Now that we have explored the exterior and interior of the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray, it’s time to take a look at the platform of America’s all-new supercar. So strap on your scuba tanks, put on your googles, and start the countdown on your 200M waterproof G-Shock, because we’re going for yet another deep dive.
The Corvette has been a rather special vehicle since, partly, it has always used its own vehicle architecture, or platform, if you will. The C7 is no exception: it utilizes a new aluminum frame whose advanced technology allows the new car to be as at home on the road as it is on the track.
The C7’s all-new aluminum frame is 57 percent stiffer and 99 pounds (45 kg) lighter than the steel frame of the previous-generation C6. Unwanted noise is reduced and ride & handling is improved thanks to the structure’s greater torsional rigidity. While the C6’s frame used continuous hydroformed main frame rails with a constant 2mm wall thickness, the frame rails on the C7 are composed of five customized aluminum segments. These include aluminum extrusions at each end, a center main rail section, and hollow-cast nodes at the suspension interface points.
GM says each segment is tuned by varying in thickness from 2mm to 11mm, thereby tailoring the gauge, shape, and strength properties to optimize the requirements for each frame section while maintaining minimal weight. Supporting the frame’s great strength and lower mass are complementary chassis elements, including hollow-cast aluminum front and rear cradles that are roughly 25 percent lighter and 20 percent stiffer than the solid cradles used on the C6.
As far as dimensions go, the C7 will feature a wheelbase of 106.7 inches (2,710 mm), a full 1 inch (26 mm) longer than that of the outgoing C6 (105.7 inches / 2,684.78 mm).
By itself, the C7’s new frame is nothing without supporting technologies that allow the car to continue shedding weight. Fortunately, the Corvette team used several composite materials throughout the vehicle, including:
- Carbon fiber hood and roof panels
- Sheet Molded Compound on the fenders, doors, rear quarter panels, and the rear hatch panel
- Carbon-nano composite, an advanced blend of traditional composite material and carbon fiber, used on the underbody panels — allowing them to be light without losing strength of stiffness
Combined, these materials result in a weight savings of about 37 pounds (17 kg) compared to the body structure of the C6.
In effect, the lightweight materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, and tech transfer from the Corvette Racing program work in tandem to produce an ideal 50/50 weight balance and deliver a world-class power-to-weight ratio. GM says that with the estimated 450 horsepower (335 kW) produced by the all-new LT1 smallblock, the new Corvette delivers a better power-to-weight ratio than the Porsche 911 Carrera or Audi R8.
Although not officially confirmed, the C7 is expected to weigh in at approximately 3,350 pounds (1,519 kg).
“Chevrolet has a long history of using racing to improve production cars, and nowhere is that more evident than with Corvette,” said Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Jeuchter. “We continually apply technologies and strategies developed for Corvette Racing directly to the production car. That influence can be seen in virtually every aspect of the new Corvette Stingray, from the aerodynamic design to the use of carbon fiber, to the cooling techniques and even in the brake system.”
Assembled At Bowling Green For The First Time
The all-new 2014 Corvette be assembled at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky. An all-new welding shop will, for the first time ever, produce the Corvette’s aluminum frame in house. The manufacturing process makes use of a unique laser welding technique in which a computer-controlled beam of high energy joins the components with “exceptional precision and tolerances of about 0.001 inch”, according to GM.
To facilitate the in-house manufacturing of the frame, Bowling Green underwent a $131 million upgrade, with $52 million dedicated to the body shop that will manufacture the new aluminum frame.
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