Back In Black. But is 7 litres a Touch Too Much?

So here we are, 15 years later and I find myself staring out of the window at another black Corvette with my name on the log book.But as you will know, particularly if you have read Neil Hobb’s journal here, the Z06 is no ordinary Vette. It is “the dividend from the C6-R race program” as Corvette Chief Engineer Dave Hill puts it. The mighty C6-R race car has dominated its class at Le Mans since it was introduced and the Z06 puts some of its technology to road use.

Firstly it has a brand new 7 litre (427 cubic inches in US parlance) version of the venerable Chevy small-block. All aluminium in construction and with titanium con rods, forged crank and a dry sump, this hand-built tactical nuclear device pumps out 505bhp and 475lb·ft of torque, revving to an unprecedented 7000rpm. It is the most powerful engine GM has ever built for public consumption.

The car it is mounted in is extensively lightened, stiffened and tweaked with an aluminium frame instead of steel, and making extensive use of carbon fibre, magnesium and even balsa wood! The wheels and track are wider and the suspension and steering retuned.

Bottom line: 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds, 0-100 in 7.9 and a 199mph top end. And for those who think Yank tanks can only go in a straight line it has recorded a 7 minute 43 second lap time at the Nürburgring.

As soon as I read the spec, I knew I had to have one.

Enquiries to the UK dealer, Stratstone, revealed that the earliest I could get one would be March 2007 and that would have to come with the overly bling polished shiny wheel finish which I detest.

So a quick look at Autotrader and then www.mobile.de showed that the greatest choice of cars that could be brought into the UK easily and quickly was in Germany. As my German is non-existent (beyond being able to order two beers) it was fortunate that Jörn Ottensmeyer spoke passable English as he had a brand new Z06 in my preferred colour, black. http://home.mobile.de/Ottensmeyer

After some negotiation and getting a favourable exchange rate via www.moneycorp.com, I managed to secure the car for just under £56,000; a reasonable saving on the near £64k a new UK car would end up costing. And more importantly I could get it NOW!

I booked my one way flight and one way Eurotunnel ticket and off I flew to Hanover. A brief journey on the efficient German rail system and I was in the town of Minden on the outskirts of Hanover and met by Jörn who picked me up in my car. Seeing it in the distance and hearing the menacing big V8 rumble as it turned into the station car park was enough to have me grinning and virtually jumping up and down with excitement!

We went to the registration office to sort out temporary German export plates, then after going back to Jorn’s house, we worked out how to switch the sat nav to English and completed the paperwork. Before I could take it all in, I was alone in my brand new sports car trying to work out how to get to Calais…

The weather was terrible with pounding rain falling on previously very dry roads. But despite the humungous 325 section rear tyres and lots of torque trying to spin them, the Z06 remained very stable, even on sections of near flooded autobahn.

The sat nav was actually very good, with a soothing English-accented woman calmly guiding me through the deluge and even warning of “stationary traffic ahead” thanks to the advanced TMC system.

I had foolishly forgotten to pack any CDs on my day trip so had to suffer German, then Dutch, Belgian and eventually French radio stations instead. But the four countries and 400 miles were despatched with ease, even given the fact I was running in the brand new engine. Keeping the revs below 4,500rpm, but varying the engine speed and load via the gears, I never saw more than 144mph on the autobahn, which whilst taking it easy by this car’s standards, is still decent progress by most others’.

First impressions are that the seating position is perfect with very comfortable seats.

There is quite a lot of heat soak through the transmission tunnel which means the drinks holders end up warming up whatever you have put there and sitting in the car with the engine (and therefore air con) off after a run is quite uncomfortable as you end up toasted on your right side. This is easily solved by getting out of the car after a journey, which apart from after driving onto the train at Eurotunnel, is what you would normally do…

Instruments, especially the much-vaunted Head Up Display are very clear and comprehensive. It’s always fun to see how much g you are pulling!

The ride is very firm, almost approaching Porsche GT3 RS/Challenge Stradale levels, but without the harshness of the Porsche.

My biggest criticism may seem unfair for a stripped out race-developed car, but the level of road noise over poor surfaces, e.g. the whole of the Belgian motorway network and a chunk of the M25, is overwhelming; far higher than in any other car I can remember. At the end of the day, giant 19 inch 325 section rollers thumping directly beneath the cavernous fibre-glass bass bin that is the rear luggage compartment must make a racket that a deliberate lack of sound insulation is going to exacerbate.

But the noise at the other end, the one a 427 cubic inch V8 makes when you wiggle your big toe, well that is very special indeed and the monumental overtaking power available even in the very high 5th and 6th gears has to be experienced to be believed.

Coming soon, what it is like to drive with all 505bhp available!

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David Yu

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