Exactly ten years ago today on March 10, 2010, Chevrolet took the cover off of one of the most beloved special edition Corvettes in history, the 2011 Z06 Carbon Limited Edition. This was followed by a public unveiling one week later at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The Z06 Carbon was introduced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Corvette first competing at Le Mans and to fill the performance gap between the top-dog ZR1 and the aging Z06. The latter goal was achieved by raiding the ZR1’s parts bin for everything except a supercharger. The King of the Hill’s previously exclusive pieces like Michelin’s Pilot Sport PS2 tires, Carbon Ceramic Brakes, Magnetic Ride Control, and extensive carbon fiber panels moved the Z06 into its ultimate form, in effect creating a lighter, nimbler, and higher-revving naturally aspirated ZR1 for $20,000 fewer dollars.
Just 252 Carbons were produced after the original announcement called for 500 and unless your name was Rick Hendrick, they were only available in Supersonic Blue Metallic or Inferno Orange Metallic. Blue ended up winning the popular vote with 185 orders, leaving 66 slots for the bright orange paint (rounded out by Mr. H’s one Black example).
Along with all of the ZR1’s performance-enhancing pieces, all Carbon Edition Z06s received black ZR1-style 20-spoke wheels, silver brake calipers, and black mirror housings to complete the unique exterior look. Alcantara (proprietary faux suede) was strategically placed on all of the interior touch-points of the Carbon, including the steering wheel, shifter, armrests, center console lid, and seat inserts. All of the black on the interior was then highlighted by French stitching that was color-matched to the car’s exterior hue.
The Carbon will always hold a special place in your author’s heart. It debuted when I was a Sophomore at the University of Colorado. That summer, there was a pre-production model at a Corvette show I attended that instantly made the rest of the ‘Vettes around it disappear and, almost a decade later, it was the car that launched my writing career.
These C6 ZR1-lites remain interesting and relevant for all fans of the Plastic Fantastic, not just zealots like myself. Ten years and an engine relocation have done an excellent job of putting the Carbon in perspective. As a model, the best available Z06 perfectly illustrates the law of diminishing returns that the engineers kept bumping into with the original Corvette formula, necessitating the extreme transformation that we are just starting to witness in 2020.
On a racetrack, Carbons and their Z07-equipped siblings were consistently nipping at the heels of the ZR1, in spite of their 133-horsepower deficit.
In fact, they needed to add an additional performance package to the ZR1 in 2012 to safeguard its superiority in the line-up. The two top-of-the-line Corvettes’ official Nürburgring lap videos, released in 2012, might be the best example of how hard it became for Chevrolet Performance engineers to continually one-up themselves, even by throwing more and more power at the rear wheels. The updated ZR1 stopped the clock at the infamous “Green Hell” in 7:19.4, setting a production car record. The “little brother” Z06’s time was an astonishingly quick 7:22.68, marking an improvement of 20 seconds over the 2006 Z06 and nearly four seconds faster than a base ZR1 over the course of 12.8 miles.
The tenth anniversary is traditionally marked with tin but maybe from now on it should be known as the Carbon Fiber anniversary. If you are fortunate enough to own one of these rare, LS7 legends, let us know in the comments section and we would like to wish you and your better half a happy anniversary!
From the Archives:
Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles host the public reveal of the 2011 Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition inside the Corvette Corral tent at the 2010 Twelve Hours of Sebring: