Chevrolet will pull the wraps off of the 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible this week at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. The introduction of the model marks the first factory-built, ultra-high performance Corvette convertible offered to the public in over 40 years, but what you might not know is it isn’t the first factory-built Corvette Z06 convertible ever.
In 1963, ‘in-the-know’ Corvette customers knew to specify “RPO Z06” when placing an order for their new car, even though the option wasn’t listed in sales catalogues or mentioned by dealers. The special equipment group was thought up by the one and only “Father of the Corvette”, Zora Arkus Duntov, and nearly doubled the base price of a 1963 Corvette Stingray. It included a fuel-injected 327 cubic-inch V8 engine, a thicker front stabilizer bar, stiffer springs and dampers, finned aluminum brake drums and an enlarged 36-gallon fuel tank.
The enlarged fuel tank fit in the coupe’s body, but not in the convertible’s, making a factory-built Z06 convertible an impossible proposition. Chevrolet eventually made the larger fuel tank a stand-alone option separate from the Z06 pack, allowing the package to be ordered on 1963 Corvette convertibles. However of the 199 Z06-spec Corvettes built in 1963, only one was ordered and built as a convertible.
The demand for a Corvette Z06 convertible may have been low in the 1960’s, but Chevrolet says it is overwhelmingly high today. After launching the C6 Z06 and ZR1 in 2006 and 2009, Corvette owners and enthusiasts repeatedly approached GM wondering why the ultimate factory-built Corvettes are not available in convertible form. Now, with the 2015 Z06 Convertible, they will wonder no more.
Thanks to the Z06 coupe’s new aluminium frame, the chassis is both lighter and stiffer than that used in the C6 Z06, even in convertible form. Chevrolet says this has allowed them to produce the Z06 convertible without the use of any additional structural reinforcement. This, in turn, allows the Z06 convertible to share similar weight figures with the coupe and thus the same chassis tuning as well.
“The 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible is truly the best of both worlds. It blends the ability of our highest-performance Corvette model with the open-air nature of a convertible. It easily functions as both a track-focused performance car and a comfortable back-roads touring car,” said Corvette marketing manager, Harlan Charles. “Not only is the Z06 Convertible a car that will entertain and excite sports car enthusiasts the world over, we feel it will easily rival some of the most exotic convertibles in the world.”