When Chevrolet revisited its past to introduce a new Z06 two-door hard top in 2001, it also added $7,000 to the base car’s $40,475 sticker price. The new Z06 offered a new, more powerful engine, the 386-hp LS6. The LS6 had a new block, new intake and exhaust manifolds, new cylinder heads, unique camshaft profile, and higher capacity fuel injector. All Z06s had titanium exhaust systems and came with 6-speed transmissions. They didn’t have run-flat tires or a tire pressure monitoring system, but they did carry a larger front sway bar and stiffer rear springs. Interiors were leather, and the tach redlined at 6,500 rpm, instead of the LS1’s 6,000 rpm. By 2003, horsepower was up to 405 hp. This car features Quicksilver exterior paint—an original Z06 color—black leather interior, memory package, electro-chromatic mirrors, head-up display, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, and more; it is described as having every option. It also has an aftermarket Borla exhaust, exhaust panel dress-up plate, and tinted rear window. It has never seen rain and has been stored inside.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2003 Z06 Hard Top
Years Produced:2003
Number Produced:8,635
Original List Price:$51,155
SCM Valuation:$27,500–$36,900
Tune Up Cost:$350
Distributor Caps:$68 x 8
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s side dash at windshield
Engine Number Location:Pad forward of cylinder head on right side
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society6291 Day RoadCincinnati, OH 45252
Alternatives:2003 Corvette 50th Anniversary coupe2006 Corvette Z061995 Corvette ZR-1
Investment Grade:C

This car was bid to $19,000 and did not sell at Mecum’s annual auction in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 18, 2009.

With new-car dealers begging for sales, GM on federal life support, and the government prodding us with the “cash for clunkers” program—all occurring during the timeframe of this auction—it was a lousy time to try to sell a C5 Corvette, and especially a Z06.

While the Z06 cost substantially more than the standard Corvette when new, today resale values have all but reached parity. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is due to the march of technology. The base-level C6, when introduced in 2005, reached near equality to the C5 Z06 in the horsepower race in one fell swoop. And it could be had with a slushbox transmission option. It took a year for the Z06 to get back to the top of the horsepower heap in 2006, with 505 ponies.

Today, we are back to the current state-of-the-art Z06 playing second fiddle again, now to the ZR1. Indeed, several automotive pundits in all forms of media will tell you that the best choices in a C6 are the ZR1 and the base model (even inclusive of the new 2010 Grand Sport), and that the Z06 is the caboose in the train. The base model has similar performance for less money, and the ZR1 is the Götterdammerung of performance on a global market basis that puts it in the top ten list of all performance cars—money be damned. This gives the impression of the Z06 being something of a compromise.

The hard top proved to be unpopular

In addition, the C5 Z06 could only be had with one body style: the close-coupled hard top coupe. It proved to be an unpopular body; it had the fewest sales in the years that all three body styles were available in the base model before the hard top was made Z06-only. The hard top has the same interior as the convertible, with severely limited in-cabin storage. While this is tolerable for the drop top (hey, you could just lower the roof to take home those 2x4s you bought at Home Depot), the hard top is good only for a weekend’s set of maps in the cockpit and Barbie-doll-sized luggage in the trunk.

When I was shopping for a C5, the hard top in any flavor was flat-out off my list, as I prefer to have some access to the rear cargo area while on the road (such as reaching behind the seat for a can of pop in the cooler). And I like the cargo-swallowing abilities of the hatchback.

(As an aside, I’ve always had an issue with the naming conventions on the hard top vs. the coupe on the C5 and C6 Corvettes. I feel the hard top is actually more of a close-coupled coupe, something of a 21st century three-window coupe, and it should’ve been named so, yet hard top stuck, denoting a plastic version of the rag top that doesn’t move. Along those lines, the coupe should’ve been called the fastback that it really is. Actually, as far as the SAE is concerned, it’s truly a hatchback, but the Corvette marketing folks would probably have me drawn and quartered for even suggesting that.)

One thing I don’t see affecting Z06 (or any late-model Corvette) values is GM’s current precarious position. The heritage, general demand, and aftermarket parts support make it the one vehicle that, even if GM was to be shut down totally today, would be supported beyond our lifetimes by a number of different entities. This is regardless of flavor or vintage of Corvette.

Not everyone wants a bare-bones bone-shaker

The final market influencer is that fewer creature comforts could be had on the C5 version of the Z06. Several of the features (TPS) and options (selective ride control) were not available with the Z06, and the ones that were (such as Memory Package) were only available à la carte. While Corvette has always been about performance to some level, not everyone wants a bare-bones bone-shaker—or even a clutch pedal—on a regular basis.

All of this has led to a situation that in some cases means that a well-optioned base-level convertible or coupe can be worth more than a Z06. Our featured car died on the block pretty much at the lower end of dealer wholesale. Kelley Blue Book, for example, pegs wholesale value between $19,550 and $20,550. Needless to say, as this was the second-to-last car to cross the auction block, only dealers hoping to score a good deal on some fresh meat and lookie-loos were around, so dealer wholesale pricing applied.

Further up the food chain, KBB puts the private party value in the $23,000 range, and retail at $26,685. Other price guides are also in this ballpark (including Corvette Market’s). This means, value-wise, it runs shoulder to shoulder with a commensurate-mile 50th Anniversary coupe and is actually cheaper than the drop top Anniversary car.

As I mentioned, this Z06’s position in the auction also hurt it; it was essentially a deal killer. Late-model cars at collector car auctions are usually ignored by potential buyers. Most folks came to try to get a GTO or ’66 Mustang, so a Z06 is seen as a case of “I bought it because I missed the Chevelle I wanted, it was cheap, and I had $20k burning a hole in my pocket.”

If the consignor had it either at the beginning or at least further from the end of the sale, there would have been more folks around to potentially bite. Since a 2003 Z06 can easily be found on a used car lot or at a dealer auction, why hang around for it? Most would search for one on eBay or Craigslist when they get home.

All of this is not to say that these are cars to avoid. In fact, the Z06 is an excellent buy in the most-bang-for-your-buck performance category—especially right now. If you want a purer performance car or track car, a C5 Z06 is money well spent. However, just as with any car, and especially with those produced in relatively large numbers, buy for love, not for future investment

Comments are closed.