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2003 Chevy Z06 Corvette

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 27, 2002

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROUTE 66 REVISITED: The 50th Anniversary Chevy Z06 Corvette

By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America's most famous sports car than by driving it across the longest unbroken stretch of equally famous old Route 66 in California.  From Newberry Springs to Amboy, California, is more than 58 miles of Route 66's two-lane blacktop. Cutting right through the Mojave Desert, today you will find the remnants of what 'America's Mother road's and America's Main Street offered the traveler along its original 2,448mi. Length from Chicago to Santa Monica .  

Route 66 was opened in 1926, but only 800 miles was paved, making the journey west still slow and hazardous.  It wasn't until 1937 that the entire route was two-lane blacktop.  

In its heyday, Route 66's 2,448-mile length passed through eight states and crossed three time zones.  All different types of travelers were found driving along the route: truckers, salespeople, folks visiting relatives who had moved west, people seeking their fortunes in the west, and people just looking for adventure.  

To service the many thousands of people on their travels, small towns sprung up selling gasoline and repair, offering lodging, and food. In addition, entertainment could be found with the many interesting and bizarre 'roadside attraction's along the way.   But there was trouble ahead as the Interstate Highway System started up construction in the late 1960's and was finally finished in 1976.  After that date, travelers heading west chose the faster 4-lane Interstate Highway System marking the end of the famous Route.  In 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned and the name was changed to National Trails Highway on the remaining two-lane blacktop road.                                                       

Today, all that is left are abandoned buildings. Still, a surprisingly high amount of old road is still waiting to be found by the more adventurous traveler. 

The Chevrolet Corvette is forever linked to Route 66 because of the famous TV series, 'Route 66,' that aired from 1960 to 1964.  The popular TV show told the tale of the adventures found by two young men, Todd and Buzz, as they traveled along Route 66 in their Corvette.

The Corvette made its debut in 1953 as a two-seat roadster, with styling and performance not seen before.  It made an immediate impact on enthusiasts, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The Chevy Corvette has been the platform for virtually all GM technological breakthroughs and developments, such as fiberglass body panels, the first 283/350 cubic inch small block V8 engines, the first fully independent suspensions, the first 5 & 6-speed manual transmission, the first 4-wheel disc ABS brakes, etc.  The 2003 Chevy Z06 Corvette is the 50-year summation of all these developments.  The new Z06 is the best Corvette ever, world class in every respect, with features not even found in more expensive sports cars.  The Z06 Corvette is so versatile, fun and easy to drive that it can be your everyday set of wheels, and then can be driven to the track to race on the weekends.

The price for a new, 2003 Chevy Z06 is only $47,500.00.  Don't let the price fool you; you don't have to pay 'world-class' money to necessarily get world-class performance.

The styling of the Z06 is exotic and sexy with long, low, sleek lines.  The low front end and 69-degree windshield rake cut through the air like a knife with the lowest coefficient of drag (0.29) of any two-seat sports car.  The fixed-roof Z06 Corvette body differentiates itself (from the less powerful, LS1-powered C5 targa top and convertible models) with stainless steel wire mesh fixed to the sides of the front bumper, to bring air more efficiently into the engine's air-intake, and black, powder-coated wire protected rear brake ducts found on the lower rear bumpers that more efficiently channel air to the rear brakes.  The C5 Corvette was the first sports car to use hydro-formed frame rails that are stronger and lighter, making the Corvette's frame even stiffer and torsion-resistant.  All body panels are made of lightweight, sheet-molded compound for strength and durability.  There's no mistaking the look and shape of the Z06 Corvette: It is recognized throughout the world and is found prowling the roads wherever great sports go to dice it up. 

I choose the stretch of old Route 66 because its almost 60 miles of no traffic and no police to get in the way as I blast over the two-lane blacktop at speeds over two times the allowed limit.  This is made possible by the terrific engine, transmission, suspension, and brakes underneath the skin of the Z06, not to mention the incredible Goodyear tires specially designed and manufactured for the new Z06.  

The Z06 Corvette is powered by a high-performance, 5.7-liter, cast aluminum, OHV LS6 V8 engine with electronic, sequential fuel injection.  Horsepower is rated at 405 at 6,000 rpm, and torque is 400 at 4800 rpm.  The LS1 V8 engine that makes 350 hp powers the other two C5 Corvette models.  The extra 55 hp comes from better breathing/exhaust, and larger fuel injectors/throttle body.  This potent engine is mated to a Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission, with a special 'quick-shift' design.  This smooth shifting 6-speed channels the power to the rear wheels.  At the track, the Z06 accelerates to 60 mph from a standstill in a consistent time of just 4.0/4.1 seconds - and when you get the clutch just right, it can accelerate it in just 3.9 seconds.  The Z06 speeds down the 1/4 mile in just 12.5 seconds at 114.9 mph, and tops out at 180 mph.  The Z06's all-titanium exhaust, with four, 3-inch rear exhaust tips, is the only one of its kind in the automotive world.  It is stronger and lighter than aluminum.

The fabulous, world-class Z51 fully independent suspension, with the latest Active Handling/Traction Control system, and new for 2003, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, gives the Z06 the highest lateral acceleration specs of any sports car currently in production.  The Z06 pulls an incredible 1.3 g's on the skidpad - leaving Porsche, Ferrari, BMW and others far behind.  The Z06's suspension features up front, short/long arm ( SLA ) double-wishbones, with cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted leaf spring, monotube shock absorbers and a 1.13-inch front stabilizer bar.  The rear suspension features short/long arm ( SLA ) double-wishbones, with cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf springs, monotube shocks and a 1.13-inch rear stabilizer bar.  The new Magnetic Selective Ride Control uses a revolutionary damper design that controls wheel and body motion with Magneto-Rheological fluid in the shocks.  By controlling the current to an electromagnetic coil inside the piston of the damper, the MR fluid's consistency can be changed, resulting in continuously variable real time damping.  

As a result, you feel a greater sense of security, a quieter, flatter ride and more precise, responsive handling, particularly during sudden, high-speed maneuvers.  The system isolates and smoothes the action of each tire, resulting in less bouncing, vibration and noise.  On bumpy or slick surfaces, the system integrates with traction control to assure maximum stability.  It also works with ABS to keep the vehicle balanced and poised.  It is the only system without electro-mechanical valves and no small moving parts.  It consists of MR fluid-based, monotube shock absorbers, a sensor set and on-board controller.  Turn-in is very precise and instant, plus you have great on-center feel with Corvette's speed sensitive, power-assisted, MagnaSteer rack & pinion steering.  Enhancing performance and handling even more are the fantastic Goodyear Eagle F1 SC Asymmetric tread P265/40ZR17 front and P295/35ZR18 radial tires in the rear.  They are wrapped around 17 x 9.5-inch front and 18 x 10.5-inch spun aluminum wheels.  These sticky tires also help the Z06 stop safely in a world class 60 mph-to-0 mph measurement of only 104 feet.  The vented front steel discs measure 12.6 inches, with a twin piston caliper and a 11.8-inch solid-disc clamped with a single piston caliper in the rear.  All brake calipers are painted red with Corvette painted in silver up front.  On the 600-foot slalom, the Z06 Corvette averages 70.3 mph - faster than any regular production Porsche, BMW or Ferrari.

Wow, what a ride, what fun you will have when you're behind the wheel of this great-looking and performing sports car.  It's so exhilarating that you will lose 20 years off your true age - you'll feel like a teenager again.  You have to experience it to believe it.

Inside, the Z06 is roomy and very comfortable.  The high-back bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive.  There is plenty of room between you and your passenger that your elbows never meet on top of the center console.  The brake and clutch pedals are machined aluminum for a racy look and feel.  The leather topped stick shifter is right where you want it to be for quick, effortless shifting.  The beefy, leather-wrapped steering wheel is adjustable and feels great in your hands.  The instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to see, with a large 200-mph speedometer, 7000-rpm tachometer, plus smaller gauges for fuel, oil pressure, engine temperature and volts.  The LED Driver Information Screen readout below and bright LED warning lights warn you of system or safety failures, even a 'low-tire pressure' readout with which tire is going down.  The power-remote site mirrors are heated and self-dimming as is the electro-chromic rearview mirror.  All buttons, switches and dials are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving.  Other standard features inside include Express Down power windows/door locks, full carpeting, electronic cruise-control, variable-speed wipers/washers, electronic, dual-zone temperature control, theater lighting, map lamps and Bose AM-FM stereo radio with CD player and 6-powerful Bose stereo speakers.  

Lots of enthusiasts complain about the plastic on the inside, but that is all I see in all other sports cars. Some may have brushed aluminum on the door handles, but they don't make the car go faster or handle better.  I love the interior of the Corvette.  It fits me like a glove, and the glove and I work extremely well together.  

Another feature only found on the Corvette is the phenomenal 'HeadsUp Display' that you see straight-ahead, through the windshield.  This feature allows you to constantly keep your eyes where they belong, on the road ahead, checking out the road's conditions and if there is a vehicle close ahead.  The blue display shows your current speed, rpm, fuel, oil pressure, engine temperature, turn signal if on, when you are low on fuel, when you have your low beams on, and the radio station/CD selection made.  This feature gives you even more confidence to take the Z06 closer to the limit at speed on the straightaway.  You can vary the height of the display and even shut it down by pushing the slide control to 'low-light' used when driving at night.

The safety systems onboard the Z06 are also world-class.  You get standard front airbags, three-point safety belts with pretensioners, front and rear crumple zones, steel tubular impact beams in each door, plus impact-absorbing steering column and dashboard.

The 50th Anniversary Chevy Z06 Corvette has to be test-driven. It is then you can experience the giddy exhilaration one feels when behind the wheel, taking the car through its paces on straight-line speed trials and around curving roads.  The Z06 feels like it is begging to go faster, to use up all its potential performance.

Just get behind the wheel, turnover the powerful V8 engine, hear the low-pitched growl, and instantly feel 20 years younger.  Your wallet will stay full as the new Z06 Corvette gets the highest mileage of any world-class sports car, an amazing 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

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