From Z to Shining Z

Despite what you might suppose, Chevrolet “Z codes” were not named after the Corvette’s first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Chevrolet expert Doug Marion asked Arkus-Duntov in 1983 if the Z meant anything. “He first smiled,” says Marion, “then he said, ‘Everyone tinks the Z stands for Zora. Dat ees nice. But eet actually meenz nutting.’”

Z packages weren’t confined to Corvettes. Marion points out that the Z code was first used in 1963 for the Z11—a 427-powered Impala factory drag car. According to Marion, only 50 Z11s were built, although most sources say it was 57. (Marion has factory records to prove his number). “There are probably 50-plus Z code options, and they cover just about every Chevy model built since 1963, including vans,” says Marion.

“Some Z code options are the same for every Chevrolet model, but other Z code options are totally different and go model to model,” he points out. “There is a Z10 1969 Camaro Pace Car hard top, built as a special run for Texas or someplace. But there’s a Z10 cargo van, too.”

Buick also had Z code options, but they were two-character designations for individual extra-cost equipment for station wagons. Z2 designated a divided rear seat, Z4 indicated a power tailgate window, and Z5 was a “tailgate follower board,” whatever that is. As most enthusiasts know, Oldsmobile high-performance packages were coded with a W. Pontiac used only three numbers to designate most of its options and three letters for most tire options.

Marion says he believes the letter Z was chosen because it was simply the next in line. With Chevy’s larger range of models, it would be normal for Chevrolet Division to have a few more option groups than Oldsmobiles. Thus, the Chevy codes might run to Z, instead of W.

The following list shows 67 options offered between 1963 and 2005 that carried option codes (or model-option codes) that started with Z. The reason for the distinction between an option code and a model-option is that the ultra-high-performance late-model Z06 hard top was merchandised much differently than the 1963 Z06 option, which was the first Z code Corvette package.

Note: In 1963, the Z06 package was an option added to a car. Starting in 2001, the Z06 was a separate model that came only with the Z06 content.

1963

RPO Z06: Special Performance Equipment package for Split-Window coupe ($1,818.45). Includes special metallic power brakes, heavy-duty stabilizers, shock absorbers, and springs, 36½-gallon fuel tank, knockoff-type aluminum wheels, Positraction rear axle, 4-speed transmission, and 360-hp fuel-injection engine. (Later, the 36½-gallon fuel tank and knockoff aluminum wheels were rescinded, the price was cut to $1,293.95, and the package could be ordered for convertibles. Installs: 199

1965

RPO Z01: Comfort and Convenience Group.
Includes back-up lamps and inside day/night mirror ($16.15). Installs: 15,397

1969

RPO ZL1: Overhead-valve V8 of 427 ci, with bore and stroke of 4.251 x 3.76 inches, compression ratio of 12.50:1, 430 hp (actually over 500) at 5,200 rpm and 450 ft-lb at 4,400 rpm. Aluminum block. Five main bearings. Mechanical valve lifters. Special camshaft. Single Holley 850CFM four-barrel carb on aluminum manifold. ($4,718.25, and not available with radio and air conditioning). Requires options K66 transistor ignition system, F41 special front and rear suspension, J56 special heavy-duty brakes and G81 Positraction rear axle at extra cost. Installs: 2

1970

RPO ZQ3: Base overhead-valve V8 of 350 ci, with bore and stroke of 4.00 x 3.48 inches, compression ratio of 10.25:1, and 300 hp at 4,800 rpm. Five main bearings. Hydraulic valve lifters. Rochester type Quadra-Jet four-barrel carb, model 4MV. (Included in base prices). Installs: 6,646

RPO ZR1: Beginning in April 1970, the LT1 engine was a ZR1 option, part of Chevrolet’s “Special Items” group. The ZR1 package included the LT-1 engine, M22 heavy-duty 4-speed manual transmission, J50/J56 dual-pin brakes with heavy-duty front pads and power assist, and F41 suspension consisting of special 89 lb/in ride rate front springs and 121 lb/in ride rate rear springs, matching shock absorbers, and a 0.75-inch front stabilizer bar. ($968.95) Installs: 25

1971

RPO ZR1: The ZR1 package included the LT-1 engine, M22 4-speed manual, J50/J56 brakes and F41 suspension. ($1,010). Installs: 8

RPO ZR2: The ZR2 Special Purpose LS6 engine package was a racing option like the ZR1, plus the RPO LS6 454-ci, 425-hp V8 ($1,747, and not available with automatic transmission). Installs: 12

1972

RPO ZR1: The ZR1 package included the LT-1 engine, M22 4-speed, J50/J56 brakes, transistor ignition, aluminum radiator, F41 suspension, and on some cars a rear stabilizer bar. ($1,010.05). Installs: 20

1973

RPO Z07: Off-road suspension/brake package with L82 or LS4 V8. Special front and rear suspension, heavy-duty brakes. Requires J50 power brake assist, M21 4-speed manual transmission at extra cost. ($369, and not available with air conditioning). Installs: 45

1974

RPO Z07: Off-road suspension and brake package with L82 or LS4 V8. Special front and rear suspension, heavy-duty brakes. Requires M21 4-speed manual transmission at extra cost. ($400). Installs: 47

1975

RPO Z07: Off-road suspension and brake package with L82 V8. FE7 special front and rear suspension, heavy-duty brakes. Requires M21 4-speed manual transmission. ($400). Installs: 144

1977

RPO ZN1: Trailer package ($83). Installs: 289
RPO ZX2: Convenience group ($22). Installs: 40,872

1978

RPO ZN1: Trailer package ($89). Installs: 972
RPO ZX2: Convenience group ($84). Installs: 37,222

1979

RPO ZN1: Trailer package ($98). Installs: 1,001
RPO ZQ2: Power windows and power locks ($272). Installs: 28,465
RPO ZX2: Convenience group ($84). Installs: 37,222

1980

RPO ZN1: Trailer package ($105). Installs: 796

1981

RPO ZN1: Trailer package ($110). Installs: 916

1984

RPO Z51: Performance handling package ($600.20). Installs: 25,995
RPO Z6A: Rear window and side mirror defoggers ($160). Installs: 47,680

1985

RPO Z51: Performance handling package ($470). Installs: 14,802
RPO Z6A: Rear window and side mirror defoggers ($160). Installs: 37,720

1986

RPO Z51: Performance handling package for coupe ($470). Installs: 12,821
RPO Z6A: Rear window and side mirror defoggers for coupe ($165). Installs: 21,837

1987

RPO Z51: Performance handling package for coupe ($795). Installs: 1,596
RPO Z52: Sport handling package ($470). Installs: 12,662
RPO Z6A: Rear window and side mirror defoggers for coupe ($165). Installs: 19,043

1988

RPO Z01: 35th Anniversary Special Edition package for coupe, includes AQ9 leather sports seats, AC3 power driver’s seat, 24S removable blue-tinted roof panels, C68 electronically-controlled air conditioning, D74 illuminated driver side vanity mirror, Z52 and Z6A ($4.795). Installs: 2,050
RPO Z51: Performance handling package for coupe ($1,295). Installs: 1,309
RPO Z52: Sport handling package ($970). Installs: 16,017
RPO Z6A: Rear window and side mirror defoggers for coupe ($165). Installs: 14,648

1989

RPO Z51: Performance handling package for coupe ($575). Installs: 2,224

Note: The ZR-1 model was due out this year, but delayed.

1990

RPO Z51: Performance handling package for coupe ($460). Installs: 5,446
RPO ZR1: Special Performance package for coupe. Under the ZR-1’s hood was a Lotus-designed 32-valve, dual-overhead-cam, 350-ci (5.7-liter) V8, built by Mercury Marine in Oklahoma. Although the displacement was identical to the standard Corvette V8, this was an all-new powerplant with different bore and stroke dimensions. Wider at the rear than a standard model to contain huge 315/35ZR17 rear tires, the ZR-1 was easy to spot because of its convex rear end and rectangular taillights. Standard ZR-1 equipment included an FX3 Selective Ride adjustable suspension ($27,016). Installs: 3,049

In 1990, Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan won the Society of Automotive Engineers Edward N. Cole Award for innovation for his work on the ZR-1.

1991

RPO Z07: Adjustable suspension package for coupe ($2,155). Installs: 733
RPO ZR1: Coupes with the ZR1 Special Performance Package again had different doors and a wider rear to accommodate 11-inch-wide rear wheels. Also, the high-mounted stop lamp went on the roof of the ZR-1, instead of on the rear fascia. All Corvettes, including the ZR-1, were again equipped with ABS II-S antilock braking and driver’s side airbag, as well as an anti-theft system. The ZR-1 was again powered by the 32-valve DOHC 5.7-liter V8, matched with a 6-speed transaxle ($31,683). Installs: 2,044

1992

RPO Z07: Adjustable suspension package for coupe ($2,045). Installs: 738
RPO ZR1: Special Performance Package for coupe. The ZR-1 was basically a carry-over from the year previous, with new model badges above the rear fender vents ($31,683). Installs: 502

1993

RPO Z07: Adjustable suspension package for coupe ($2,045). Installs: 824
RPO Z25: Corvette marked its 40th Anniversary with an exclusive “Ruby Red” exterior and interior with color-keyed wheel centers, headrest embroidery, and bright emblems on the hood, deck, and side-gills. Optional equipment on all models ($1,455). Installs: 6,749
RPO ZR1: Special Performance Package for coupe. The ZR-1’s 5.7-liter LT5 V8 was upgraded with improved air flow and valvetrain refinements to boost its rating from 375 hp to 405 hp. The 1993 Corvette also introduced GM’s first Passive Keyless Entry system, whereby simply leaving or approaching the Corvette automatically locked or unlocked the doors. The 1993 Corvette was also the first U.S. car to use recycled body panels. Still with 6-speed transaxle ($31,683). Installs: 448

1994

RPO Z07: Adjustable suspension package for coupe ($2,045). Installs: 887
RPO ZR1: Special Performance Package for coupe. All Corvettes now had dual airbags, new carpeting, door trim panels, seats, steering wheel, a redesigned instrument panel, and a restyled console. Also new was an optional rear-axle ratio, revised spring rates, a convertible backlight with heated glass, and new exterior colors. The ZR-1 received new non-directional wheels for 1994 and again used the LT5 5.7-liter V8 with a 6-speed manual transmission ($31,258). Installs: 448

1995

RPO Z07: Adjustable suspension package for coupe ($2,045). Installs: 753
RPO Z4Z: Indy 500 Pace Car replica for convertibles only. For the third time (also 1978 and 1986), Corvette was the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. The 1995 Dark Purple Metallic over Arctic White Corvette was driven by 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann ($2,816 over the price of a standard LT-1-powered Corvette convertible). Installs: 527
RPO ZR1: Special Performance Package for coupe. The big news of 1995 was the final appearance of the ZR-1 ($31,258). Installs: 448

1996

RPO Z15: The Collector Edition Package marked the final year of the C4 Corvette. The 1996 Collector Edition featured Sebring Silver paint, Collector Edition emblems, five-spoke aluminum wheels, and a 5.7-liter LT1 V8 fitted with a 4-speed automatic transmission. The LT4 V8 and 6-speed manual transmission were both optional ($1,250). Installs: 5,412
RPO Z16: Grand Sport Package. Admiral Blue Metallic Paint, white stripe, red “hash” marks on the left front fender and black five-spoke aluminum wheels. Powered by a 330-hp 5.7-liter LT4 V8 featuring a specially-prepared crankshaft, steel camshaft, and water pump gears driven by a roller chain. Available only with 6-speed manual transmission ($2,880 for convertible or $3,250 for coupe). Installs: 1,000
RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package available on coupe and tuned for autocross competition ($350). Installs: 1,869

1997

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package for autocross competition ($350). Installs: 1,077

1998

RPO Z4Z: Indy Pace Car replica with purple exterior, black and yellow leather interior, and special trim ($5,039 with automatic transmission or $5,804 with manual transmission). Installs: 1,163
RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package with Bilstein adjustable Ride-Control system. ($350) Installs: 4,249

1999

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package with Bilstein adjustable Ride-Control system for coupe and convertible, standard with new hard top ($350). Installs: 10,244

2000

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package for coupe and convertible, standard with hard top ($350). Installs: 7,775

2001

RPO 1YY37 + Z06: The all-new Z06 “model option” was merchandised as a separate model. The hard top included a 5.7-liter 385-hp Chevrolet LS6 V8 and a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive. The Goodyear tires on the Z06 were an inch wider than standard but 23 lb lighter. The Z06 also featured a windshield and backlight made of thinner glass and a titanium exhaust system to reduce its weight by nearly 40 lb. The Z06 was equipped like the coupe, but with AM/FM cassette and radio optional and no automatic transmission option ($47,500 complete). Production: 5,773
RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package ($350). Installs: 7,817

2002

RPO 1YY37 + Z06: For 2002, a 20-hp boost made the Z06 the quickest production Corvette ever. This was the result of new hollow-stem valves, a higher-lift camshaft, a low-restriction mass air flow (MAF) sensor and a low-restriction air cleaner. The Z06-specific FE4 high-performance suspension system featured a larger front stabilizer bar, revised shock valving, a stiffer rear leaf spring, and different camber settings. The unique aluminum Z06 wheels were now cast rather than forged. The magnesium wheel option was discontinued. Hydroformed frame rails and a four-wheel independent front suspension with cast-aluminum upper and lower A-arms were other Z06 features.

The Z06 (and C5 Corvettes equipped with the Z51 package) now had aluminum front sway bar links and reduced weight. Now standard on Z06s, the Head-Up Display (HUD) system projected the speedometer and many other gauges digitally on the windshield, ahead of the steering wheel. New front pads reduced brake fade. Electron Blue replaced Speedway White as one of five Z06 color choices. As in 2001, an AM/FM cassette/radio was optional in the Z06; no automatic transmission was offered ($50,150 complete). Production: 8,297

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package ($350). Installs: 6,106

2003

RPO 1YY37 + Z06: The Z06 Corvette continued unchanged and paced the Indy 500 again, though no Pace Car package was produced ($51,155 complete). Production: 8,635
RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package ($395). Installs: 2,592

2004

RPO 1YY37 + Z06: 2004 model Z06 Corvettes featured revised chassis tuning. GM engineers refined the Z06’s shock damping to improve handling and diminish the impact of yaw and roll. The Z06 was one of a handful of cars to break the eight-minute barrier for lap times over the 14-mile, 170-turn Nürburgring. Once again a Corvette paced the Indy 500 ($52,385 complete). Production: 5,683

RPO 1YY37 YY + Z06 + 1SB: The 2004 Commemorative Edition Z06 had Le Mans Blue finish and included a C5R-style Le Mans stripe scheme, special badges, polished Z06 wheels, and a lightweight carbon fiber hood. For 2004, the regular Z06 was given two performance-enhancing upgrades.

A lightweight, race-inspired carbon fiber hood was used on Z06s with the Commemorative Edition option, which weighed 20.5 pounds, 10.6 pounds less than the standard hood. Specifically developed for the Corvette, the Commemorative Edition Z06 hood achieved a higher level of exterior finish quality than previous automotive applications of carbon fiber ($4,335 over regular Z06). Production: 2,025

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package ($395). Installs: 3,672

2005

The sixth-generation Corvette debuted in 2005, bringing back exposed headlights and a power top for the first time since 1962, plus a host of improvements. The car was five inches shorter and an inch narrower. The engine was punched out to 6 liters, redline went up 500 rpm to 6,500, horsepower went up to 400, and a 6-speed manual transmission was included in the car’s base price. Options included OnStar, XM satellite radio, DVD-based navigation, heated seats, and side airbags. All Corvettes had keyless access and start. Once again, a Corvette paced the Indy 500, but there was no Z06.

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package was significantly more expensive, reflecting more content—higher spring rates, cross-drilled brake rotors, engine, transmission, and power steering coolers ($1,495). Installs: 15,345

2006

RPO 1YY87 + Z06: The Z06 returned, based on the coupe body, with aluminum frame, magnesium-supported roof panel, and powered by a small-block 505-hp 7-liter LS7 V8 and 6-speed transmission. It also had an 8-quart dry-sump oiling system, titanium rods, 7,000 rpm redline and 3.7 second 0–60 mph time on run-flat tires. The front facia was wider, with a cold-air intake, and there was much use of carbon fiber in the body. A Z06 paced the Indy 500 ($65,800). Production: 6,272

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package included specific springs, shocks and sway bars, cross-drilled rotors, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Engine, transmission, power steering coolers. Available with 6-speed or automatic ($1,695). Installs: 10,338

2007

RPO 1YY87 +Z06: The Z06 continued relatively unchanged, though the price rose to $70,000. Production: 8,159

RPO 1YY87 Z33: One of two special editions, the Z33 package honored Ron Fellows, the American Le Mans Series racer. It was white with red front fender stripes and each one was signed ($7,500 over regular Z06). Production: 399
RPO 1YY87 Z4Z: The Indy Pace Car convertible was produced in Atomic Orange with a custom interior. It previewed some 2008 details, including wheels ($500 over regular Z06). Production: 500.

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package included specific springs, shocks, and sway bars, cross-drilled rotors, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Engine, transmission, power steering coolers. Available with 6-speed or automatic ($1,696). Installs: 10,338

2008

RPO Z51: Performance Handling Package includes specific spring, shocks and sway bars, cross-drilled rotors, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Engine, transmission, power steering coolers. Available with 6-speed or automatic ($1,695). Installs: Still in production

2009

RPO ZR1: Evoking the original high-performance packages of the ’70s and the ’90s, the all-new C6 ZR1 includes a 638-hp supercharged LS9 6.2-liter V8 and 6-speed manual with high-capacity dual-disc clutch. Specific suspension tuning with Magnetic Ride Control provides over 1g of lateral grip, while standard carbon-ceramic drilled brake rotors (15.5 inches in the front, 15 inches in the rear) and larger brake calipers help stop the car from its 200-plus-mph top speed.

Body features extensive use of carbon fiber, including fenders, roof panel, rocker moldings, front fascia splitter, and hood, with clear polycarbonate window over engine. Curb weight is approximately 3,350 lb. Only two options are available—chrome wheels, and “luxury” package. Without a doubt the fastest, most powerful Corvette ever produced, with a reported Nürburgring lap time of just 7:26.4 ($103,300). Installs: Still in production

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