The Z06 designator began with the 1963 Corvette, where the option consisted of “Special Performance Equipment.” This included the L84 327-ci, 360-hp, fuel-injected engine, a bigger front anti-roll bar, vacuum brake booster, dual master cylinder, bigger brakes, and, initially, a 36.5-gallon fuel tank. The package added $1,818.45 to the $4,252 base price of the car. Most of the 199 Z06s built were used hard and eaten up by the rigors of racing, and today they hold a special place in Corvette history.
Fast forward to 2001, and the C5 had been around for five years. GM execs were ready to give the aging, 346-ci, 350-hp model something exciting, as Ford’s V8 Mustangs were churning out 320 hp and the Corvette’s closest domestic rival, the Viper, was delivering 450 hp.
By stuffing the 385-hp LS6 into the C5, GM resurrected the Z06 badge and delivered Corvette owners the first significant performance boost since ZR-1 production ended in 1995. The Z06 was available as a hardtop only and featured a number of model-specific touches, including a special 6-speed transmission with more aggressive
gearing and a temperature sending unit. The wheels were one inch wider both front and rear and the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires (which were not run-flats, as on other Corvettes) saved 23 lb overall. An additional 17 lb of weight savings came from the titanium exhaust, the first such use in a mass-produced car. Front and rear glass were thinner and lighter, and the suspension was upgraded to be stiffer, with new camber angles. Though lighter and faster than a standard LS1 Corvette, the new Z06 still retained all the creature comforts owners had come to expect.
Although 385 hp (which increased to 405 hp for the 2002 model) wasn’t unheard of in performance car circles, it was the overall packaging of the new LS6 that made it all work seamlessly. In August 2000, Motor Trend published a glowing
report of the Z06, and Automobile magazine named it “Automobile of the Year.”
The Torch Red over black and red leather 2001 Z06 featured here was presented in “as-delivered” condition, and the odometer confirmed this, showing just 162 original miles.
This car sold in St. Charles, Illinois, at the Mecum High Performance Auction at Bloomington Gold for $29,400 on June 28, 2008.
For just about every “special” Corvette built in the last 30-plus years (Indy Pace Cars, Anniversary cars, Collector Edition cars, ZR-1s, Grand Sports, etc.), there seems to be a group of collectors who are willing and able to buy them and hold them pristine and undriven in order to speculate on their future worth. The disposable income to do so, plus the stratospheric prices on some of the super restored or original Corvettes from the 1950s and ’60s—and now even the ’70s—are the chief driving forces behind such speculation.
What seems to be forgotten is that far fewer people in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s had the throw-away money or the desire to put a fast or rare Corvette away for speculation.
They raced them instead, and few survived as a result. In 1963, you would have had to have been Nostradamus to know how history would view the Z06. And then you would have had to sit on it for 40 years, and what a waste of car that would have been. Of course today, the climate of the auto industry being what it is, the idea of investing in new cars makes Enron and Bear Stearns look like a walk in the park.
Let’s do the math
The Z06 Corvette retailed new in 2001 for $47,500, and that’s without any other options or dealer markup. GM built a total of 5,773 that first year. When it crossed the block earlier this summer, our subject car was, for all intents and purposes, brand new in the box, but as the result shows, it was far from being worth its original sticker. Selling for $29,400, the $18,100 loss amortized over a seven-year period equals almost $2,600 per year, and that is of course before insurance, storage, transportation to the auction, and seller’s commission and fees. Looked at another way (sound of knife twisting), the seller paid $112 for each of the 162 miles he drove this car during his ownership. So much for investment.
Having said that, while the buyer didn’t steal it, he did come away with a heck of a deal. The CM Price Guide pegs a 2001 Z06 at $26k–$33k for a good condition
#2 car. C5 prices are still falling, so that range will be even lower next year. But this was a spotless car in #1 condition. So should the new owner continue to store it? Heck no. The seller’s loss should be the buyer’s gain here.
If those 162 miles were racked up on the original drive home from the dealership and the car was put up, there will likely be some minor reconditioning in order. Even if it sat with gas in the tank and lines, the new owner is looking at maybe a thousand bucks to drain and flush all that, plus all the other fluids. Maybe it needs new tires because the originals flat-spotted, so add maybe another grand or so. $33k all in for an NOS Z06 ain’t half bad. And if it is driven lightly and cared for properly, it will still be a low-mileage, desirable Corvette in ten years. If it is driven a lot and racks up a bunch of miles, it will be an average Corvette in ten years. Either way, this Z06 is just a really clean used car, and it will not reach the bottom of the depreciation curve for a long time to come. It will be much more user friendly and enjoyable if it sees regular use. And isn’t that what Corvette ownership is all about?