How Zora Arkus-Duntov Helped Create the 2023 Chevy C8 Corvette Z06
The ZO6 carries on to this day and it is all because of one guy in charge with a really good idea.by Josh Conturo, on
The Corvette nameplate is an absolute legend in America. It is like a working-class hero more than capable of taking down its much more prestigious and expensive rivals from across the pond. However, the Corvette’s even faster variant, at least the one people can still afford, the Z06, almost did not even happen, and if it was not for one guy in the 1960s, Zora Arkus-Duntov, bending the rules a bit, that variant would not exist at all.
When the Corvette first launched it was not the cheap(er) world-beater it is today. The first C1s had a 115-150 horsepower straight-six mated to a 2-speed automatic gearbox. Nothing on four-wheels was fast in the 1950s, but the original Corvette was especially lethargic.
The C2 Corvette took a much-needed step in the right direction when it debuted in 1963 with a four-speed manual gearbox, a 360 horsepower 5.4-liter V-8, and independent rear suspension. Later the same year, the Z06 name was born.
At that time, General Motors had banned factory racing for all of its subsidiaries, so there was no official Chevrolet race program. the key word there is "official", as Chevrolet was still supplying race parts, such as better suspension and more powerful engines, to independent teams through their ordering system.
The C2 Z06 is what happened when they shoved all those parts into a single model. That process was a result of Duntov’s desire to have a car capable of competing at LeMans. It was not some pipe-dream either. Duntov began his automotive engineering career in Europe, so he was well aware of the handling and on-track capabilities of European sports and racing cars, and how to turn that idea into a reality. Duntov took that knowledge and applied it to the Corvette, which created a way for the right customer, i.e. the racing customer, to buy a road-legal race car from a dealership.
Only 199 examples were made, and the first 14 were given to racing teams, meaning that 185 C2 Z06s were ever sold to the public.
All those racing goodies that made the Z06 special, comprised of the most powerful V-8 available, the version with 360 horsepower and a four-speed manual. According to Car and Driver, there was also a dual brake master cylinder, power drum brakes, larger shock absorbers, and a larger front anti-roll bar.
The Z06 name dropped off the face of the Earth until 2001 when it was placed on the C5 Corvette. Here it maxed at 385 horsepower (in 2002 power was bumped to 405) from a re-tuned 5.7-liter LS1 V-8.
Nowadays the C8 Z06 is a true track weapon with a mid-mounted 5.5-liter flat-plane crank V-8 capable of 670 horsepower. Unfortunately, Zora Arkus-Duntov was never able to see the modern re-births of his work as he died in 1996, but today’s Z-6 is a fitting tribute to say the least.