At the onset of the 2011 model year, as General Motors continued to streamline their product offerings, things were looking up for Chevrolet. The huge economic recession that had nearly driven the automotive manufacturer into bankruptcy was over, unit sales were improving year over year, and General Motors stock was once more on the rise. For Chevrolet, 2011 also marked a major milestone in the history of the company – it was the year the company turned 100 years old AND it was the year that marked the production of Chevrolet’s 100-millionth small-block V-8 engine.
On November 29, 2011, General Motors produced its 100-millionth engine at the company’s Performance Build Center near Detroit, Michigan. The milestone engine was a 638-horsepower, supercharged LS9 variant of the fourth-generation small block engine. The original small-block engine was a 265 cubic-inch V-8 that Chevrolet introduced in 1955. Variants on the original 265 cubic-inch engine are still manufactured for marine and industrial applications. By contrast, the 100-millionth small-block would be an LS9 belonging to none other than a 2011 ZR1 Corvette!
The Chevrolet Corvette, America’s sports car, celebrated its 58th year in 2011 by again enticing consumers with a broad lineup of returning models, and introducing a new special edition Z06 for the discerning Corvette collector – the base Corvette coupe and convertible, the Corvette Grand Sport coupe and convertible, the Corvette Z06 coupe, including the introduction of the all-new Carbon Edition Z06 coupe, and the crowned jewel of the entire paddock, the return of the ultra-powerful Corvette ZR1. While Corvette had offered a limited number of model choices just a few years before, Corvette now offers a model to meet every consumer’s needs – from the casual cruiser to the weekend track warrior, and beyond.
To commemorate both the milestone anniversary of the company as well as the incredible evolution of the small block V-8 engine, Chevrolet offered a new option to Corvette owners for the 2011 model year. Designated by Regular Production Option (RPO) PBC, future Corvette owners could now purchase the Engine Plant Build Experience when purchasing either a Z06 or a ZR1 Corvette.
For an additional $5800 over the cost of their car, ZR1 and Z06 purchasers could visit the Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan and assemble the engine that would actually go into their car during final assembly. The package, while considered too expensive by most, did include the assistance of PBC workers throughout the assembly process, local lodging and transportation while in Wixom, Michigan, and delivery of the Corvette at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
However, it did not include travel to or from either Wixom, Michigan or Bowling Green, Kentucky, and, as a result, only sixteen of the Engine Plant Build Experience option were purchased in 2011.
Refinements to the Corvette base model coupe and convertible were very limited for 2011. Both the coupe, convertible and Grand Sport models came equipped with the 430 horsepower LS3 engine, and came standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, AM/FM/XM stereo with CD, a three-month trial subscription to XM radio, an MP3 jack, OnStar, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, active handling, traction control, tire pressure monitors, and driver, passenger and side airbags.
Outwardly, one of the few changes to the 2011 base models was the introduction of a new wheel design – a competition style five-spoke wheel that came finished in either silver, competition gray, machine face or chrome. For consumers that wanted more robust braking power out of those wheels, GM also offered RPO J55, which enabled consumers the option of having larger, cross-drilled brake rotors installed on their Corvettes. Two new exterior paint colors were also introduced to the 2011 lineup – Inferno Orange and Supersonic Blue. Lastly, optional color-contracting headlamp housings were offered in Cyber Gray, Black or Blade Silver.
Within the cockpit of the coupe and convertible, a few notable changes were introduced for the 2011 lineup. All 2011 Corvettes received revised seat headrest designs. Potential buyers had the option of purchasing contrasting thread stitching color throughout the leather wrapped interior. Consumers could choose from yellow (RPO 36S), blue (RPO 37S) or red (RPO 38S). New for 2011 was the introduction of a USB port and input jack on cars equipped with the navigation radio option.
Making a return for its sophomore year was the 2011 Corvette Grand Sport. The Grand Sport coupe and convertible models had been a “knockout hit” among consumers and had accounted for more than half of all Corvette sales in 2010. Customers were drawn to its unique blend of the Corvette’s capable chassis and powertrain, while also enjoying the enhanced handling attributes that had previously been available only in the Z06 model. The car also featured wider fenders, specific front fenders, unique wheels and other exclusive design cues.
For 2011, the Corvette Grand Sport received the same refinements as the coupe and convertible with one notable addition – the Corvette Grand Sport could be equipped with Magnetic Ride Control as an option. When equipped with both Magnetic Ride Control and a manual transmission, the car also came equipped with four Goodyear F1 Supercar Gen 2 tires. The optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension featured magneto-rheological dampers that can detect road surfaces, and adjust the damping rates to those surfaces almost instantly for optimal ride control. It included larger, cross-drilled brake rotors.
With its special equipment, the Grand Sport offered consumers a unique – and more affordable – blend of performance and amenities. The GS suspension package is comparable to the suspension found on a Z06 Corvette, but still offers consumers the option of removing the roof from the coupe models (all C6 Z06 Corvettes had a fixed roof) and, of course, the availability of ordering a Grand Sport model in a convertible body style. Additionally, consumers had the option of purchasing their Grand Sport with a six-speed automatic transmission, an option that was unavailable to anyone purchasing a Z06. These amenities only helped to further enhance the attractiveness of the Grand Sport model to consumers.
Still, for anyone who was interested in track-ready performance, they need look no further than the 2011 Corvette Z06 model. As with the previous C6 Z06 Corvettes, the 2011 model came equipped with the 7.0-liter, LS7 V8 engine, which produced a blistering 505-horsepower at 6,300rpms and a jaw-rattling 470 lb-ft of torque at 4,800rpm, which was capable of launching drivers and melting tires all at the same time.
Chevrolet offered two new packages for the 2011 Corvette lineup designed specifically around the Z06. The first was the RPO Z07, the Z06 Ultimate Performance Package. Priced at $9,495 over the base model Z06, the Ultimate Performance Package included Magnetic Selective Ride Control, which gave more options to the driver as well as enhancing the handling of the car on all road surfaces. In addition to Magnetic Selective Ride Control, the Z07 package included Brembo ceramic brakes, larger Michelin Pilot Sport-2 tires and Competition Gray, ZR1-style, 20-spoke wheels.
DID YOU KNOW: The ZR1 may do the 60mph race in a supercar-like 3.3 seconds, but when it comes to breaking, the Z06 is truly fast. The Z06 actually stops faster than a ZR1 from 60mph in an astonishing 93ft. compared with the ZR1 that takes 97ft to come to a halt.
The second package was the RPO CFZ Carbon Fiber Package, also exclusively designed for the Z06 Corvette. The Carbon Fiber package featured a black carbon fiber splitter, rockers, roof panel and a body-color ZR1-style, full width rear spoiler. While not hugely popular amongst Corvette enthusiasts, due in large part to the additional $3995.00 price-tag that came with the upgrade, Chevrolet nonetheless did utilize this package, along with the Z07 Ultimate Performance Package, when cobbling together their next special-edition Corvette.
Called the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition Corvette, this latest entry into the special-edition portion of the collector’s market was designed to celebrate Corvette’s 50th anniversary at LeMans. The Z06 Carbon Limited Edition Corvette featured the Z07 Performance Package, plus the introduction of a painted carbon fiber raised hood, a carbon fiber splitter and rockers. The cars mirrors and headlights were finished in black, and the exterior of all of the Carbon Limited Edition Corvettes were finished either in Supersonic Blue or Inferno Orange. The interiors of both cars included matching body-color stitching.
“For track use, the Z06 Carbon is the best balanced Corvette yet. It combines the lightweight and naturally-aspirated Z06 engine with the road-holding and braking of the ZR1,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette Chief Engineer. “For technical tracks like Laguna Seca, the Z06 Carbon could shave up to three seconds off the Z06 lap time.”
“Designed to further incorporate technology developed through racing, the Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of Corvette’s first race in the 24 Hours of LeMans,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet General Manager. “With a limited production of 500 units, this car is a must-have for the true Corvette collector and driving enthusiast.”
In addition to the features listed above, the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition also boasted Brembo carbon ceramic brakes with specific dark gray metallic calipers. These powerful brakes were first introduced on the ZR1. Black 20-spoke 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels complemented the car’s Michelin PS2 tires. Other mechanical features include Magnetic Selective Ride The car also features a special carbon pattern engine cover. For track events, customers could also install the Euro-styled racing numbers that came with each car.
The Z06 Carbon’s ebony leather and suede interior was complemented by blue or orange seat stitching to match the exterior color chosen. Other features included a unique steering wheel emblem, sill plate and logoed headrest. The suede used on the steering wheel, shifter, seat inserts, armrests and doors added to the luxury of this limited edition Z06.
When it was announced that Chevrolet was introducing the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition Corvette, it was assumed that the 500 unit limit imposed by GM would make this car a much sought-after commodity. To Chevrolet’s surprise, only 252 of the Carbon Limited Edition Corvette were actually produced that year. Some speculate that the car, which cost $90,960 (which is more than $15,000.00 over a standard Z06,) just didn’t provide consumers with enough additional value to warrant the extra cost.
The 2011 Corvette ZR1 also returned once more for the 2011 model year lineup. Powered by a unique, supercharged LS9 6.2L engine, the ZR1 continued to remain the fastest, most powerful production car ever offered by Chevrolet up to this point in the automotive manufacturer’s history. (For complete information on the 2011 ZR1 Corvette, please click here.)
While sales of the C6 Corvette had seen a steady decline in total number of units since 2008, the 2011 model year saw sales numbers begin to rise once more, though only slightly. A total of 13,848 Corvettes were sold in 2011, and of those, the Z06 accounted for 1,156 units (coupe and convertible) while the ZR1 totaled 806 units. While these numbers were still significantly lower than the first couple of years of the C6, where sales averaged between 38-40 thousand units, Corvette continued to forge ahead with the manufacturing of their iconic sports car, though with a growing certainty that the decline in C6 sales tied directly to the still recovering economy and, more concernedly, the age of the C6 itself. Unbeknownst to most, a seventh-generation Corvette was already in the works. While working in conjunction with data created by, and collected from, the C6.R Corvette Race Car each race day, the engineers behind the next generation Corvette were looking to the race track in an effort to better design (and eventually manufacture) the most capable, track-ready Corvette ever created.
As for the Corvette Racing teams, the 2011 race season was capped by Corvette’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance classic. After a grueling 24 hour race, the No. 73 Corvette won the GTE Pro-Class. Piloted by race drivers Oliver Beretta, Tommy Milner, and Antonio Garcia, the team beat the second-place Ferrari 458 Italia by nearly two-and-a-half minutes.