For 2001 the hardtop
Corvette offered some exciting performance upgrades and GM dipped into the past for a suitable nameplate: the Z06. Z06 was
the designation for a special option package for race destined Corvettes in 1963 and was the brainchild of engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov.
The new Z06 was equipped to be a dual purpose car: one that is at home on both the race track and public
roads. Track days for amateur race car drivers had become popular and the Corvette lineup now featured a worthy participant.
The star of the new Z06 was the LS6 engine which was named in honor
of the 454 cu in. 425 hp motor available in 1971. It is based on the LS1 that powers the convertible and coupe Corvettes;
both engines have 5.7 liters (346 cu in) of displacement. The Z06 is rated at 385 hp @ 6,000 RPM and the LS1 is 350 hp @ 5,600
RPM. The increase is due to higher compression cylinder heads (LS6 > 10.5:1; LS1 > 10.1:1) with improved porting,
larger fuel injectors, a more aggressive camshaft, stronger valve springs and better crankcase pressure management along with
speedier oil return. Backing up the improvements was a less restrictive lighter weight titanium exhaust system. Red engine
covers gave the LS6 some visual distinction.
Worth noting is the 385 hp rating of the LS6, which is 10 hp more
than the LS5 found in the 1990 ZR-1. The simpler and less pricey two valve single camshaft design had conclusively proved
itself over the complex and expensive four valve / four cam concept.
As with any serious
performance car, light weight was the goal for the Z06. Towards that end, thinner glass and less insulation along with other
sacrifices resulted in a weight loss of 100 lbs compared to the coupe. Still on the menu however was air conditioning and
the premium sound system.
All hardtop Corvettes were equipped with the Z06 option and the only transmission available was the manual
six speed, which said something about the new 'vettes intentions.
The handling of the Z06 was enhanced by special Goodyear F1 Supercar tires, P265/40ZR17 (front) and P295/35ZR18
(rear) developed specifically for the Z06. They were not run flat tires, a factor which improved the handling. This brought
up an interesting scenario, as the C5 Corvette has no provisions for a spare tire. Standard equipment did include a tire inflation
kit but the Z06 did not include the tire pressure monitoring system.
Wire mesh screen signified the external intake for the rear brake
cooling. The same wire mesh protected the front air intake. Middle: Distinctive star shaped aluminum wheels, exclusive to
the Z06, were 1.0 inches wider than on the coupe or convertible.
Z06 interior choices were all black or black with red.
Instruments featured the Z06 logo and a checkered background; headrest embroidery.
Although the big news for 2001 was mostly the Z06, there were changes
in the balance of the Corvette lineup. The base engine, the LS1, got a few more ponies and was rated at an even 350 hp, up
5 hp from 2000. Manual transmission synchronizers were improved for better shifting.