When photos of a camouflaged C7 Corvette went public last month, it was thought that Chevy was building a C7 Corvette ZR1 that would serve as the swan song for the generation. After all, GM had recently trademarked the ZR1 name and Car and Driver’s Don Sherman mentioned several times that a ZR1 badged C7 Corvette could be a distinct possibility. And I won’t lie, the thought of the ZR1 returning in C7 form is very appealing.
But then we saw new photos from Autoblog featuring the camouflaged C7 prototype wearing a massive rear spoiler. And that’s when I began to believe that this isn’t a C7 ZR1 prototype. We think Chevrolet is building a C7 version of the Z06X track car, much like the 2011 Corvette Z06X track car concept featured at SEMA in 2010.
And the more we brainstormed, the more reasons we believe this to be the case. For those that may not know what the 2011 Corvette Z06X Concept was, here is a quick refresher:
For the 2010 SEMA Show, Chevrolet teamed up with Pratt and Miller to develop the Corvette Z06X and Camaro SSX track car concepts. These two cars were essentially stripped down club-racer versions of the production cars, compete with roll bar and 5-point racing harnesses.
Utilizing the 505-horsepower LS7, the Corvette Z06X featured the Z07 performance package, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes as well as the aerodynamic package from the 2011 Carbon Edition. Instead of the standard leaf suspension, adjustable coilovers were used. The Z06X was also lightened by utilizing the ZR1’s carbon fiber roof panel and B-pillars as well as a polycarbonate rear window. Further lightening meant this car was also stripped of carpet and the radio.
The 2011 Corvette Z06x was thoroughly embraced by Corvette enthusiasts and while we believed the Concept was a great idea and well executed, the timing just wasn’t right for GM to actually produce the car. But times have changed and we think now is the perfect time to introduce a C7 based factory built race car.
So here are 10 reasons why we think Chevrolet is building a C7 Corvette Z06X Track Car:
#1. Harlan Charles Wants It
Corvette product manager Harlan Charles told Car and Driver at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show that his team wants to put a C7 Corvette Z06X Concept into production:
“The idea was a non-street-legal, factory-built track car, and that is something that we are considering would be a great thing to apply to the new Corvette Z06,” Charles said. “I mean that’s something we could see in the future. We’ve got a lot of ideas, but nothing to show today, unfortunately.”
#2. Corvette Enthusiasts Want a Factory Built Club Racer
The Corvette team is well known for listening to their customers and then providing them with the options and models they say they want. That’s how we have a Corvette Z06 with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Harlan says the C7 Grand Sport is also a direct result of people who wanted the option of the widebody on the naturally-aspirated LT1 chassis. And Corvette doesn’t want to lose potential customers to other makes that do offer factory built race cars. The fact that Porsche has offered a club racer for years also has to figure into the equation.
#3. All Visible Clues Point to Racing
If you look at these C7 prototype photos from Autoblog, there is no doubt that we are looking at a C7 Z06 body. However, different is that the front corners have been cut out for a substantial increase in cooling. The car is being lightened with perhaps carbon fiber doors and new roof bow. And finally that huge wing only makes sense on the track. Those three items are a recipe for racing: cooling, lightening and down force.
#4. A New Engine is Rumored
We also heard from Car and Driver’s Don Sherman that the mid-engine C8 Corvette will debut in 2019 with the naturally aspirated LT1 V8 as the base engine while a high performance model powered by a new Corvette engine that is under development. Sherman believes the new motor will utilize the 32 valve dual overhead cam design like the C4’s Mercury Marine built LT5
Another rumor in the mix is that General Motors developing a new motor for the mid-engine car that would offer 750 horsepower. While the original source for that rumor believed that the new engine could be labeled an LT5, it’s 100% unofficial at this point. With several different applications planned, we think it’s not out of the question one of those new engines could be called the LT7 and configured for the Z06X.
#5. Why This C7 Prototype Isn’t the ZR1
When you think about previous ZR1s, either the C4s built in 1990-1995 or the C6s produced in 2009-2013, these were elegant sports cars, built for top-end speed but also made to be extremely comfortable and could easily serve as a daily driver. If Chevrolet is looking to recreate a 205 mph (or greater) super car, you would think the aero would be reconfigured to reduce drag for high speeds. So why would it need that huge rear wing and all the extra cooling ducts that the previous ZR1 didn’t need? As a daily driver, doesn’t that huge rear wing have an impact on both visibility as well as use of the cargo area?
#6. The 2018 Camaro Z28
At the same time we see this C7 prototype being developed, Chevrolet is in the process of finishing the 2018 Camaro Z28. The track oriented version of the Camaro was spotted on the Nurburgring wearing what looks to be a similar styled rear wing as well as large air scoops on each corner of the front fascia. Unexpected was the yellow grand sport hash marks on the fenders. If the Camaro Z28 stays true to form, it’s creature comfort options will be limited: No A/C, no radio, no sound deadening. Just as you would expect a factory-built track car to be offered.
Is Chevrolet co-developing these two factory built track-oriented cars in conjunction with each other? It would appear to be so, especially when you see one of the C7 prototypes together with a camouflaged Camaro in the Autoblog photo gallery. Like the 2011 Corvette Z06X and Camaro SSX, it looks like Chevrolet is allowing the engineers and designers from both teams to collaborate on creating these factory built Corvette and Camaro race cars.
#7. Return on Investment
If the ZR1 rumors are true and that the ZR1 is a one year swan song before the mid-engine is released, we are seeing a lot of development dollars going into a car offered for only one year. If in fact that Chevrolet does offer the front-engine C7 Corvettes through 2021, developing and releasing a factory-built track car in the next year gives General Motors 4-5 years to recoup its investment on the development and bringing the prototype to market. It would also help the bottom line that development dollars are being shared or at least split between both the Camaro and Corvette programs.
#8. The C7 Corvette is a Money Maker
The idea of doing a factory built race car like the 2011 Corvette Z06x would have been unheard of following the great recession and GM’s bankruptcy which saw Corvette sales plummet to 12,000-14,000 cars per year. But now the company has a much brighter financial future and so does Corvette. Chevrolet sold 40,000 Corvettes in the 2016 model year, the highest production year since 1984. With the average 2016 Corvette selling for $73,000 – that’s roughly $3 billion in total sales for the year. That gives the Corvette team a great platform to lobby management to do the kinds of cars like Harlan Charles says the team wants to do as well as the kind of Corvettes you demand.
#9. Chevrolet Trademarked L88
While GM has recently trademarked the ZR1 name which is one of the factors in the speculation of a ZR1 for the C7 or C8 Corvette, the company also owns the trademark for L88. The L88 was essentially the factory built race car offered from 1967 through 1969. Featuring a massive V8 engine, it was sold without a heater or radio. Chevrolet even tried to discourage interest in the car by rating the horsepower at 430 while the L71 cars offered 435 horsepower. (In reality, the L88 made about 560 hp.) So it could be that Chevrolet stays with the historic C2 naming conventions for its C7 models by utilizing the L88 to signify its track-ready status.
#10. A Better Car for the Michelin Corvette Challenge Series
Remember the big plans that Chevrolet, Michelin and Spring Mountain had for the Michelin Corvette Challenge Series that was announced at the 2015 SEMA Show with great fanfare? While those initial plans for racing the upgraded Corvette Stingray Z51s seemed to have faded, the proposed new series could be just the ticket for a new factory built race car, and the C7 Corvette Z06X would be a more in line with the concept of the original Corvette Challenge Series.
So there you have 10 reasons why we think the recent C7 prototypes are actually going to be factory built race cars and not the C7 ZR1 super car. That doesn’t mean Chevy isn’t doing a C7 ZR1, but we think these prototype photos show the Corvette program moving in a different, but highly anticipated direction. If this is indeed the case, the question still remains if the car will be for track use only or will it have just the bare minimum of options required to make it street legal like the 2014 Z28?
Did we make our case for the C7 Corvette Z06X Track Car? Let us know in the comments below!
2010 SEMA: 2011 Corvette Z06X Track Car Concept
Car and Driver: Next Generation C8 Corvette to be Mid Engine Only
Corvette Stingray Runs Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap but the Camaro Z/28 Steals the Show