look at the Nurburgring numbers for the C5 Z06 at 7’52” you’ll realize that Chevrolet did something right. Not to say that PFADT or other aftermarket tuners are wrong but GM had the shocks in the 2004 Z06 tuned by Sachs to achieve the sub-eight-minute Nurburgring lap time. You can have those for just about $500 shipped to your door from Gene Culley at http://www.gmpartshouse.com/ If you don’t know by now Jan Magnussen lapped the Nurburgring in 7’42” in the C6 Z06.
But I bet Corvette insurance is hella expensive!!!
BRRRRRT. Surprisingly insurance providers have very cheap rates for Corvettes compared to other cars such as the 350Z, Evolution, STi or S2000. For example my 2003 350Z Track was $800 every six months for full coverage. My 1999 Corvette is a whopping $500 every six months. How’s that for $600 in savings a year. I’m 25 with two reckless driving tickets to boot.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this short article. So now where are you gonna navigate to? Here, let me help you out with your next move: autotrader.com
See you in the fast lane.