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New models - Chevrolet - Corvette - Z06

First drive: Corvette Z06 thunders into view

Specialist conversion: Each car takes four weeks to switch to RHD.

The race-bred Corvette Z06 is now available in Australia

Chevrolet logo30 Jan 2007

THE Z06 is the fastest Corvette ever sold and unlike any other Corvette built since the first one 54 years ago.

Powered by a mighty LS7 7.0-litre V8 engine and weighing just 1421kg, the Z06 will race from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds – without getting out of first gear.

Its top speed of 319km/h was established on a German autobahn, but head out to a drag strip and you should cover the old quarter mile in 11.7 seconds.

Now this icon of American motoring is available new in Australia – priced from $240,000 – through Performax International, a Sunshine Coast-based conversion company that has been converting cars for 18 years under its previous name, Corvette Queensland.

Originally built in GM’s Bowling Green plant in Kentucky, US, the 40+ staff at the Gympie-based company, spend four weeks converting each Z06.

The Australian-market Z06 is the result of a one-year development program to gain full local ADR compliance. Performax is the only company in Australia offering full compliance on the Z06.

The conversion starts by stripping the entire interior, including all the wiring, then modifying the firewall, re-locating the gear lever to the right-hand side of the transmission tunnel and shifting the pedal assembly and brake master cylinder.

Performax manufactures its own steering rack, which is located in the original housing and retains the Corvette’s variable steering system, called Magna Steer. Also manufactured locally are the dashboard and interior door panels.

The LS7 engine is an expanded and more fully developed version of the 6.0-litre Chevy LS2 fitted to local HSV models. Unlike GM’s previous “big block” 427 (a moniker that represents its capacity in cubic inches), the LS7 is actually a small-block engine and is the largest capacity small-block ever produced by GM.

With a capacity of 7008cc, the LS7 features an alloy block and cylinder heads, titanium connecting rods and intake valves (only two per cylinder), dry sump lubrication, forged steel crankshaft, cast aluminium flat-top pistons and high-lift camshafts.

137 center imageThe titanium conrods are almost 30 per cent lighter than the steel rods in the LS2 engine while the titanium inlet valves, despite being 22 per cent larger, each weigh 21 grams less than the stainless steel valves used in the LS2.

Running on premium unleaded, the mighty LS7 develops 377kW – or 505 brake horsepower in the old money – at 6300rpm, a mighty 637Nm of torque at 4800rpm and runs strongly up to a redline of 7100rpm.

Chev does not have an auto to handle such power, so the only transmission available is a beefed-up six-speed ZF manual.

Putting all the power to the ground are huge wheels and tyres – 18 x 8.5-inch fronts and 19 x 10-inch rears – that house equally huge vented and cross-drilled brake rotors. Six-piston callipers with six individual brake pads do all the work up front while four-piston units are fitted at the rear. ABS and traction control are also fitted.

The lightweight theme extends to the body and the hydro-formed backbone chassis, employing extensive use of aluminium, magnesium and composite materials. Old model plane enthusiasts will be interested to note that the floor is made of balsawood, skinned with carbon fibre.

The front guards are also made of carbon fibre while the battery has been relocated to the boot for improved weight distribution.

Incredibly, the Z06 uses leaf springs instead of coils at both the front and rear, the fibreglass composite springs are lighter and mounted down low as well as acting as anti-roll bars.

Inside, the car is equipped with leather upholstery, perforated leather sports seats, dual-zone air-conditioning, CD player (with MP3 capability) and a head-up display system that includes car speed and a G-forces. It is also covered by a three-year/75,000km warranty.

Drive impressions:
RACE circuits are possibly the worst place to experience a road car for the first time, even high-performance cars that are "race-bred".

Half a dozen laps of Queensland Raceway was therefore not the best the way to form an impression of the mighty Chevrolet Corvette Z06, but it did at least confirm what it promised on paper – that it is very, very fast.

Weighing little more than a V8 Supercar and producing only about 20 per cent less power, the mighty Z06 responds instantly to the right foot and rushes spectacularly towards the next corner.

The huge brakes pull the car up quickly and securely while the massive Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres provide plenty of grip and balance. The handling seems very progressive and the ride is very comfortable for a car of such sporting aspirations.

Many people would argue that leaf springs do not belong in any sort of car, let alone a sports car, but the Z06 can at least claim to be the fastest vehicle in the world with such a set-up.

We don’t know how fast it can ultimately lap Queensland Raceway, but GM claims the Z06 laps the famed Nurburgring old circuit in Germany in an impressive 7m43s.

We also cannot tell you how many Gs we pulled through the corners, despite the little head-up display that also provides vehicle speed. Perhaps with a lot more time at the track we would have been more comfortable taking our focus off the track ahead.

The Corvette is not the most refined of cars – leaf springs, pushrods, two-valves-per-cylinder and balsa wood in the construction are not the stuff of legend – but you get the feeling that it would be an easy car to live with in the real world.

There are many more exotic cars available for $240,000, but you get the feeling that Corvette aficionados would not be bothered with German or Italian badges and engineering.

GoAuto can help you buy a new Corvette

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